Articles Posted in Race Discrimination

There are lots of different ways that you might experience race discrimination at work. These can run the gamut from a noose in your workspace to subtle things like being treated less respectfully than your white colleagues. If you believe you have endured some of these more subtle forms of discrimination, you should definitely take action. Start by getting in touch with an experienced New York City race discrimination lawyer to go over your case.

Most anyone who’s started a new job understands how the process often works. Whether you’re dubbed the “newbie,” the “rookie”, the “probie” or otherwise, you’re likely going to be assigned some undesirable tasks. However, when your employer assigns you those duties, not because you’re the newbie, but rather because you’re Black (or a member of any other protected class,) that’s more than annoying… it’s illegal.

D.G. was a Black man whose race discrimination lawsuit was one of those types of cases. He was a certified professional who found himself doing some very low-level tasks, while his coworkers were not.

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Today, many employers deal with employee performance and behavioral issues through a system known as “progressive discipline,” which means using a set of graduated or progressively more serious responses to an employee who is not meeting expectations. If you’ve been the target of illegal discrimination or retaliation, your employer’s progressive discipline system may potentially be a way to strengthen your case. If your employer skipped steps or otherwise failed to follow the standard procedure in dealing with you, then those “irregularities” can be a key piece of evidence demonstrating that you were the target of discrimination or retaliation. To find out how this might apply to your case, get answers from an experienced New York employment retaliation lawyer.

An upstate woman’s retaliation case shows pretty clearly how this can work. The woman, L.B., worked in the business office at a Syracuse hospital. In 2016, her doctors diagnosed her with cancer.

On May 4, 2017, the business office director informed L.B. and three peers that the hospital was eliminating their titles but not their positions. The other three workers were given new assignments immediately, while the director told L.B. that her job “was still in ‘formulation.'” Of the three peers who received immediate assignments, all three were younger than L.B. (who was in her early 60s) and all three were non-disabled.

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We all are aware that the law bars workplace discrimination based on a worker or job applicant’s sex, race, age, disability, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, caretaker status, etc. Real-life has taught us that actual instances of discrimination are not always clearly delineated along these characteristic categorical lines. Certain forms of discrimination may be, for example, unique to Latina women… or Asian women… or gay Black men. Fortunately for workers in this state, the law recognizes something called “hybrid” discrimination, meaning a case of “race plus,” “sex plus,” “ethnicity plus”, etc. discrimination. If you think that was the kind of discrimination you endured at your job, you should get in touch with an experienced New York workplace discrimination lawyer and find out how best to pursue your case.

Just a few weeks ago, we had a ruling in a discrimination case just like that here in New York City. The plaintiff, C.S., worked at a hair salon and spa in Manhattan that specifically catered to women with curly hair. C.S. worked as a salon manager starting in the summer of 2015 until she was fired in the summer of 2018.

Along the way, the manager alleged that she suffered multiple forms of discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination during her 2015-16 pregnancy and caregiver discrimination after she returned following maternity leave. The manager also detailed a long list of occasions of discrimination where her white female supervisors treated her less favorably than her similarly situated white female colleagues.

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For those who are not Latino or African American, it may be easy to assume that all Latinos or African Americans fall monolithically into one group. This is not true, and it is one reason why the law in New York protects people based on not only their race, ethnicity, and/or national heritage, but also their color. Discrimination based on color (or “colorism”) is very real and, if it has happened to you at work, then you should reach out as soon as possible to an experienced New York City employment discrimination lawyer.

Back in March of this year, Pew Research surveyed more than 3,300 Latinos across the USA about issues of skin color and discrimination. Last month, the study results revealed that nearly 2/3 (62%) of those surveyed said that having darker skin color was a disadvantage, with more than half (57%) saying that darker skin color affected their daily lives.

According to one Latino man’s lawsuit from a few years ago, that precise problem of workplace colorism was egregiously on display right here in New York City when he worked at one of the Upper West Side’s most famous Italian restaurants.

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On the job, you may have experienced something that was blatantly inappropriate, unacceptable, and wrong, but you may not instantaneously have spoken out. Even if you didn’t, and even if others thought you were “OK” with it, that doesn’t make it OK and doesn’t mean that you cannot use that improper conduct as the foundation of a hostile work environment lawsuit. If it has happened to you at your workplace, reach out to a knowledgeable New York hostile work environment attorney to discuss your legal options.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone did or said something you found highly personally offensive? (We’re confident almost all readers are nodding “yes” right now.) Many of us may say or do nothing. “Unfriending” that guy you graduated high school with — the one who keeps posting memes mocking your ethnicity or your sexual orientation or your religion — would cost you little, but you fear the possible repercussions anyway. You somehow feel an innate urge not to “rock the boat.”

Now, imagine you were subjected to those offensive comments, not on Facebook, but at work. Repeatedly. You know the behavior is wrong and is hurtful to you. But you also know you need that job, and you fear the consequences if you speak out. Would you object, or would you gently smile and laugh (and hope it stops soon)? Whether you are the objecting kind or the laughing type, you may still potentially have experienced an actionable hostile work environment.

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Back in 2007, radio host Don Imus got fired after he referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, the majority of whom were Black, as “nappy-headed hos”. That incident may have been particularly infamous, but the thousands of women of color working in New York City know that such attitudes are not uncommon. Many women of color face insidious race and/or gender discrimination on the job. Oftentimes, though, it will be something less obvious than being publicly demeaned with vulgar language like Imus’s. While it may have been less obvious, that doesn’t necessarily make it any less damaging to you in your career. If it happens to you, you should take action. Get in touch with a knowledgeable New York City discrimination lawyer to discover what legal options may exist for you.

