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New York is known as the nation’s melting pot, and as a whole, residents pride themselves on the city’s diversity. New York is also recognized as one of the leading cities in protecting job applicants against employment discrimination, based on a wide range of factors. One of the less known groups of people who are protected from New York employment discrimination are those with criminal histories.

The New York State Human Rights Law precludes an employer from basing an employment decision on previous arrests, reversed convictions, sealed convictions, juvenile adjudications, and even prior adult criminal convictions. It is important to note, however, that the level of protection varies depending on the group to which a prospective employee belongs.

Previous Arrests, Reversed Convictions, Sealed Convictions, and Juvenile Adjudications

A prospective employee with a record of any of the above is completely protected from having an employer base a hiring decision on these factors. Additionally, employers are not permitted to ask about previous arrests, reversed convictions, sealed convictions, or juvenile adjudications during the interview or even after a conditional job offer has been made. There are some exceptions; for example, a law enforcement agency can inquire about juvenile adjudications prior to making a hiring decision. However, the agency cannot inquire about sealed convictions.

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Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued an opinion in a case involving a plaintiff’s claim under the Equal Pay Act, in which the plaintiff claimed that she was paid significantly less than her male counterpart despite having more responsibility. The case is illustrative for those considering bringing a case alleging New York wage discrimination because it discusses the federal standards governing these claims.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a superintendent of the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) between the years of 2006 and 2010. When she left the position in 2010 to accept a new superintendent position, she was paid approximately $88,000, including a bilingual bonus. The plaintiff’s new position was a newly created superintendent position that placed her above both the ISD as well as the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI).

Prior to the merging of the position, the ISVI superintendent, a male, was paid approximately $121,000. When negotiating her salary for the new position, the plaintiff asked for a salary that was greater than the previous salary paid to the superintendent of the ISVI. However, the district refused to pay the plaintiff that much, and the parties negotiated a salary of $106,500.

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Workplace discrimination is illegal in New York, and employees do not need to sit idly by if they witness New York employment discrimination. Indeed, the same laws that prohibit discrimination also prevent retaliatory actions taken against an employee who speaks up in the wake of discriminatory conduct.

While an employer cannot take an adverse employment action against an employee who has engaged in whistleblowing or other protected conduct, an employer is not prevented from firing an employee based on an independent reason. Of course, if there is both a potential permissible as well as an impermissible reason for an adverse employment action, it is up to the employee to establish that the employer’s proffered reason is pretextual.

A recent employment discrimination case in front of a federal court of appeals illustrates this concept.

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The “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) is a law passed in 2015 that sets out to ensure that all students are afforded an equal opportunity to succeed through public education. In essence, the Act requires that states implement education programs that put students on a track to succeed and do not overlook certain groups of students in favor of the majority. Under the current ESSA framework, states are given much of the control, and the federal government acts only as a stop-gap to ensure that the standards set by the state are not too low.

In recent news, New York has sought a waiver from the ESSA mandates. New York has requested waivers from two provisions. First, New York is seeking to administer standardized testing for special needs students “below their chronological grade level.” This would allow schools to provide some special-needs children with standardized tests that were designed for younger, less advanced children. In theory, the children would perform better on these tests, and in turn New York would have an easier time meeting its education goals.

New York is also seeking to exclude the test results of recently enrolled English learners from the students’ results used to calculate the state’s progress toward its education goals. Again, the state hopes that by excluding these students who presumably are performing poorly, the overall New York education picture will look more favorable.

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New York City is known as a cultural “melting pot,” and for good reason; the city boasts one of the most diverse populations of any city on the planet. Aside from the opportunity that the city presents to people of all walks of life, New York City also has a strong system of anti-discrimination laws to ensure that everyone is treated equally. The city’s housing discrimination laws, in particular, are very broad and protect many would-be residents from all kinds of discriminatory practices.

New York City housing discrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on a variety of statuses, including age, sex, gender identity, race, color, religion, national origin, occupation, immigration status, family status, pregnancy, and disability. Of course, this means that a landlord cannot reject an applicant based on any of these criteria, but there are several other rights that prospective tenants should understand.

