What Is Employment Discrimination?

Jul. 16, 2020 By Andrew Miltenberg

What Is Employment Discrimination?

Both federal and state law prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Employment discrimination may take many forms, including, but not limited to, bias in hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, compensation, retaliation, and various types of harassment. Legally protected classes of persons for employment discrimination rights may vary from state to state, but, under federal law, the following are considered protected classes: race, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), genetic information, and citizenship status. In New York, the following additional categories are protected by state law: familial status, marital status, genetic characteristics, military or veteran status, political activities, and domestic violence status. Moreover, New York state law protects against age discrimination for employees 18 years old and above. 

Employment discrimination can occur as a result of intentional acts of discrimination, such as treating individuals less well because of their membership in a protected class, or the creation of a “hostile work environment.”  The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits a jury to award compensatory and punitive damages to victims of employment discrimination. 

Discrimination can take many forms. For example, harassers may make offensive jokes, call victims names, threaten fellow employees physically or verbally, ridicule others, stalk employees, display offensive photographs, or interfere with another person’s work throughout the day.

A hostile work environment is a workplace in which the employee experiences harassment, which can include comments, micromanaging, or other unwelcome conduct based on an individual’s membership in a protected class. The law requires that the environment be sufficiently hostile so as to create an intimidating, abusive, or offensive work environment for the employee who is being harassed. 

Examples of Employment Discrimination

Employment discrimination occurs when a member of a protected class (women and minorities, for example) is treated differently, specifically less well, than her peers. Here are some examples from recent cases handled by Nesenoff & Miltenberg. 

In one case against a large New York City hospital system, a woman sued her employer for disability discrimination and a hostile work environment after her supervisor repeatedly criticized her and commented on her disability in work meeting, in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. After a five-day trial, the jury awarded the woman several millions of dollars in damages.

Another case involved a factory worker for a major sugar company who sued her employer for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and hostile work environment after being subjected to degrading sexual remarks and harassment from her supervisor. The jury awarded the woman over $13 million in damages.

In a third case, a female guidance counselor sued the New York City Department of Education for gender discrimination after her school’s principal made sexually suggestive remarks to her and asked questions abut her personal sex life. In that matter, the employee negotiated a high six-figure settlement.

While not all employment discrimination cases result in such large verdicts, federal and state laws collectively provide for the possible recovery of multiple elements of damages including back pay, front pay, noneconomic emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

If You’ve Experienced Employment Discrimination, We Can Help

Are you the victim of employment discrimination at work?  If so, our experienced team of employment discrimination specialists can help you and work to gain a maximum recovery for your situation.  We are experts in employment discrimination laws and will take a personal interest in your situation and work aggressively on your behalf.

To consult with one of our employment discrimination specialist, please call our New York City office at (212) 736-4500 or visit our contact us page. There is no fee for a private consultation.

Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP. is a civil litigation firm specializing in, among other areas, employment discrimination and retaliation litigation. The purpose of this blog is to inform readers of their rights in the workplace. This blog should not be construed as offering legal advice. If you feel you have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace, please contact us.