Legal Analysts

Showing posts with label harassment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label harassment. Show all posts

Monday, April 29, 2024

EEOC Releases Guidance in Workplace - Employer Liability for Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released official Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace, which is effective immediately. 

The Guidance, EEOC-CVG-2024-1, is designed to "serve[] as a resource for employers, employees, and practitioners; for EEOC staff and the staff of other agencies that investigate, adjudicate, or litigate harassment claims or conduct outreach on the topic of workplace harassment; and for courts deciding harassment issues."

This resource includes an explanation of the definition of each covered protected characteristic, including race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, genetic information, and retaliation. More so, for each protected characteristics are numerous examples of what type of harassment is actionable. 

In evaluating the examples, the Guidance provides:

These are key questions that typically arise in evaluating a hostile work environment claim and whether it amounts to unlawful harassment:

  • Was the conduct both objectively and subjectively hostile?
    • Objective hostility: was the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment from the perspective of a reasonable person?
    • Subjective hostility: did the complainant actually find the conduct hostile?
  • What conduct is part of the hostile work environment claim?
    • Can conduct that occurred outside the workplace be considered?
    • Can conduct that was not specifically directed at the complainant be considered?

As a reminder, the Guidance provides, at Example 39, that a hostile environment needn't cause a resulting decline in work ability or psychological injury to be actionable. Specifically, it states: "Based on these facts, Irina was subjected to a hostile work environment. Although the harassing conduct did not result in a decline in her work performance or in psychological injury, the nature of the conduct and Irina’s reactions to it were sufficient to establish that the ongoing sexual conduct created a hostile work environment because the conduct made it more difficult for a reasonable person in Irina’s situation to do her job."

That said, the Guidance goes into declining work ability and injuries across the board. It discusses employer liability for acts of alter-egos, supervisors, and co-workers. It explains systemic harassment and how a pattern or practice of harassment needs to be addressed by an employer. 

Overall, this is the go to resource of Title VII discrimination and best practices in the workplace moving forward. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

5 Tips if you Face Discrimination

If you think that you are being discriminated against at work, in housing, within education, or during any other aspect of your life, you should take the following 5 steps immediately:

  1. Make Records: Memory fades and uncorroborated facts are unbelievable so you need to create evidence if you plan to bring a discrimination claim. If you live in a state like NY, where recording a conversation only requires one-party consent, then, start recording all of your conversations with witnesses and perpetrators immediately. If not, stick to a daily diary of events. Either way, get that evidence recorded starting now.
  2. Save Documents: If discrimination is occuring at work, make sure to take all of your employment agreements, policy manuals, and procedure documents and put them onto your personal computer or turn them into printed form. If discrimination is happening in housing, compile your lease, house rules, and all other written documents and make sure they are similarly saved. Remember, from the moment that you believe that you are a discrimination victim, you need to start creating a file of all the relevant documents to the discriminatory events, including everything peripheral thereto. When in doubt as to whether a document is relevant, save the document. 
  3. Befriend Witnesses: They say it takes a village and that couldn't be more true when you are trying to overcome discrimination that is wronging you. To win a discrimination case, you need allies and advocates in your corner. Did you know that your allies are also protected under discrimination law and can bring a claim themselves if they face retaliation for assisting you? 
  4. Stay Strong: Most victims are afraid to fight for their rights because they fear that they will face a worse situation if they speak up. If this is you, please know that every act of retaliation against you gives you a further legal claim against the perpetrator. Did you know that even if you lose your discrimination case, you can still recover damages on a retaliation claim? So, don't be afraid to speak up and fight for your rights.  
  5. Protect Yourself: This is the most important tip that we can give. You should always worry less about your ability to sue for damages incident to being discriminated against and worry more about being safe. If you feel in danger, always get out of that situation immediately and call the police. 

Finally, remember to always consult with an attorney because your attorneys' legal fees are recoverable as damages in a discrimination claim and nothing replaces receiving tailored advice for your specific situation before you act to stop it. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Utility Customers Now Protected from Harassment on Unpaid Balances

With the foreclosure and eviction moratoriums coming to an end in January 2022, New Yorkers are about to feel pinched in their housing costs, which may turn into utility billing issues.


New Yorkers just received increased rights and beginning on December 8, 2021, utility companies are prohibited from engaging in harassment, oppression, or other abuses towards residential customers in connection with deferred payment agreements and the collection of unpaid balances.


Bill A3359 was signed by Governor Hochul on November 8, 2021 and amends §53-a of the Public Service Law.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Supreme Court Rules that Homosexual and Transgender Employees are Protected from Discrimination Under Title VII

On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in three companion cases (Bostock v. Clayton County; Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda; R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC) holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects homosexual and transgender employees from discrimination/harassment in the workplace.

In all three (3) cases, the employer terminated the employee's employment after it was revealed that the employee was homosexual or transgender. Each employee brought suit under Title VII claiming that they were fired because of their "sex" (Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin). The Supreme Court held that "sex", pursuant to Title VII, includes sexual orientation and transgender as protected classes because, as the Court reasoned, "it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex."

The Court provided the following example to illustrate its position: An employer has two employees, a female and a male, both of whom are attracted to men. If the employer fires the  male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him because the employer is tolerating the same trait or behavior from the female employee. The employer, the Supreme Court held, has thus terminated the employee "because of sex" in violation of Title VII.

This decision is particularly noteworthy because Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts, typically known as  "conservative" justices, were in the majority (Justice Gorsuch authored the Decision). This signifies the courts continued emphasis on interpreting laws to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. Employers should, thus, take even more proactive steps (including but not limited to policies and training) to mitigate the risks of discrimination lawsuits.

Monday, January 20, 2020

New Law: Independent Contractors in NYC are Protected Against Discrimination and Must be Trained

Effective January 11, 2020, independent contractors in New York City are protected from discrimination or harassment in the workplace and can sue under the New York City Human Rights Law (New York State Human Rights Law already protects independent contractors). In addition, independent contractors in NYC now have a right to request and receive a reasonable accommodation related to their disability, religious observance, etc.

Because independent contractors are protected under the New York City Human Rights Law, companies in NYC with 15 or more employees are now required to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to independent contractors (It was previously encouraged). Companies must modify their policies and training materials/procedures accordingly. Training under the NYC Human Rights Law must be completed by April 1, 2020.

Monday, September 30, 2019

NYC: Using the Word "Alien" Could Result In $250,000 Fine

More discrimination lawsuits are on the horizon in NYC based upon the City's Commission of Human Rights new enforcement guidelines concerning immigration status and national origin.

Landlords, merchants, and employers now face up to $250,000 in fines for using terms and phrases like "illegal alien", "alien", and "speak english" when used in the context meant to demean, humiliate, or offend.

In their press release, the NYC Commission of Human Rights provided hypothetical examples of discriminatory behavior, including:
  • Harassing a restaurant patron because of their accent;
  • Refusing repairs on a unit occupied by an immigrant family and threatening to call ICE if they complain;
  • Paying a lower wage or withholding wages to workers because of their immigration status; and
  • Harassing a store customer by telling them to stop speaking their language and demanding they speak English.

*ATTENTION LANDLORDS AND EMPLOYERS* - your teams must be trained in the different forms of discrimination and harassment to avoid fines, lawsuits, and bad publicity.