Articles Posted in Discrimination

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New York City discrimination attorneys have been watching the case involving a New Jersey woman who claims religious and sex discrimination with regard to her employer’s dress code.New York City discrimination lawyers understand that while many employee dress codes are totally legal, there is a fine line between enforcing somewhat Draconian dress codes and employment discrimination.

Before we explain more fully, here’s what we know of this case, according to Good Morning America:

A woman from New Jersey was hired to work as a data entry clerk at a lingerie wholesale company, headquartered in Manhattan.

She had worked there only two days, she said, when she was first counseled by her superior. Her supervisor had informed her that the store owners, who are reportedly Orthodox Jews, were unhappy with the woman’s outfit, deeming it, “distracting.”

When she asked what the dress code was, she was told to look around and take stock of what the other female employees were wearing. She said she observed that attire to be basically a range from “very” casual athletic wear to formal business attire.

The woman says she came to work the next day fully covered in a gray t-shirt, black jean leggings and boots. Her employers, however, found this unsatisfactory. At that point, she alleges she was instructed to tape down her breasts. When she asked if the supervisor was kidding, he responded that she was simply to cover up more.

The supervisor then reportedly gave her a hideous bath robe and instructed her to wear it. The worker said she was humiliated, and was taunted by co-workers. She was eventually given the option to go purchase a sweater, which she then left to do. However, while shopping for a sweater, she received a call telling her not to return.

Now, here’s the thing: Existing law regarding sex discrimination prohibits policies that impose discriminatory burdens or that are sexually demeaning. However, dress codes in and of themselves aren’t illegal.

So even if a company wants to demand that female workers wear skirts and make-up, it’s not considered discriminatory, unless maybe the male employees in the same position are allowed to walk around in jeans and t-shirts.

A lot of companies have dress codes, particularly for people who work with the public.

What this woman may have going for her in this case is that it does not appear that dress code was ever properly and clearly communicated to her.

This is not the first local case in which a woman has sued her former employer, claiming dress code discrimination. A woman in Queens sued Citibank two years ago after her bosses there reportedly banned her from wearing “heels and sexy outfits.” Other female employees, she noted, were wearing the same attire as her and were not penalized. She, on the other hand, was fired. She claims it was because her bosses felt she was “too hot.”

It is not so much the banning of certain clothing, but the disparity between this employee and others that determines whether this individual’s case may be solid.

In the case of Citibank, the bank ended up settling with her for an undisclosed amount.
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A weatherman in Los Angeles is suing CBS broadcasting for discrimination, saying the station only aims to hire young, attractive women to report on the weather.New York City, like Los Angeles, has one of the largest media markets in the country, and as such, this case could have implications for future New York discrimination lawsuits involving similar circumstances.

Our New York City discrimination attorneys believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to pursue the career path they choose. Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against someone on the basis of sex, age, race, religion and other factors.

But what about when you work an industry like television, where good looks – and certain looks – are practically a requirement of employment?

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Racial discrimination in New York among the firefighting ranks could cost the city upwards of $130 million.Our New York City labor and employment lawyers understand that this entire affair has impacted a fine institution, lauded for its many sacrifices and accomplishments. But discrimination in any form is unacceptable, and it’s especially disheartening when it is allowed to persist at any level of an organization.

For decades, there had been whispers and knowing nods that there was racial discrimination at the New York Fire Department. A simple look at the demographics reveals the startling truth: The department is more than 90 percent white, 6 percent Hispanic and 3 percent black – hardly reflective of the diverse makeup of New York City.

However, the situation didn’t come to a head until 2007, when the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit, claiming that the entrance exam discriminated against racial minorities.

In 2009, a federal judge in Brooklyn agreed with that take, ruling that whites scored consistently higher on the tests than minorities. He ruled the oversight wasn’t intentional, but rather the result of a test structure that was inherently more favorable to whites. Test scores were based on reading and comprehension skills, rather than actual firefighting skills. What’s more, there was a culture of nepotism within the department. Because the department had been made up largely of white firefighters to begin with, their family and friends were consistently recommended and supported throughout the application process, further perpetuating the lack of diversity.

