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New York Employment Law Blog

New sexual harassment laws offer greater protection to victims

New York State has enacted laws designed to combat sexual harassment. Back in 2018, New York enacted some expansive sexual harassment laws.

In August 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that is designed to strengthen the anti-sexual harassment laws that are already on the books. These laws will also reinforce anti-sexual assault and anti-discrimination legislation. The laws enacted in 2019 put more responsibilities on private employers to protect their employees from sexual harassment.

Are you unintentionally donating your time at work?

The old song says that working your fingers to the bone gets you nothing but boney fingers. However, you may also get overtime pay, which is one and a half times your normal hourly wage. In New York, overtime pay kicks in after you have worked 40 hours in a single week.

Perhaps the recent holiday rush had you working shifts beyond your usual schedule. Higher demand from customers and other employees calling out or taking vacation time may have provided the opportunity for you to clock a few extra hours. This makes for a nice paycheck as long as your employer is not cheating you out of wages you have rightfully earned.

Former Trump spokesperson sues campaign for discrimination

A lawsuit filed in New York by a former spokesperson for Donald Trump alleges that the campaign discriminated against her because of her pregnancy. The former spokeswoman for the 2016 Trump campaign says that several of the campaign's top advisers pushed her out of key aspects of her position six weeks after Trump's victory in the 2016 election, shortly following her announcement at work that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy made news elsewhere because she reported that the father of the child was another senior campaign staffer, who was married at the time.

The complaint charges that the Trump transition organization, Trump for America, and several Trump aides were responsible along with the campaign for pregnancy discrimination and sex discrimination. She says that she was stripped of her duties from December 2016 through Trump's inauguration at the end of January 2017 immediately following the announcement of her pregnancy. She also said that she was suddenly and without warning cut off from emails from both the campaign and transition organization and was not allowed to participate in inaugural communications although she was still ostensibly part of the team. The Trump 2020 campaign, which is run by the same organization as the 2016 campaign, did not yet respond to media inquiries on the case.

Female doctors report salary discrimination

Even highly skilled professionals in New York may face workplace discrimination on the job. For example, many female doctors report that their male counterparts make more than them despite equivalent training, education, skill and success. When surveyed, three-quarters of women physicians said that they see unconscious bias on the part of employers as a major barrier to women earning equally in the medical profession. Around 74% of female physicians said that men earned more, even when hours of work or more difficult specialties were taken into account. The survey involved around 400 women doctors across the country, looking to understand the reasons they see for the ongoing gender wage gap among highly qualified doctors.

Respondents said that employment discrimination continues to be a major problem for women doctors, even when the bias is unconscious or unstated. Some said that male doctors are seen as more valuable than women, even when both are sought-after professionals. Around 40% of the respondents reported that they currently earn less than co-workers at their current jobs who are male. Many of them said that it was because they started from a disadvantaged position. They started out with a lower initial contract than those received by men in their workplace or had negotiated a smaller productivity bonus with salaries rising more slowly.

Worker says he was sexually harassed at Chipotle

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a popular fast food restaurant with many locations in New York City. On Dec. 3, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that the company agreed to pay $95,000 to a former employee who alleges that he was sexually harassed by his female boss.

In his 2017 sexual harassment lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that the general manager of a San Jose, California, Chipotle restaurant acted inappropriately, creating a hostile work environment where his co-workers joined in on the harassment. The plaintiff, then 22 years old, was touched inappropriately and propositioned by his boss. When he complained about the treatment, the man claims that his coworkers ostracized him. The man's co-workers locked him in a walk-in freezer on one occasion, and also moved his motorcycle on another day.

Alphabet investigating executives for sexual misconduct

The board of directors for Google's parent company, Alphabet, has begun a sexual harassment investigation into certain company executives, including the company's chief legal officer. Employers in New York and across the country have a legal obligation to provide employees with a safe environment within which to work, and sexual harassment may give rise to legal claims. According to a spokesperson for Alphabet, the board of directors formed a special committee early in 2019 to review shareholder claims of workplace misconduct.

The shareholders had filed suit against the board in January 2019 alleging that Alphabet had covered up sexual misconduct on the part of company executives. According to a New York Times report, the company ended up letting a co-founder of Android go and paid him $90 million after claims of sexual assault were deemed credible by an internal investigation. Later in 2019, a former employee of Google claimed that Alphabet's chief legal officer had fathered a son with her and had affairs with other company employees.

Challenging workplace discrimination and harassment

Despite widespread media coverage of the damaging effects of racism and sexism at work, New Yorkers continue to face harassment and discrimination on the job. Dealing with workplace discrimination can be emotionally devastating as well as damaging to a person's career. This may be exacerbated if an employee suffers retaliation after attempting to address the issue. In other cases, a worker's justified fear of retaliation may be so great that they are hesitant to speak up about the mistreatment at all. By understanding their rights, workers are better able to protect themselves and challenge unjust treatment at work.

Employees have a right to work free of discrimination based on race, sex, disability, religion, age or national origin. They also have a right to be free of retaliation for attempting to put a stop to workplace discrimination or other unacceptable practices like sexual harassment. There are many types of employment discrimination, all of which can hold someone back from success on the job. An individual may be unjustly fired, denied promotions or never hired at all. A severe or pervasive environment of sexual harassment can also fundamentally interfere with the workplace.

Racism and ageism are still common in American workplaces

Workers in New York and around the country are more likely to report witnessing or experiencing workplace discrimination than European workers according to the results of a recent survey. The online review company Glassdoor asked 1,100 American workers about discrimination in the workplace based on age, gender, race or sexual orientation, and they then compared their answers with the responses given by workers in the United Kingdom, Germany and France. More than six out of 10 of the Americans said that they had been exposed to this kind of discrimination in some way. The figures from British, French and German workers were 55%, 43% and 37% respectively.

More than 40% of the U.S. workers who participated in the Glassdoor survey told pollers that they had witnessed or experienced racist behavior while at work, but the results suggest that age-based discrimination is even more common in American workplaces. Ageism was the most common form of discrimination cited by American and British respondents. Gender-based discrimination was the most commonly experienced or witnessed type of workplace discrimination in Germany and France.

Discrimination still a major problem on the job

Many New York residents might expect that fewer people face discrimination on the job decades after civil rights laws were enacted. However, despite the rise in diversity consulting and corporate inclusion initiatives, large numbers of workers continue to report instances of discrimination, racism, sexism and anti-LGBT prejudice on the job. According to a study conducted by the online employment review site Glassdoor, around one-third of adults have either witnessed racial discrimination in the workplace or have been the victims themselves. When all forms of unlawful discrimination are taken into account, the numbers are even more staggering.

Around 5,000 workers from various countries were surveyed. Given the substantial number of large corporations that have a global presence, workers were surveyed in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. All of these countries have laws banning discrimination on the basis of race or sex at work. On an international level, 31% of respondents said that they had seen or been a victim of race discrimination, while 25% said that they either witnessed or experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation. Even more said that they had witnessed or suffered from gender discrimination at work.

Workplace mistreatment harming female physicians

Female physicians in New York and throughout the country are facing high rates of burnout related to gender discrimination. Burnout is defined by the World Health Organization as fatigue, emotional stress and lost productivity caused by stress at work. According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, burnout seems to impact female surgical residents. To obtain their data, researchers asked roughly 7,400 doctors to take a survey about their working conditions.

Roughly 40% of the respondents were women, and participants were asked to describe whether they had faced harassment or discrimination on the job. They were also asked to talk about their working hours and the impact that it had on the emotional health. The survey found that 42% of female surgical residents said they were burned out compared to 36% of male surgical residents.

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