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 in New York can file complaints about violations of the NYS Human Rights Law in either a state court or with the state’s Division of Human Rights. Complaints filed with the Division of Human Rights are investigated, and an administrative hearing is scheduled if the investigation finds probable cause evidence. When a lawsuit is filed, evidence is gathered during the discovery process.

Attorneys with experience in employment law for employees may advise workers who wish to pursue civil remedies for harassment or discrimination to gather evidence that could support their allegations. Examples of this type of evidence could include photographs of indecent material in the workplace, copies of offensive emails or other communications, and detailed descriptions of unfair treatment that include the time and date of incidents and the names of any others present. Attorneys may then use this evidence to encourage employers to settle discrimination or harassment claims discretely or to support arguments made in court or administrative hearings.

Source: New York State Office of the Attorney General, New York State Human Rights Law