Workers’ Rights Under New York Anti-Discrimination Law

No one should have to endure workplace discrimination. Discrimination is not only wrong, but it is also illegal. Employers who discriminate face stiff penalties under the New York Human Rights Law.

The Human Rights Law protects current and prospective employees from employment bias on the basis of the following characteristics:

  • Age
  • Creed
  • Color
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Marital status
  • Disability status
  • Domestic violence victim status
  • Arrest or conviction record
  • Predisposing genetic characteristics

Unlawful discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently from others on the basis of one of these protected characteristics. In other words, an employer cannot make decisions about hiring, firing, promotion, or pay raises based on these characteristics. Employers are also prohibited from harassing employees and from retaliating against employees who make claims of discrimination.

How to Pursue a Discrimination Claim

Many discrimination victims choose to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Those complaints need to be brought within 300 days of the date the most recent act of discrimination took place. The Division will investigate your claim. Then the Division will hold a hearing on the matter if they find probable cause exists to believe unlawful discrimination occurred. If the hearing is resolved in your favor, the judge will specify a remedy.

Others may choose to bring an employment discrimination lawsuit in state court. Another possible option is to bring a federal claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, although federal law recognizes fewer protected classes than New York law. However, the federal statutes mandate that the prevailing party is entitled to attorneys fees and expenses which makes one’s recovery greater if the matter were to go to trial and one prevails since the other side pays the attorneys fees and expenses (although there are also certain damages caps that apply in federal court).

Regardless of which path you ultimately choose, time is of the essence. Your attorney will need to collect evidence and interview witnesses before their memories fade. Further, if you wait too long, your claim might be barred.

If you think you have been the victim of employment discrimination, take action right away. Consult a New York workplace discrimination lawyer who can help you understand your rights and advise you of the best options to pursue.