pregnant womanAnti-discrimination laws in New York and around the country prohibit discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, and conditions directly related to either. The laws that address discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do not necessarily require employers to provide that person with reasonable accommodations, such as light duty, more frequent restroom breaks, or the opportunity to pump breast milk. Both the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) address reasonable accommodations, but many state and local statutes do not. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended about 10 years ago, requires accommodations for some conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. The plaintiffs in a Kentucky pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement several years ago, are now advocating for changes in their state’s law regarding accommodations for pregnant employees, which would then more closely resemble New York pregnancy discrimination laws.

Title VII, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, and it includes “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” in its definition of “on the basis of sex.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a)(1). It makes no mention of reasonable accommodations. Both the NYSHRL and NYCHRL state that an employer commits an “unlawful employment practice” by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(3), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22). The NYSHRL defines a “reasonable accommodation” as something that allows an employee “to perform in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job.” N.Y. Exec. L. § 292.

Title I of the ADA does not specifically identify pregnancy as a “disability.” Changes to the law in the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 have led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to determine that pregnant workers may be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA. The agency has also found that the ADAAA requires it to construe “the definition of ‘disability’…broadly in favor of expansive coverage.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.1(c)(4).

Appetizer at Applebee'sServers in restaurants are in a particular position of vulnerability to unlawful employment practices like sexual harassment. New York City, with its abundance of restaurants, offers countless examples, but it is a nationwide problem. Job positions for servers can be very competitive, and supervisors have considerable discretion regarding shift assignments. Furthermore, most servers are dependent on tips for their income. This places many servers in a position in which they could face harassment not only from supervisors and managers, but also from customers. A server may hesitate to speak out about harassment by a customer for fear of losing tips, and they may fear speaking out against their employer for fear of losing shift assignments or their job. A lawsuit filed last year by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers an example of the sort of environment that servers face throughout the country. EEOC v. New Apple, Inc., No. 4:17-cv-01150, 2nd am. complaint (D.S.C., Dec. 14, 2017).

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of multiple factors, including sex. Through amendments to the statute and Supreme Court decisions, the definition of sex discrimination has expanded since 1964 to include pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment. The courts have identified two broad categories of sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or manager demands sexual activity in some form as a condition of employment, such as when a restaurant manager demands sexual favors from a server in exchange for the most lucrative shift assignments. A hostile work environment occurs when a general environment of unwelcome and inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature interferes with the server’s ability to do their job.

The EEOC is charged with investigating alleged Title VII violations. Claims of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination under Title VII usually begin with a complaint filed with the EEOC. If, once the EEOC completes its investigation, it finds a reasonable basis to conclude that unlawful employment practices occurred, it may try to resolve the matter with the employer without litigation. It files suit directly against employers in some cases, or else it provides the complainant with a “right to sue” letter that authorizes them to file suit themselves in federal court.
Continue reading

road signsThe New York City criminal conviction discrimination law strictly limits employers’ ability to consider criminal history in employment decisions. The Fair Chance Act (FCA), which amended the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), is known as a “Ban the Box” law. States and cities all over the country have enacted BTB laws, so named because of their prohibition on inquiries about criminal history on job applications, often in the form of a check box. At the federal level, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the use of consumer credit information, which can include criminal history. A pair of putative class actions are alleging criminal history discrimination against two New York City event centers under city and federal laws. Millien, et al. v. The Madison Square Garden Co., et al., No. 1:17-cv-04000, 1st am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Jul. 14, 2017); Kelly v. Brooklyn Events Ctr., LLC, et al., No. 1:17-cv-04600, complaint (E.D.N.Y., Aug. 4, 2017).

The NYCHRL, as amended by the FCA, prohibits New York City employers from discriminating against job applicants based solely on “an arrest or criminal accusation.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(11), N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(16). Employers may not ask about criminal history at all until they have “extended a conditional offer of employment to the applicant.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(11-a)(a)(3). They must follow guidelines established by state law when assessing an applicant’s criminal history, such as the length of time since the offense, the applicant’s age at the time, and the extent to which the offense might affect their “fitness or ability to perform one or more…duties or responsibilities.” N.Y. Corr. L. § 753(1)(c), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(11-a)(b)(ii). If an employer makes an adverse decision based on criminal history, it must notify the applicant and give them an opportunity to respond.

