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In 2023, like so many years before, the new year has brought new laws (or amended laws) designed to better protect workers from the “cancer” of employment discrimination. These new developments reflect the reality that workplace discrimination law is ever-evolving in New York. For that reason, among countless others, having a knowledgeable New York employment discrimination lawyer on your side can be invaluable.

In 2019, New York City took the lead in enhancing protections for undocumented workers. A September guidance document made it clear that using terms like “aliens,” “illegal aliens,” and “illegals,” when intended “to demean, humiliate, or offend,” amounts to illegal discrimination in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.

Late last December, New York State followed New York City’s lead. Governor Hochul signed into law a bill that added citizenship and immigration status to the list of protected classes against which employers may not discriminate.

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A well-worn aphorism posits that “just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.” This truth applies to lots of areas of life, including legal matters. In this country, the law allows you to pursue your civil case without an attorney. However, entrusting your workplace discrimination case to someone who’s not familiar with the law and the rules of court procedure (which includes most victims of discrimination) can often be costly. It may cost time, it may cost money, or it may cost you your entire case. Rather than incurring these risks, entrusting your case to an experienced New York City employment discrimination lawyer may be the wisest investment you ever make.

As an example, there’s the case of T.S., an elementary teacher in New York City’s public schools. While T.S.’s lack of attorney didn’t destroy his entire sexual orientation discrimination case, it arguably did cost him in terms of securing success more completely and efficiently.

For three years, the teacher earned evaluations of “effective” and “highly effective.” Then, in the fall of 2019, one of the teacher’s fourth-grade students allegedly engaged in inappropriate comments like threatening to “slap the gay out of” him. According to the teacher, he reported each instance but the principal never corrected the student and never disciplined him.

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The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all aspects of life, including people’s work lives. For many, 2020 represented the first time they entered the world of working remotely. Working from home comes with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks that have been discussed exhaustively over the last two-plus years. Whether you view remote work as a “plus” or a “minus,” it’s important to recognize that your employer can violate anti-discrimination laws if they allow (or prohibit) remote work on an impermissible basis, such as green-lighting it for white workers but turning down Black employees. A knowledgeable New York race discrimination lawyer can help you assess your circumstances to determine if what you experienced was illegal employment discrimination.

Several Black employees of New York City’s Department of Buildings alleged that was exactly what happened to them. The Black workers alleged race-based discrimination across multiple areas, ranging from discipline to promotions to training opportunities to city vehicle usage to overtime opportunities. According to the plaintiffs, specific instances of discriminatory treatment included unwarranted disciplinary write-ups of Black workers, denial of access to city vehicles, and excessive scrutiny of their requests for medical accommodations.

On top of those things, during 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, two white supervisors allegedly allowed white employees to work from home but forced three of the plaintiffs to work in the office. Furthermore, the supervisors forced one Black employee to share a vehicle with “coworkers who had been exposed to COVID.”

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In recent years, New York has bulked up its laws opposing discrimination based on the target’s immigration status or perceived immigration status. Today, discriminatory employment practices can include things like using immigration status-oriented words or phrases as insults or slurs, or threatening workers with immigration enforcement actions. If you’re someone who has experienced this sort of mistreatment at work, you may have a winning case under the New York State Human Rights Law, the NYCHRL, or both, so don’t delay in reaching out to an experienced New York immigration status discrimination lawyer to discuss your options.

In 2019, New York City declared that any employer that uses the terms “illegal aliens” and “illegals” in a way designed to “demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons in the workplace” has engaged in employment discrimination in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. Additionally, an employer’s threats to “call federal immigration authorities” or have the worker deported can constitute unlawful harassment under the NYCHRL when “motivated, in whole or in part, by animus related to the employee’s actual or perceived immigration status and/or national origin.” Those, of course, are not the only ways employers can run afoul of the law’s prohibitions against immigration status discrimination.

As an example, there’s this case from late November, where a Manhattan-based luxury confectioner most famous for its mille crepe cakes agreed to a settlement that ended the U.S. Justice Department’s immigration discrimination case against the employer. The DOJ accused the confectioner of requiring certain employment candidates to go above and beyond what the law requires in terms of documenting their eligibility to work.

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Two well-known public figures in New York are in the news this month and, in each circumstance, the basis for their scandals relates back (at least in part) to their alleged actions at previous workplace holiday party events. These news stories are stark reminders of the fact that, while workplace holiday parties should be a joyous and celebratory time, they’re too often marred by employees who engage in sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. If that has happened to you, the law allows you to seek compensation, so you should promptly get in touch with an experienced New York City sexual harassment lawyer.