It was ordered that a new exam would have to be developed, with the help of a third-party, equal opportunity consultant.

Now, the courts are taking this message a step further. The city is going to have to shell out almost $130 million in back wages to minority applicants who weren’t hired after taking the department’s entrance exam. That payout is going to be split up among some 2,200 applicants who were turned down between 1999 and 2002. The applicants’ salary between when they applied and now is going to be factored into the settlement. So someone who made less is going to get more.

Plus, the department needs to hire nearly 300 black and Latino applicants.

A spokesman for the Vulcan Society, which is a fraternity of black firefighters, said that the decision marked a great victory for both the department – which will benefit from the diversity – and those who had previously been excluded – who will benefit from the renewed opportunity.

At this point, nearly 62,000 individuals have registered to take the new exam this week. That is three times the amount of any year of previous applicants.

While the city has defended its hiring practices, saying that the number of minorities has tripled in the last decade, clearly, it hasn’t been enough.

This case just goes to show that discrimination in the workplace is costly – not only in terms of possible financial penalties, but in terms of the human toll as well.
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The political season is heating up. As the Republicans attempt to figure out who will challenge President Barack Obama for his position, the rhetoric will be flowing big time throughout the rest of the year.

But what happens when office talk becomes political talk? Workers’ opinions can fly and they may dismiss some candidates perhaps based on their race, gender or age. That can lead to hurt feelings and a possible discrimination lawsuit in Long Island.So, what should be done? For employers, they must create well-worded policies that lay out the proper workplace behavior without trouncing First Amendment rights of their workers. On the flip side, workers who feel words of discrimination are being flung around the office must report this to their supervisors in order to fix the behavior.

The Associated Press recently wrote an article on the topic and spoke with some experts who advise companies to take steps to ensure that their workers are able to voice their opinions in the office, but at the same time make sure other employees don’t feel uncomfortable in a hostile environment.

Politics, along with religion, may be the most controversial topics people can discuss in our country. Especially in 2012, where Congress is divided and all sides seem opposed to each other, this is sure to be a big water-cooler conversation piece.

The article provides a few suggestions for this situation:

Don’t be overbearing
The key for a boss is not to make the work environment oppressed or overbearing. If the staff typically is hard-working, but gets sidetracked, go easy, unless there is an upcoming deadline for a project. Or, politely suggest they continue their conversation later. Allowing workers to talk during work is a morale builder and shutting it down can end up hurting productivity.

Political talk
The First Amendment doesn’t allow employees at a small business to say whatever they want, but some states do allow employees to talk about politics. But these discussions can be problematic when workers get heated.

As mentioned earlier, when people talk about a particular candidate and disparage that candidate based on their race, gender or age, an employee may deem the workplace a hostile environment, which could lead to a discrimination lawsuit in New York.

The first step should be to approach the staffer who made the comments and tell him or her they were inappropriate, whether there was an issue raised by others or not. Expressing opinions is one thing, but demeaning someone is a different thing altogether. As most people know, these conversations can turn to arguments quickly. This can also be problematic.

Employees should be careful using valuable work time to get into these arguments or discussions. This can give companies legitimate reasons to fire or punish someone, even if the conversation started at break or lunch time. If it takes up work time or if company equipment is used to do it, such as e-mail, this can get the worker in trouble.
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According to the New York State Department of Labor, New York’s unemployment rate went unchanged from August to September, staying at 8 percent.

New York City’s unemployment is slightly higher at 8.7 percent, but lower than the 9.1 national rate. While it’s better to be in a position stronger than the rest of the nation, New York isn’t exactly rolling out extra jobs these days.That’s why it’s more important than ever that issues such as unemployment discrimination in New York become things of the past. There have been struggles for years about discrimination in the workplace that have left workers bitter and corporations hammered with lawsuits.

Whether it be hiring and firing based on gender, race, disability or sexual orientation, these issues have been handled by courts nationwide that have ended in them being added to protected classes that can get businesses in big trouble if they violate the law.

Unemployment may soon be added to that class. In June, a law went into effect in New Jersey that banned employers from putting out advertisements for jobs that required applicants to already be employed in order to apply for the new job. The unemployed, people who really needed a job, were left out in the cold.

