New York’s Department of Investigation, after years of investigation and testimony, is being forced to pay up.
In 2014, the Chief of Staff at the DOI received a complaint from a human resources director. The employee was hard of hearing and had requested that the team make an effort to speak slowly, facing him, without covering their mouths.
This is an easy accommodation for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, but the Chief of Staff allegedly wasn’t having it.
According to court testimony, she “shook her head in disgust and rolled her eyes.” That year, the human resources director was demoted. He received a 50% pay cut. Eventually, he left the DOI.
This case has made its way through many courts but finally reached a settlement in August 2020. The employee received $870,000 — an amount that the city Law Department said was in the interest of “both sides.”
The Many Types of Workplace Discrimination in New York
Why was the HR director discriminated against? The man had a hearing impairment, which is considered a “disability.” Federal and state laws say that it is illegal to discriminate against anyone with a disability.
This law doesn’t just apply in situations of hiring and salary solutions. Public accommodations must consider people with physical or sensory disabilities, like those in a wheelchair who need more space to enter hallways or ascend a ramp.
Landlords must be able to accommodate tenants with a disability, and cannot turn a person away because of their disabilities. Persons with disabilities are entitled to receive assistance at the polls so they can accurately cast their votes as well.
These laws run a gamut of protections for citizens. In fact, discrimination does not just happen to people with disabilities. It is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of:
- Race (in some states, this includes appearance)
- National origin
- Sex (which includes sexual orientation and gender identity)
- Pregnancy or childbirth
- Age (40 and up)
If you have been a victim of discrimination for any of these reasons, the law has your back. As time goes on, more pieces of legislation are cracking down on discrimination and protecting those who may be vulnerable to treatment like the HR director at the DOI.
New York Legislation Against Sexual Harassment
Tackling this problem is still on the agenda for many lawmakers and leaders. In June of 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that “on the basis of sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
In August 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that would continue to protect people from workplace harassment and discrimination.
The legislation has been rolling out in stages from August 2019 to August 2020. Some of the provisions of the legislation include:
- Protecting domestic workers from harassment
- Protecting victims of harassment in all businesses, including those with fewer than four employees
- Eliminating the requirement for harassment to be “severe or pervasive”
- Requiring NDAs to allow room for complaints of workplace harassment
- Extending the statute of limitations from one year to three years
Legal Actions Available
This legislation gives more people the chance to step forward and speak out (or take legal action) against workplace harassment. Remember, harassment in the workplace does not have to be of a sexual nature to be illegal.
Harassing an employee based on their race or disability may also be illegal. If you have been a victim of harassment or discrimination, you may have the right to take action and seek compensation.
Are You Experiencing Harassment or Discrimination At Your Workplace?
Speaking out against harassment in the workplace can be scary. No one wants to be fired or shamed just because they are seeking justice or want to feel more comfortable at work.
Others fear that their claim won’t be taken seriously – that the workplace harassment wasn’t “enough” to warrant a lawsuit.
Ask yourself: Does the harassment you (or a colleague) have experienced “create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”
If the answer is yes, then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) believes that harassment has taken place. Intimidation, threats, slurs, and offensive jokes may all qualify.
Even if you do not believe that a specific employee or boss is guilty of harassment, keep detailed notes. Try and answer these two questions:
- What did the person say to make you (or another person) feel uncomfortable?
- What have people said about being intimidated?
These notes may come in handy when you decide to file a claim or pursue legal action.