For example, landlords cannot charge members of a protected class higher rent, refuse to make repairs, or add fees on top of the monthly rent. Similarly, landlords must show prospective tenants all available housing and not refuse to show some units because they would not be a “good fit” in the landlord’s mind.

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Earlier this year, a New York appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gender discrimination case brought by a woman who claims to have been fired because she made her boss’ wife jealous. The case presented the appellate court with a unique opportunity to discuss whether the plaintiff’s allegations were sufficient to state a cause of action under the New York anti-discrimination statutes. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case should proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an employee at a New York City wellness center that provides massage therapy services as well as yoga classes. The owners of the center, a husband and wife, both had managerial roles in the company, with the husband being the plaintiff’s direct supervisor.

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff’s relationship with the husband was “purely professional,” and he seemed happy with her work. However, at some point, the husband told the plaintiff that his wife might become jealous of her because she was “too cute.”

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court ruled in an employment law case involving a military service member who claimed he received a lower signing bonus than he was entitled to receive upon his return from deployment. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss two employment law concepts that are important to those considering a New York employment discrimination case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an employee of FedEx, and he was also a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves. The plaintiff was enrolled in a training program to become a first officer, which would make him a pay grade MD-11. However, prior to beginning the program, he was mobilized for active duty in the U.S. Air Force. The plaintiff returned to work about three months later.

While the plaintiff was away, FedEx had implemented a signing bonus program for eligible employees. The bonus was for either $7,400 or $17,700, depending on the employee’s pay grade. The plaintiff was provided a $7,400 bonus because, at the time, he had not obtained his MD-11 grade. Had he been an MD-11, he would have received a $17,700 bonus.

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Earlier this month, one mayoral candidate told reporters that she hopes to tighten school rules and regulations, resulting in administrators’ ability to more easily suspend students as young as five years old. According to the report, the lawmaker stated that the focus of suspensions should not be on students who acted “nasty or disrespectful to another student” but those who were “disruptive to the classroom and learning environment.”

The proposed plan is a big step back from Mayor DeBlasio’s announcement earlier this year that the administration would eschew suspension proceedings for children in second grade and below. Prior to that decision, there were over 800 suspensions for children in second grade and below in the 2016 school year. In the school year before that, almost 1,500 children of the same age group were suspended.

New York City School Suspensions

School suspensions are serious. Indeed, New York City school suspensions can have a major detrimental effect on a student’s ability to learn, socialize, and participate in productive school programs. Suspensions can also have a negative impact on a student’s ability to get into college. In addition, repeated school suspensions come with an attached stigma that a student is a “bad kid,” potentially resulting in exacerbation of negative behaviors.

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Earlier this month, a New York City landlord with over 4,500 rental units was named in a New York discrimination lawsuit alleging that the landlord illegally discriminated against prospective tenants. According to a local news report, the landlord was engaging in “extensive and systematic” discrimination based on the race and family size of applicants.

The report discusses the findings of an investigation conducted by a New York non-profit organization that focuses on fair housing initiatives. The organization used volunteers to pretend that they were interested in renting an apartment from the landlord. Both white and black applicants were used. The white applicants reported ample vacancy and median rents around $1,450. However, the black applicants were treated differently, often being told that there was no vacancy in the building, and when a room was made available to rent, it was at the higher median price of around $1,575.

The landlord was also accused of turning down applicants who were using public assistance and also requiring families with young children to undergo extensive lead-testing. The article notes that the landlord agency was named in a lawsuit making similar claims 25 years ago, which settled out of court through a consent decree.

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Paid family leave (PFL) has been becoming more and more popular across the United States, with many employers voluntarily offering PFL programs. In a more recent development, some states are now beginning to require employers to offer PFL in some form. Beginning on January 1, 2018, many New York employers will be required to offer paid family leave (PFL) to certain employees. A New York employment lawyer can explain your rights and obligations under this program.

Which Employees Are Entitled to PFL?

Almost all employers will be required to provide PFL, and most employees will be eligible for PFL. For employees who work upwards of 20 hours per week, PFL must be made available to them after having worked at their current position for 26 weeks. Part-time employees who work less than 20 hours per week must first log 175 days of work before becoming eligible. Notably, even New York employees who work for out-of-state companies are eligible for PFL.