The FCRA regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of “consumer reports,” defined to include information compiled by a consumer reporting agency in exchange for compensation, which may include information on an individual’s “character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living,” and which is intended for use in employment decisions. 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(d)(1)(B). This may include criminal records. Employers must obtain a job applicant’s consent to procure a consumer report and provide them with a disclosure of their FCRA rights. Id. at § 1681b(b)(2). Much like the FCA, the FCRA requires employers to notify applicants of adverse decisions based on criminal history and to allow time for a response. Id. at § 1681b(b)(3).

cityscapeThe New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is among the most comprehensive anti-discrimination statutes in the country, protecting employees and job applicants against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of a wide range of factors. Much like state and federal employment statutes, New York City’s employment law treats sexual harassment as a form of unlawful sex discrimination. City law differs, however, in its requirements for establishing a hostile work environment. Some lawmakers worry that the statutes in their jurisdictions impose too great a burden on employees alleging sexual harassment in the form of a hostile work environment, and they are looking to the NYCHRL for new ideas. In January 2018, a California state senator held a public hearing on the “severe or pervasive” standard in hostile work environment claims. The hearing included testimony by the New York City Human Rights Commissioner.

Under California law, a plaintiff alleging a hostile work environment must establish that the alleged harassment was “pervasive or severe.” Cal. Civ. Code § 51.9(a)(2). The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a hostile work environment constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under federal law when the harassing behavior is “severe or pervasive enough to create…an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive.” Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993). California courts have adopted this standard for sexual harassment claims under state law. Lyle v. Warner Bros. Television Productions, 42 Cal.Rptr.3d 2, 12 (2006). The California Supreme Court has identified “[c]ommon sense, and an appropriate sensibility to social context” as a guide in determining whether conduct is sufficiently “severe.” Id. at 16. To meet the “pervasive” requirement, a plaintiff “must show a concerted pattern of harassment of a repeated, routine, or a generalized nature.” Id.

The “severe or pervasive” standard has been criticized for overlooking all but the worst instances of workplace harassment. According to one New York appellate court, it has “routinely barred the courthouse door to women who have, in fact, been treated less well than men because of gender.” Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 A.D.3d 62, 73 (N.Y. App., 1st Div. 2009). Judicial interpretations of the NYCHRL therefore do not “simply mimic[] its federal and state counterparts.” Id. at 74. Based on findings that the “severe or pervasive” standard “unduly narrows the reach of the law,” the NYCHRL requires a plaintiff claiming a hostile work environment to prove “that she has been treated less well than other employees because of her gender.” Id. at 78.

birdPhillips & Associates is expanding into Long Island with the opening of a new office location in Manhasset. This location on Long Island’s North Shore will enable us to help workers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties assert their rights under federal and state laws against discrimination, harassment, and other unlawful practices. New York anti-discrimination law provides powerful protections for workers. Our Manhasset office will work alongside our locations in Manhattan and Princeton, New Jersey in helping aggrieved employees and job applicants seek justice.

Workers on Long Island are protected from workplace discrimination and harassment by Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). Title VII identifies five protected categories:  sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. The statute considers both sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination to be discrimination on the basis of sex. The NYSHRL includes additional protected categories, such as sexual orientation, family or marital status, and domestic violence victim status. These laws prohibit employers from refusing to hire, firing, demoting, or otherwise making adverse employment decisions about an employee or job applicant solely because of their membership in a protected category.

Leading the new office will be Phillips & Associates partner Marjorie Mesidor, a tireless advocate for people who have experienced sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of factors like sex, race, and disability. She obtained a unanimous jury verdict in a landmark 2013 case, Johnson v. Strive, which established that people of the same race can discriminate against one another in violation of state and federal laws. Joining Ms. Mesidor will be Joshua P. Frank, an employment attorney with a commitment to protecting people’s right to equal opportunities in the workplace.

protestNew York City gender discrimination laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, but protections at the federal level for transgender and gender-nonconforming workers are far less certain. The United States Armed Forces, which are subject to their own separate set of laws, allowed overt discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity until quite recently. A memorandum issued by the White House in August 2017, however, bluntly directed the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reinstitute the prior policy of excluding transgender individuals from military service. Lawsuits soon followed, and after two judges ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor against the ban on transgender soldiers, the Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that it would not appeal the decisions. The DOD later announced that transgender individuals could begin enlisting again on January 1, 2018.

In 1993, Congress enacted the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, previously found at 10 U.S.C. § 654. A servicemember could be removed from service under this policy if they engaged in or solicited “a homosexual act or acts”; if they stated that they were “a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect”; or if they “married or attempted to marry” someone of their “same biological sex.” 10 U.S.C. § 654(b). Congress repealed DADT in 2010. The DOD began the process of lifting restrictions on transgender servicemembers in July 2015, and it officially lifted the ban in June 2016.

