Employment discrimination laws prohibit your employer from discriminating against you because of your age, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, a pregnancy or a disability or perceived disability. If you believe that you are being treated differently or harassed because you are in one of these protected classes, then you may be a victim of employment discrimination.
Employers cannot discriminate against employees in matters involving:
- hiring and firing;
- promotion, demotion or transfer;
- assignment or classification of employees;
- layoff, reduction in force (RIF) or forced retirement;
- job advertisements and recruitment;
- use of company facilities;
- training and apprenticeship programs;
- retirement plans, health/medical and fringe benefits; or
- disability leave and severance.
It is important to be aware that discrimination claims are not normally based on conduct that is open and obvious. There is not usually a smoking gun. More frequently, employment discrimination is covered up and hidden. If you believe that you are being treated unfairly, differently from others or being harassed because of your age, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, a pregnancy or a disability or perceived disability, do not disregard your feelings or beliefs, even though the employer will have a different version of those events, such as arguing about your performance, when it should not genuinely be an issue. You do not have to tolerate your employer’s wrongful acts, nor do you have to wait for something to happen before you contact an attorney. Frequently, waiting only leads to the escalation of the discriminatory acts against you and might make it more difficult for an attorney to resolve the issues.
In addition, you should be aware that the law does not generally protect employees from a mean or difficult boss, however unfair that may seem. You must be in a protected class when the conduct occurs and the conduct must be serious enough to have an adverse effect on you. It may be sensible for you to obtain legal advice when the conduct first occurs so that all the rights and remedies available to you under the law can be secured.
You should also be aware of the fact that your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for reporting employment discrimination, filing a lawsuit due to discrimination or for participating in an investigation of such discrimination. For that reason, you should not be afraid to contact an attorney or to pursue the protection of the law..
Additionally, there are times when there is a valid business reason for a company to reduce its staff and when that occurs, it is a proper basis for discharging employees and unfortunately, on occasion, a great number of employees. This is called a Reduction in Force (RIF).
Although the concept of a RIF is proper, there are times when an employer may illegitimately include within layoffs certain employees for reasons that are not legitimate or appropriate, but rather as a means for discriminating against certain protected employees, thereby using the veil of a RIF to camouflage prohibited discriminatory terminations.
By way of example, we have sometimes found that long-standing employees of protected status, such as older employees or minority employees or female employees, are improperly incorporated as part of the group that is designated for termination for legitimate reasons in the reduction.
All too frequently, we are contacted by employees who are improperly included in a legitimately terminated group in a reduction. It is for this reason that it becomes important to carefully consider those who are included within the reduction. Therefore, it is essential that we investigate and review RIF terminations to make certain that the employees were properly included within the RIF, and were not instead terminated because of their age, their color, their national origin, their disability, or because of their gender.
There are also situations in which the RIF may have a disproportionate effect on a protected class and unfairly impact protected employees as a group. Whether or not the employer intended such a result is usually irrelevant. If, for example, the composition of the employer’s workforce reduction creates an objectively strong inference that the RIF was inflicted upon the workforce as a means of discriminating against certain protected individuals based on a pretext that it was a legitimate reduction in force.
If you believe that you are being treated unfairly or harassed at work because of your age, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, a pregnancy or a disability or perceived disability, you should know that laws exist to protect you from unlawful discrimination or harassment.
The attorneys at Schwartz & Perry LLP would be pleased to meet and discuss your concerns with you. There is no charge for the initial consultation. Please feel free to call us at (212) 889-6565 or contact us online.