A New York City bureau president, the New York Daily News reports, has pushed city council members as well as state legislators to introduce bills to ban discrimination in hiring based on unemployment. He said he’s found nearly two dozen examples of advertisements recently where employers sought only job seekers who already had a job.

President Barack Obama has taken the issue a step further. According to Bloomberg, the President’s new jobs bill would allow companies to be sued for discrimination if they exclude unemployed applicants from trying to get a job.

But Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone said the bill could actually be more damaging to job seekers than the good it could do. He believes businesses would simply avoid unemployed applicants for fear they could come under fire for a lawsuit.

Rather than interviewing applicants who are unemployed and opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit under the proposed bill, they would simply elect not to call them back. For that reason, it’s possible the bill would actually make it tougher for the unemployed to get job interviews in the first place.

Unemployment discrimination is certainly a problem, but the best way to address it may not be promoting lawsuits against businesses. As usual, Democrats who support the president’s bill and Republicans, like Langone, have come out against it. Supporters say the bill goes a long way in ensuring all Americans have equal access to jobs and slam Langone, saying his comments are overblown.

It’s certainly true that all New Yorkers should have an equal shot at a job, and their current job status should have nothing to do with whether they get an interview. But it’s also true that companies can be selective, and sometimes discriminatory, in hiring and promotions. Whether through legislation or eye-opening jury verdicts, businesses must learn their lesson that they can’t discriminate.
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A woman going to court in a Georgia city to provide support for a relative was put in an awful situation and it took a lawsuit to change a discriminatory based policy, Thomson Reuters reports.Religious discrimination in New York has no place in this country, which was founded on religious freedom. Yet people face difficult situations in this country every day based on their religion.

In this case, the woman walked into a courtroom wearing a headscarf and a security guard manning a metal detector told her she couldn’t wear the headscarf in court. She told him that policy was discriminatory and she was ordered to remove the headscarf, was placed in handcuffs and arrested and taken to jail on a charge of contempt of court.

Muslim headscarves signify modesty as they cover a woman’s neck and hair. But headscarves have sparked controversy in the United States and Europe. In France, the country has banned them on school grounds.

A lawsuit later filed by the woman — who had her charges dropped — alleged that by forcing her to remove the headscarf, the policy violated her constitutional right to freedom of religion. She alleged the actions caused “severe discomfort, humiliation and emotional distress.”

While some people would argue that not allowing people to wear headscarves is a matter of national security, that, too, is discriminatory. While many Americans’ views of the Muslim world are tainted by a small group of extremists, that doesn’t give municipalities or companies a right to discriminate.

What policies like these do is place one religious group over another. Those who don’t wear headscarves are given preference over those who do. If your religion caused you to take certain time out of the day or wear something and your boss told you you couldn’t, you would feel angry, upset, disappointed and most of all, singled out.

These things shouldn’t be happening in our country. We were raised to believe that everyone is equal and given equal opportunities, but discrimination quashes that theory. Whatever the form, whether based on religion, race, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation or a host of other protected categories, discrimination is not only wrong, but it’s unlawful.

If this happens to you or a loved one, don’t allow it. Fighting back is the only way to make a change. Like this woman, she didn’t back down, but she forced the city’s hand by making them change their policy in order to ensure all people are treated equally.
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The tragic suicide of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer from Williamsville, New York brought to light the anti-bullying efforts schools have made and what can be done to improve the situation.

Jamey killed himself after enduring bullying because he was gay. And his story made national headlines because he laid out his frustrations in a web video before his death. A recent study by the University of California at Los Angeles found that anti-bullying rules often discriminate against minorities and disabled students.For the most part, New York education law tries to get it right. But the school system and the law makes mistakes and students face discrimination as a result.

Policies school boards think will fix a certain problem can end up creating another, unrelated problem. Needy and disabled students often end up getting the short end of the stick when all students aren’t considered after administrators create rules or impose punishment.

According to the UCLA study, anti-bullying policies became fairly widespread following the 2003 “No Child Left Behind” legislation that made vast changes to schools across the country. President Barack Obama has also called for school administrators not to tolerate bullying.