A new administration moved into the White House in January 2017 and quickly began reversing policies enacted by the prior administration relating to gender identity and gender expression. The memorandum reversing the policy on transgender servicemembers, issued on August 25, 2017, asserted that the DOD had failed to conduct a sufficient review of potential negative effects. It directed the DOD and DHS to cease all activities relating to compliance with the revised policy—with specific mention of “sex-reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel”—and to return to the policy in effect prior to June 2016. The memorandum would have been controversial on its own terms, but the president’s use of Twitter to announce the ban added to the controversy.

New York City boasts one of the broadest employment discrimination laws in the nation. Indeed, over the past few years, New York City has offered protection to many classes of employees and job applicants who have not enjoyed protection in the past. One of the lesser known groups of people who are protected under New York anti-discrimination law are caregivers.

WheelchairOver the past few decades, lawmakers have heard from countless employees and job applicants who have suffered various forms of adverse employment actions based on the fact that they care for a child or sick loved one at home. Historically, employers have been able to discriminate against caregivers by refusing to hire those who have these responsibilities and even fire employees once the need to provide care arises. However, with the passage of a 2015 rule, employees and applicants can no longer be subjected to New York caregiver discrimination.

What Constitutes a Caregiver?

The New York Commission on Human Rights defines a caregiver as anyone who has a biological or adopted child under the age of 18, or someone who provides ongoing care to a parent, sibling, spouse, child, grandparent, or grandchild with a disability. The law applies to all employment agencies as well as employers that have four or more employees. The law also applies to full-time, part-time, and intern positions. Even someone who is characterized as an “independent contractor” may be covered.

Continue reading

The past few months have seen a marked and much-needed shift in the attitudes of many people in Hollywood, as countless instances of celebrity sexual harassment and abuse have been revealed. Indeed, according to a recent news report, last week’s Golden Globe ceremony saw many of the Hollywood elite donning all black to express their solidarity with the #MeToo movement. Just like people who have been harassed in Hollywood, people in New York City have the right to bring New York sexual harassment claims when they have been victimized by wrongful conduct.

Director's ClapperThe #MeToo movement was started in October of last year by social activist Tarana Burke. After Burke created the hashtag, many well-known actresses encouraged their followers to tweet their own stories of sexual harassment or abuse. Since then, the movement has expanded to many other industries and pulled away the curtain in front of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace.

While it is not the only industry in which women have faced decades of sexual abuse, harassment, and unequal pay, the entertainment industry has been on the forefront of vocalizing that the previously tolerated practice will no longer be accepted. During last week’s Golden Globe ceremony, host Seth Meyers opened the show by denouncing one famous producer recently accused of engaging in rampant sexual assault and harassment over the past several decades.

Continue reading

In a recently filed New York religious discrimination case, a New York woman claims that she was subjected to discrimination and not provided with a fair chance of employment due to her religious beliefs and the fact that she wore a scarf that covered her head to a job interview.

Head ScarfAccording to a news report covering the recently filed case, the woman applied for a job as a customer service representative at a check-cashing business. Later, the woman received a call from the manager, inviting her to come in for an interview. When the woman arrived, she was wearing a head scarf.

In the lawsuit, the woman claims that the manager immediately turned hostile when he saw that she arrived wearing the scarf. The manager reportedly asked the woman, “Are you going to be wearing that thing? … Because you will not be able to work with that on. Or will that be a problem for you?”

Continue reading

New York City has one of the most robust anti-discrimination laws in the country. Indeed, in New York City, employers cannot discriminate based on a number of factors, including an applicant’s gender, sexual orientation, or partnership status. Despite the vigorous protections, employers continue to discriminate, especially against transgender individuals. In fact, the U.S. government openly discriminated against transgender individuals until very recently.

SoldiersBack in June of last year, President Trump announced his intention to ban transgender individuals from serving in the nation’s armed services. Since the announcement of that upcoming regulation, courts across the country have seen numerous lawsuits filed in an attempt to preclude the Trump administration from putting the regulations into effect.

Several of those lawsuits resulted in federal judges ordering that the policy not go into effect, based on the fact that it likely violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. According to a recent news report, the Trump administration has decided not to appeal the rulings, and it has begun to allow transgender individuals to enlist as of January 1, 2018.

New York Gender Expression Discrimination

As noted above, under the New York City Human Rights Commission, it is against the law to discriminate against an individual based on their expressed gender.

Continue reading

Contact Information