As many New Yorkers can attest, harassment and discrimination in the workplace are serious issues. In fact, President Barack Obama has asked his staff to compile an executive order regarding discrimination in the workplace against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors, which could affect as many as 16 million employees.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a law that protects workers from race-related discrimination. Under this federal law, this means not only are employers prohibited from discriminating against a current employee due to his or her race, but an employer also cannot make hiring decisions based solely on race.
With the economy the way it is, there are more and more people in New York who are working in their 60s and later. Many businesses and companies value these older workers, as they have far more experience and skill than their younger counterparts. Other businesses, on the other hand, are looking for younger employees who can devote many years to the company. While there are both pros and cons to hiring both older and younger employees, employers cannot participate in age-based discrimination.
For some people in the Bronx, religion plays little or no role in their lives. They follow no religious codes and don't really celebrate religious holidays. For others, however, religion and religious practices are part of their daily lives. They strictly uphold their religious codes. Since most people fall somewhere on a spectrum between the two, it can sometimes be confusing for employers on how best to respect their employees' sincerely held religious beliefs, but that is the employer's concern, not the employee's.
Imagine working in an office in Manhattan and hearing a supervisor tell a colleague that she won't get a promotion because it is "not a woman's place" to be in charge of men. It is highly unlikely that any such supervisor would say something like that these days, but that is the kind of gender discrimination with which women have traditionally had to put up. Even though that kind of overt bias may no longer have a place in the office, it doesn't mean that gender discrimination is not alive and well in New York City offices.
Close your eyes and picture a mathematician. What does this person look like? Is the individual male or female? If you are a hiring manager, you likely said "male." Even though it is ridiculous to think that men are better at math, science or engineering than women (and it is something that very few hiring mangers would be willing to say aloud), the fact of the matter is that many people in the position to hire individuals to perform math-based functions have a bias for men.
There are a number of local, state and federal laws that protect employees from their employers' prejudices. It is against the law, for example, for an employer to refused to hire someone because of his or her national background. It is also against the law to not make reasonable accommodations for someone because of a religious belief, like allowing Muslim women to wear a hijab as part of their work uniforms. And, while some people may not realize it, it is against the law to discriminate against pregnant women.
Last week we talked about how women make less than men, and this week we will continue to look at gender-based discrimination. Although this week's specific story happened in Ohio, it is about Manhattan-based JPMorgan Chase, and, sadly, the kind of inappropriate and illegal sex-based discrimination that has been alleged could happen at any New York office.
Although there are considerable federal protections that most New Yorkers can rely upon to combat sex discrimination in the workplace, gender identity and gender performance is a much more complex topic. Sex, which is determined biologically, need not align with gender, which is an identity. For celebrity and host B. Scott, who identifies as gender nonconforming, his biological sex -- male -- and how he presents himself -- with long hair, makeup, high heels and feminine clothing -- are very different. Whether gender presentation is protected under federal law is a nuanced issue, but it is clear that it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of his or her gender identity in New York City.
Gender discrimination continues to be an issue in the workplace; however, most people only think about it as being a women's issue. A recent lawsuit filed in New York is a twist on the typical workplace discrimination case. The plaintiffs in the suit, the majority being white men, claim that the female co-CEO of the company bullied them and referred to them as male genitalia during a business meeting. The defendant is disputing the suit.