Take, for example, K.R., an Afro Latina woman of Dominican ancestry working at a Manhattan media strategy and “crisis management” firm.

According to K.R.’s discrimination lawsuit, which she filed last year, the firm’s owner criticized her demeanor on the phone as “angry.” The complaint stated that, by contrast, the woman accused exactly none of her white female workers of having an “angry” phone demeanor.

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Back in March, this blog covered a new regulation from the New York City Commission on Human Rights. That final rule, which became effective at the end of January, regarded religious or race discrimination and an employee’s hair. Our blog post from March offered details about what kind of employer conduct is now prohibited under the new rule but, as any experienced New York discrimination lawyer can tell you, it’s not just about having a protective law or regulation on the books and proving that your employer took a negative action against you, it is also about being able to overcome the defenses that you reasonably can expect that your employer will throw at you. With that in mind, this post shall explore the nature of employer defenses against hair discrimination and how you can confront them.

One affirmative defense that the law makes available to employers is that the employer’s hair or head-covering rules were needed to address a “legitimate health or safety concern.” What’s worth knowing is that it’s not enough for your employer simply to raise the issue of health and/or safety. Instead, the employer must have a specific basis(es) for its purported health and/or safety concern, and that basis must be a legitimate one.

For example, a pharmaceutical manufacturing employer conceivably could enact certain head covering and/or hair-related restrictions for all employees working in “cleanroom” facilities where regulations demand a space that is free or nearly free from particulates.

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It is, perhaps, the most incendiary word in the English language today. But is a single utterance of the N-word enough to make for a successful hostile work environment claim under federal law? With the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to hear a Texas man’s case, the answer to that will remain varied based upon where you bring your case. Fortunately for Black workers here in New York, there are a multitude of legal avenues available if you’ve been on the receiving end of that word on the job. To learn more about your options, make sure you’re getting the knowledgeable advice you need from an experienced New York workplace discrimination lawyer.

The case the Supreme Court declined to take involved a Black man who worked at a Dallas hospital and who ostensibly was fired for insubordination. According to the worker, his was a hostile work environment and his employer actually fired him in retaliation for his complaining about that environment.

Allegedly, R.C.’s workplace was one where the “N-word” was scratched into an elevator and where the storage room he often used had two swastikas drawn on the wall. The trial court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the N-word graffiti and the swastikas were not severe or pervasive enough to make for a hostile work environment.

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Discrimination in employment on the basis of race or religion violates every antidiscrimination statute in the country. These are among the practices that brought on the passage of the first such laws decades ago. Despite a great deal of progress, much work remains to be done. As New York City employment discrimination attorneys, we have seen many ways that employers have subjected workers to adverse treatment because of race or religion, while making it seem like it has nothing to do with either. Whether this is intentional on employers’ part is not nearly as important as the impact it has on workers throughout the city and country. Hairstyle discrimination is a major area of ongoing race or religious discrimination that might not look like race or religious discrimination to many people. New York City issued guidance on this issue in 2019. The New York State Legislature included it in the state’s antidiscrimination law the same year. In early 2021, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued a final rule formalizing a ban on hairstyle discrimination.

The CHR issued guidance on hairstyle discrimination in February 2019. It interpreted the prohibitions on race and religious discrimination in the New York City Human Rights Law to protect workers’ right to “hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.” It noted that, for Black workers, employers’ policies on grooming and appearance can exclude their natural hair. Many Black workers have had to obtain expensive and damaging hair treatments simply to comply with their employers’ policies. It further noted that some communities “have a religious or cultural connection with uncut hair.”

While the CHR’s guidance document only expressed the agency’s interpretation of city law, state lawmakers made some of these protections explicit in the New York State Human Rights Law later in 2019. A bill signed by the governor that July added two new definitions to the statute. The term “race” now includes “traits historically associated with race,” with specific reference to “hair texture and protective hairstyles.” N.Y. Exec. L. § 292(37). “Protective hairstyles” includes “braids, locks, and twists.” Id. at § 292(38). The CHR’s guidance included additional examples, such as “cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, [and] fades.”

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The novel coronavirus, known more officially as SARS-CoV-2 and less officially as “the coronavirus,” has had a devastating impact on New York City and surrounding areas. While the daily number of new cases in New York is decreasing, the virus shows no sign of slowing down in many other parts of the country, even as most states are in the process of “reopening” their economies. The disease is bad enough by itself, but its supposed origins in China have also led to an unfortunate backlash against people perceived to be of Chinese heritage. In practice, this often means anyone who appears to have Asian ancestry, including in New York City. Discrimination, harassment, and worse have occurred in workplaces and in public. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which works to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and other factors, created a response team in April to address discrimination and harassment related to the pandemic. If you feel you have suffered from discrimination or harassment while at work based on real or perceived national origin, it is prudent that you speak with a New York City national origin discrimination attorney as soon as possible to go over your rights under the law.

Laws Against Race and National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibits workplace discrimination based on a person’s “actual or perceived…race…[or] national origin.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). This includes terminating someone’s employment, demoting them, denying them shifts or assignments, and other adverse actions, when the sole or primary purpose is that they are a particular race or have a particular national origin.

The coronavirus pandemic involves multiple forms of employment discrimination. The CHR has adopted guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to disability discrimination. The EEOC first published the guidelines in October 2009 in response to the H1N1 pandemic, and later adapted them for COVID-19. The CHR created the response team to look into anti-Asian bias.

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