Under “zero-tolerance” policies that have been enacted, bullies can usually be suspended or expelled for school in an effort to make education safer and more accessible to children.

But “problem children” may end up hurting under policies designed to punish kids who are willfully picking on other children at school. The UCLA Civil Rights Project says that minority students and those suffering from disabilities end up getting unjustly punished because of policies designed for bullies. When they miss school, they end up suffering academically.

The U.S. Department of Education wants to survey children to find out if they view their school as safe. It also warned schools that they could face federal penalties if they can’t control bullying.

In Maryland and Connecticut, zero-tolerance policies result in having to take behavioral classes or remaining in class if they violate rules but don’t pose a threat to other students. Texas, however, ends up suspending or expelling 31 percent of its students, a number that some think leads to children dropping out of school.

All students — regardless of race or physical ability — have the right to get a good education. And it’s not only a right, but a necessity. A person simply cannot survive and have a strong future if they aren’t educated.

And schools have an obligation to provide that education. School administrators must look at students in terms of an individual and not as a statistic or falling under a blanket rule. They must take into consideration that kicking a student out of school hampers their future and prevents them from realizing their dreams.

That’s why students are parents require legal representation that can be essential in making changes to school policy and ensuring that students and future students are treated fairly. No one wants their child to endure bullying and it should be stopped. But what also should be stopped is impeding on learning.

In most cases, even bullies deserve second chances. Throwing a child out of school, and perhaps permanently damaging their future, is no answer.
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It’s obvious that banks across America have had problems in recent years with the out-of-control foreclosure process.

But a recent article by iwatchnews.org shows that banks were so overwhelmed by what was going on that they were fraudulently altering documents in foreclosure cases and fired employees who saw it and reported it.Retaliation in New York and elsewhere is against the law, plain and simple. A company cannot fire an employee because they are a whistleblower or reported something illegal or wrong was going on in the business. This includes safety violations.

Sadly, this happens, however. Employers know they are doing wrong and when someone confronts them or points out what is happening because they are trying to do the right thing, the company comes down with the hammer.

Countrywide was one of the largest lenders in the country when Bank of America bought it in 2008. Since then, many reports have detailed the problems that Countrywide had with loan servicing, robo-signing and filing fraudulent documents in foreclosure cases.

But this story goes beyond signing fake signatures to documents. According to the news story, in 2007, corporate investigators for Countrywide sifted through paper that was in shred bins in the Boston area.

By finding the documents before they were shredded, investigators were able to find evidence that Countrywide workers were using scissors, tape and Wite-Out to create documents — fake banks statements, inflated property appraisals and appraisals switched on different properties.

This documentation was being used to kick people out of their homes. They were literally cutting and pasting documents together to make this happen.

Eileen Foster, the company’s fraud investigations chief, began looking into the problems and immediately got pushback from the company’s brass. One executive sent an e-mail to dozens of workers in the Boston area, warning them that there was an internal investigation and telling them not to put anything that could hurt them in writing. And she got a call from another chewing her out.

A senior manager who oversaw the branches wasn’t made available for an interview by investigators. Instead, the company’s “Employee Relations Department” did the interview and let managers vet the transcript before handing it over to investigators.

While employees were fired and branches shut down, many of the executives who likely authorized or demanded such actions went unscathed. Others who spoke up about the fraud were laid off. And when Bank of America bought out Countrywide, they fired her for “unprofessional conduct.”

But after the U.S. government intervened recently, she was given her job back and paid $930,000, after it was found that she was fired for retaliation for being a whistleblower. Others who worked with her say there was no way she was unprofessional, but only that the company had had enough of her digging.

Issues like these must be brought to light. A person cannot face this type of retaliation or discrimination in New York and allow companies to get away with it. It’s wrong and it’s unlawful.
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Andy Rooney retired recently at the age of 92 and after more than six decades working for CBS on “60 Minutes.”

