Your Civil Rights Are Precious

Your guide to discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination in the work place is not uncommon. It happens often in New York. And yes, it could happen to you. Here’s what you need to know.

“In the workplace” refers to all areas of employment, including:

  • Benefits
  • Firing
  • Hiring
  • Job assignments
  • Layoffs
  • Pay
  • Promotions
  • Training

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes twelve types of discrimination in the workplace. Some are obvious, some not so much. Let’s take a quick look at each type.

Age

Simply put, an employer cannot discriminate against you because you are over the age of 40.

Compensation

The Equal Pay Act demands equal pay for equal work, and is determined by job content – not job title. The act covers not just salary, but every other form of compensation, such as benefits and bonuses. It also covers allowances and expense reimbursement.

Disability

A covered employer cannot discriminate against you because you – or your partner – has a disability, or has had a disability in the past, such as cancer. A covered employer must also provide you with reasonable accommodations that would be considered a reasonable expense for the employer.

Genetic Information

Genetic testing has become common due to websites like ancestrydna.com and 23andme.com. The results of these tests can spotlight diseases and disorders within a family lineage - and it’s illegal to discriminate against you based on those results.

Harassment

Harassment is defined by Merriam Webster as “to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct.” In the workplace, harassment is considered illegal when an employer is aware of it and does nothing to stop it.

National Origin

Whether you are from a foreign country - or your partner is - or have an accent, you cannot be discriminated against by your employer.

What if you just look like a foreigner and are discriminated against because of it? Again, Illegal in the workplace.

Pregnancy

An employer is required by law to treat a pregnant woman as if she were a temporarily disabled employee. And remember, if you are pregnant and have extenuating circumstances, your issues may be covered under the American with Disabilities Act or the Families Medical Leave Act.

Race

Your employer cannot discriminate against you due to your race or the color of your skin. Period.

Religion

Religions abound in this multicultural city we call New York, and you have the right to practice your religion without being discriminated against by an employer. That includes clothing that you must wear (or must not wear) and certain grooming practices that are an integral part of your religion.

What if you are atheist or agnostic? The same law applies.

Retaliation

Can you make requests and complaints to your employer about discrimination or harassment? Yes.

Can your employer respond with a negative action towards you? No.

Any negative action that your employers takes against for because you spoke up about discrimination is called retaliation, and it is illegal in the workplace.

Sex

Your employer cannot discriminate against you due to your sex or your sexual identity. This applies to transgender employees as well.

Sexual Harassment

There are two forms of sexual harassment. The first is making lewd comments or requesting sexual favors from an individual. The second is making offensive comments about people of a sex in general.

And yes, men can – and do - file sexual harassment complaints.

If you believe you are being discriminated against, document everything. The more information you can provide, the better your odds of winning your case.

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