New York City Takes Stand Against Race and National Origin Discrimination Based on Coronavirus Fears

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.

Incidents of Discrimination in New York City

Reports of harassment and discrimination against people perceived to be of Asian ancestry began to emerge almost as soon as news about the coronavirus reached the U.S. New York City has seen a significant increase in the number of reported incidents. The CHR has stated that it received 248 reports of discrimination and/or harassment related to the coronavirus between February and late April 2020. More than forty percent of those reports — 105 in total — involved alleged harassment or discrimination based on bias against Asian people. This is a two-thousand-percent increase over the corresponding period of time in 2019, when the CHR received five reports of alleged anti-Asian discrimination or harassment.

New York City’s Response Team

The response team, announced on April 19, 2020, combines staff from different parts of city government in order “to quickly and efficiently track and respond to the sharp increase in reports of harassment and discrimination connected to the pandemic.” As of the announcement date, the response team had reportedly worked on 148 cases of alleged discrimination or harassment in the workplace and other areas of life in New York City. Actions taken by the team have ranged from “early intervention” to commencement of formal investigations.

The experienced and skilled national origin discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates fight for the rights of New York City workers in claims for discrimination and harassment under federal, state, and city law. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

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