It’s really amazing in this day to consider that someone would work until they are 92, but also that they would be able to work for a company for more than 60 years. There simply isn’t that kind of company or employee loyalty anymore in corporate America.Not only for younger employees coming into the workforce now, but for older jobless as well. MSNBC reports that claims of unemployed older workers have spiked in recent years, as older Americans feel they aren’t getting a fair shot at available jobs. For those in their 50s or 60s who are out of work, the job hunt can be particularly difficult.

Age discrimination in New York is among the unlawful ways companies and employers show bias against workers. Also banned is discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability and religion, among others.

Age discrimination is on the rise. In 2006, there were 16,000 claims of age discrimination sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2010, that number spiked to more than 23,000, a 44 percent hike.

Older employees, in some instances, are seen as good for the company because they bring years of experience, knowledge of the craft and a stability that younger workers often lack. But older workers have been increasingly seen by employers as less than desirable, the article states.

Since the Great Recession, where older workers have been laid off as companies cut corners and try to save money, they have been unable to find work. In a high-profile case, technology firm 3M had to pay out $3 million in a lawsuit after the company laid off workers who were over 45.

In an e-mail, one of the officials stated that the company needed to develop 30-year-olds who have management potential, which followed the layoffs of the older workers.

Age discrimination is common in several areas:
-Lack of promotions -Not given opportunities to receive training -Not hired because officials believe they can’t adapt to changes
Experts believe companies feel it’s OK to lay off older workers because they have a feeling they are more established and therefore have more money stored away than younger workers. With the instability in the economy, that’s far from a given.

Also, research shows that younger workers end up taking more days off from work than older workers and because of pregnancy issues, young women end up costing more to insure. While older workers get injured less often than younger workers, they take longer to recover.

AARP’s August report on employment found that the average time that older workers — 55 and older — spend on unemployment is 52.4 weeks, compared to 37.4 weeks for younger job seekers. The report also found that 54.9 percent of older unemployed were “long-term unemployed” — meaning they have been out of work for 27 weeks or more.

Older workers are getting discouraged because they feel like they don’t have a chance to get work. They feel like they are being shown the door at a higher rate than their younger co-workers and that may be due to age discrimination in New York.
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New York City doesn’t have “a good track record” of addressing racial bias in recruiting firefighters, a federal judge said recently as he determines how far he should go in helping to addressing the situation, Thomson Reuters reports.

Discrimination in New York takes on many forms and affects many people. Employers can unfairly treat prospective employees, by choosing not to hire them based on unlawful reasons; it can also happen to people who have already hired and who have years of experience.A worker can face unlawful discrimination and unfairness based on their age, if they’re over 40, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, military status and other characteristics. And that’s wrong.

According to the Thomson Reuters article, a federal judge has found that officials in charge of hiring in New York City have a bad record of hiring, having shown poor judgement in the hiring of firefighters.

After several trials that he decided, a federal judge in Brooklyn must now decide what the city must do to fix the problem and he must decide how far the courts must go to come up with a remedy.

The Vulcan Society, a group of black firefighters, wants a mandate that is both broad in nature and enforceable that would force city officials to address what they call a “glaring imbalance in the racial composition of the fire department.” Minorities, including blacks and Hispanics, make up a large portion combined of the city’s population — about 25 and 27 percent, respectively, yet they only make up about 10 percent of the city’s firefighters.

The group wants the judge to mandate the city recruit 35 percent of its firefighter applicants from black residents citywide. The group also wants the city to hire 293 Hispanic and black job seekers who have already took the hiring exam. That is an estimate that equals the number of minorities who would have been hired if they received scores as high as white applicants on past exams.

The plaintiffs are also seeking clarification on why some candidates are rejected and more open communication about the hiring process as well as an independent monitor to address racial bias allegations at the department.

Attorneys for the city claim that the city should be able to continue increasing the minority population among its ranks on its own, without court intervention.

This is shaping up to be quite a battle between the employees who are seeking a fairer process and the city, which doesn’t want to be controlled by a court ruling. It’s likely that whatever the decision, the losing side will appeal and the issue won’t be settled for some time.

But it takes these lengthy court battles to sometimes get an employer to do the right thing and not discriminate against its employees or its prospective employees. And, likewise, corporations must use the court system to fend off litigation that is baseless and only seeks to hurt the employer’s reputation.
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