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Employment Law News And Analysis

Employment law protections for workers in New York

When lawmakers in New York passed the state's Human Rights Law, they extended workplace protections provided by the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. While workers across the United States are protected against harassment or discrimination in the workplace based on their gender, age, race, religion or national origin, employees in the Empire State are also protected against unfair treatment based on such factors as their criminal arrest record, military status, sexual orientation, marriage status and domestic violence victim status.

Employers can be held responsible for violating workplace discrimination laws when they allow an environment to develop that would be considered offensive, hostile or intimidating by a reasonable person. Petty inconveniences or minor annoyances would not be enough to meet this standard. Examples of workplace behavior that may support a discrimination or harassment claim include displays of pornography or other offensive material, physical assault or intimidation, unwelcome sexual advances, ridicule and abusive language.

Workers experience extensive racism in the workplace

According to a recent study about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, a third of employed adults in New York and other states have personally experienced or witnessed racism in the workplace. Large companies have advertised their efforts to improve this problem over the past decade, but more than half of corporate employees still say that their employers can do more to reduce discrimination.

In addition to the United States, employees from several different European countries participated in the discrimination study. Reports of racism and other forms of discrimination were highest in the U.S., especially among members of the LGBTQ+ community. The United Kingdom followed closely behind while France and Germany had significantly lower, but still notable, reports of racism, sexism and other discrimination.

Wrongful termination and discrimination cases move ahead

It has been several years now since the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect. Since then, numerous workers with disabilities in New York and across the United States have expected that they should be treated with respect and of equal worth to their non-disabled counterparts. More and more companies are finding new ways to offer accommodations to people so that they can adequately perform their job duties even with the presence of a disability.

Unfortunately, some companies seem to act as though the need to make adjustments for different workers is not real or that disabled workers do not deserve equal treatment. That attitude leaves too many people unemployed and wondering how they can take care of their families.

Overtime pay in New York

When you accept a job with a company in New York, there are a few different ways that you might be paid for your work. Some people have jobs that earn them money in the form of commission. These people are generally in sales positions. Other employees might receive a set amount of money each pay period regardless of the number of hours that they work or are expected to work. These people are often referred to as salaried employees.

If you are paid a set amount for every hour you work and the amount you earn each week may change based on the number of hours you work, you are said to be an hourly employee. Depending on your job or industry, you may be eligible to receive more money per hour if you work overtime. The State of New York explains that overtime is considered time worked in excess of 40 hours in a single work week or beyond 44 hours if you live in the home of the people for whom you work.

What is labor trafficking?

Employees in New York and elsewhere are federally protected against labor practices that can harm and exploit them. You may have heard about the problem of sex trafficking, but labor trafficking may be a new term to you. Unfortunately, this form of modern-day slavery is prevalent throughout the U.S., especially among undocumented immigrants.

What exactly is labor trafficking, you may wonder? According to PBS FRONTLINE, employers using this illegal form of involuntary labor utilize coercion, force or fraud to keep workers under their control. Often, they force them into debt and withdraw large portions of their paychecks to “repay” this debt, threaten to report them to immigration authorities or threaten them or their family members with physical harm or death if they refuse to do as they are told. In some cases, trafficked laborers are prevented from leaving the property, even after their shifts. The majority of trafficked workers are immigrants, many of whom are minors. Construction, landscaping, agriculture, janitorial and even nail salons are industries in which many trafficked laborers are found.

New law protects people from hair-based discrimination

For many decades now, there have been laws in place designed to provide protection for workers against being harassed or discriminated against. Some of these laws are federal and govern the entire country while others are specific to an individual state. New York State has recently taken another step forward in its effort to proactively guard against discriminatory behaviors in the workplace with a new law that takes effect immediately.

According to a report by NBC News, the law specifically targets discrimination based upon a person's natural hairstyle. It is intended to help people of color who may be more apt to be on the receiving end of discrimination because of the texture or style of their hair. In essence, such discrimination becomes almost one based on race given that the texture of hair may be a direct result of a person's heritage.

The importance of an employee handbook

Many small companies might not think that they need an employee handbook. With only a few employees, they can discuss policies in person easily enough and be flexible about some things like working from home or taking time off. However, that is not sustainable as a company grows and, even at a small size, a handbook with well-documented policies and procedures can protect businesses in the event that a problem occurs with even one employee down the road.

As explained by Paycor, a provider of human resources software, a good employee handbook protects employers and clarifies expectations for both employers and employees, ideally preventing potential problems caused by interpretation or misunderstandings. It can also help create and communicate the culture that a company has or wants to build and strengthen. A business' employees can be their biggest brand ambassadors so this can be very useful.

New York leads the way for equal pay

Most people in New York are familiar with the recent success that the women's United States soccer team has had, winning yet another World Cup. Their success, however, has come despite the fact that they are paid a mere pittance of what their male counterparts earn. This is allowed to happen even though the women's team has been more successful on the field than the men's team. Ongoing calls to change this are being heard by New York City's Mayor and New York State's Governor.

At a parade celebrating the team, the Governor signed new bills into law that take equal pay rights to a new level in the state of New York. According to a report by the New York Post, the existing equal pay laws will now be expanded to include a broader and more clearly defined set of protected classes, including women. Also part of the legislation signed was a bill that would prevent employers from asking job candidates about their past wage or salary earnings.

Qualifying for leave under FMLA

Like most working professionals in New York, you likely take your attendance in the workplace very seriously, and avoid missing work as much as you are able. Yet life often presents situations where having to take time away from work is unavoidable. Typically, such situations are due to family or medical issues involving you or members of your immediate. Your fears about having to miss work for an extended period of time are not unwarranted; many of those that come to us here at Raff & Becker, LLP share the same concerns. You will be happy to learn, however, that your employment status may be protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

This particular piece of federal legislation prevents your employer from firing you if you need to take time away from work to deal with a family or medical issues. FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (every calendar year) in order to accommodate a pregnancy, adopt a child, deal with a serious medical condition or provide care to family member that is dealing with their own medical problem. These weeks of leave can be taken consecutively or broken up throughout the year. Upon returning to work, your employer must allow you to either resume the same position or provide you with a job that is similar to your pervious one in terms of pay, conditions and responsibilities. 

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Phone: 212-577-9239
Phone: 212-577-9239
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