Current New York State Attorney General Letitia James has been accused by some of seeking to improperly protect longtime former chief of staff, Ibrahim Khan, in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him. In 2017, a former coworker accused Khan of drugging and sexually assaulting her at a 2014 holiday party held at a Tribeca pub, according to the New York Post.

James’s aide isn’t the only New York public figure under scrutiny for his holiday party behavior. There’s also a former bureau chief within the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Multiple women made numerous allegations, including one DA’s office employee who alleged that, at a holiday party, the chief engaged in unwanted touching of her leg and also made comments “of a sexual nature” about the woman’s shoes and legs, the Post reported.

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In late October, a Forbes headline asked the provocative question “Do DEI Initiatives Lead to Reverse Discrimination?” Regardless of one’s views on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, it’s important to understand that the law in New York — federal, state, and city — does not differentiate between so-called reverse discrimination and more traditional forms of discrimination. The law prohibits all forms of racial discrimination, regardless of the racial makeup of those who received an employment benefit and those who incurred an adverse action. If you believe you encountered race discrimination at work — regardless of what race you are — you should contact an experienced New York City race discrimination lawyer to discuss your case.

This issue of alleged anti-white discrimination took center stage in a recent case from upstate.

D.F. and M.S., two white captains within the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s police force, applied for the position of Director of Law Enforcement. Under New York civil service law, all candidates for the director position were required to pass a written test.

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Many people have a misguided view of how the civil justice system works. Some may oversimplify it to something on the order of: File suit. Go to trial and, if successful, get compensated. A successful civil case is vastly more complex and intricate than that. There are many details and “boxes” to check, and failure to attend to each of these may turn your successful case into an unsuccessful one. For those reasons and more, it pays to retain an experienced New York City employment discrimination lawyer to handle your case and to do so as soon as possible.

Recently, a worker lost his race discrimination case in state court, and his loss highlights exactly what we mean. The worker, L.F., was a Black man who began working for the Mount Vernon Department of Public Works in 1990.

In 2016, the worker allegedly began encountering multiple problems, including unpaid overtime and racially discriminatory comments from a white coworker (including observations about how “black” L.F. was and that a new commissioner would not believe him because he was Black and the commissioner was white.) L.F. also began experiencing a hostile work environment and retaliation based upon his complaints about unpaid overtime, discrimination, and a hostile work environment.

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When you’re pursuing a retaliation case in New York, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Here are a quick three: (1) even if your underlying discrimination (or harassment) claim fails — even at the summary judgment phase — you can still win your retaliation claim, (2) even if your employer has put forward a legitimate basis for the adverse action it took and a viable theory as to why your claim is not legitimate, you can still successfully make out a retaliation claim, and (3) if you believe you were the target of illegal retaliation at work, you need to get in touch with an experienced New York employment discrimination lawyer.

A recent retaliation case from upstate illustrates the points briefly outlined above. The worker, J.D., was a manager working for a chain of auto repair and maintenance stores, overseeing 10-14 stores.

In late 2019, one of the manager’s female subordinates, S.M., informed him that she “had been touched inappropriately by a co-worker” on multiple occasions that day. According to the employer, the manager badly mishandled the investigation into the woman’s complaint, failing to follow company policies and engaging in deceitful behavior.

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If you think you’ve been the target of illegal age discrimination in New York City, it’s extremely important that you get in touch with an experienced New York City age discrimination lawyer right away. That’s true because the costs of delaying are potentially catastrophic. If you miss the deadline for filing your complaint, then those responsible may completely avoid liability for that discrimination on the basis of the statute of limitations.

In connection with statutes of limitation and limitations periods, there’s also something called “tolling,” which possibly can mean that you have a longer window of time in which to sue. Knowing if tolling applies to your situation and, if so, what your specific deadline for filing is can be crucial to your success. This again illustrates the importance of having knowledgeable legal counsel on your side.

As an example, there’s S.G., a woman who, for many years, was the director of a senior center in Lower Manhattan. In 2017, her employer terminated her employment. The director, believing that the true reason for her termination was her age — she was in her late 60s — launched a civil lawsuit against her employer for age discrimination in violation of the New York State Human Rights Act and the New York City Human Rights Act.

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As most people — lawyers and non-lawyers alike — know, most civil lawsuits start with a complaint, followed by a response from the defense, after which comes pre-trial discovery and motions, possible settlement negotiations, and if the case is still unresolved, a trial. Sometimes, though, cases don’t follow that usual path. An experienced New York City sexual harassment lawyer can help your hostile work environment case in lots of ways, especially when your case doesn’t follow the typical pattern listed above.

For example, what do you do when you file your sexual harassment complaint and the defense responds by doing… nothing?

That was the scenario facing B.M., a woman working in the investments and finance business. She was a successful hedge fund analyst and consultant who, in 2021, took a position in investor relations with a Lower Manhattan-based firm.

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