Race Discrimination

February 1, 2021 By Claudia Pollak, Esq.

Race Discrimination2021-02-16T17:20:31+00:00

Racial Discrimination Lawyer White Plains, NY

Race Discrimination in Employment in New York: Frequently Asked Questions

New York is home to a richly diverse population, spanning numerous ethnic groups, races, and cultures, yet many have openly acknowledged the discrimination and inequity facing Black workers in America, which came to the public consciousness in large part due to the Black Lives Matter movement. Ranging from the covert, stereotypical remarks about someone’s aptitude or character, to the blatant use of racial epithets, racial bias continues to permeate the workplace. Racial discrimination can occur in any work environment – whether in the office, warehouse, factory, retail store, restaurant, government agency, or other type of workplace.

Unfortunately, discrimination in the American workplace based upon race continues to be a significant problem, spanning all races and ethnic groups – as well as non-citizen workers heralding from countries throughout the world. White Plains, NY based employment lawyer, Claudia Pollak, explains that “legal protections apply to any employees as well as independent contractors who experience discrimination because of their race, color, ethnic background, or national origin.” She advises that those experiencing unfair or unfavorable treatment, unequal pay, or a hostile abusive work environment because of their race should contact a race discrimination lawyer who can assess their individual situation and determine whether there is any recourse against their employer.

What Constitutes Race-Based Employment Discrimination in New York?

Employment discrimination based on race, color, or ethnic background includes a wide range of prohibited conduct, covering job applicants as well as those who are employed or who have been hired as a contractor to complete a particular project. Discriminatory intent can be inferred in several circumstances, from giving preferential treatment to individuals of one race over another, to the use of ethnically degrading terms or racial slurs that show a discriminatory animus.

Keep in mind that standard office bullying or rude or mal-mannered managers, when their conduct is equally leveled against everyone at the workplace without regard to protected characteristics, may, depending on the individual circumstances, be insufficient to support a claim of discrimination. Ultimately, to have a viable claim of race discrimination, it must be shown that racism is the underlying cause of the unfair or inappropriate workplace conduct or wrongful termination.

What classification of workers are protected from discrimination in New York?

In addition to traditional employees, the New York Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) protects domestic workers and non-traditional workers, such as gig workers, contractors, consultants, and interns, from discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment.

Six Examples of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Here are 6 examples of racial discrimination in the workplace:

  1. The use of racial epithets or other derogatory terms that are targeted at a worker’s race, such as referring to a Black female employee as an “angry Black woman,” or use of the “N-word” at work.
  2. Grooming policies that discriminate against Black and Latino employees by prohibiting or regulating hairstyles and textures such as braids, locks, twists, or other styles that are historically associated with their race or ethnic group.
  3. Making negative assumptions about job performance or individual characteristics, such as intelligence or work ethic, based on negative racial stereotypes.
  4. Enacting policies that disproportionately affect a specific racial group or ethnicity, whether intentionally or not, such as prohibiting braids.
  5. Turning away job applicants of a certain race under the false pretense that the position has been filled, when it is still available.
  6. Unequal pay for equal work, as compared to colleagues of another race or ethnic group.

Does My Employer Have a Duty to Protect Me from Racial Discrimination?

Yes. Federal and state law requires that all New York employers make reasonable efforts to prevent discrimination, and protect workers from discrimination that occurs in their places of business. Courts sometimes require a guilty employer to take pre-emptive measures against future incidents, in addition to rectifying the grievance at hand.

How Do I Establish a Claim of Racial Discrimination in New York?

New York-based employment attorney, Claudia Pollak, states that “people should be cognizant that the strongest racial discrimination cases include ample evidence to back up their claims.” It is therefore imperative to document incidences of racial discrimination early on, as soon as they occur. This can significantly increase the probability that an individual will prevail on their claims of racial discrimination in the workplace. In fact, strong, unambiguous evidence can often lead to an out-of-court settlement as the employer weighs the odds that a jury will rule in the employee’s favor and risk being on the hook for significant monetary damages.

Workers who suspect that a manager or coworker has racist beliefs and treats them unfairly as a result, should maintain a log of any concerning conduct. This includes documenting the date of any incidents that evidence the claim of racial discrimination (you can send yourself texts or emails describing the circumstances), noting any witnesses to the behavior, and summarizing what occurred. In addition, copies of discriminatory dress code or grooming policies, pay stubs, and witness testimony also constitutes helpful evidence.

Audio or videotape evidence that exhibits discriminatory or retaliatory behavior by an employer or co-worker can be some of the most compelling evidence available, but only if it is permissible in the state where the conversation takes place. Thus, before recording a telephone or in-person conversation, be sure it is permitted in your state. While this evidence may not always be admissible in court, it can be helpful for your claim in impeaching the truthfulness of witnesses that testify on behalf of the employer.

How Do I File an Internal Complaint of Race Discrimination?

A racial discrimination lawyer can advise you on how to lodge a formal complaint with your employer that may appropriately address the situation. Utilizing internal processes can sometimes suffice, particularly if the offense was minor and the employer promptly rectifies the situation. At other times, the transgression is so egregious or the conduct continuous and ongoing (often even after lodging a complaint) that a hostile work environment exists. This may cause the employee to dread going to work each day, and have a detrimental impact on their job performance and general life enjoyment. Under these circumstances, it may be appropriate to retain an employment attorney to seek redress. A feeling of vindication for the discriminatory treatment that an employee has faced can often be an important start to the healing process.

What Compensation is Available in a Race Discrimination Case?

Successful discrimination claims can, depending on the circumstances, result in both compensatory damages and punitive damages. In addition, it is possible to gain reinstatement to one’s former position. Compensatory damages seek to repair the harm caused by the racial discrimination, such as lost income from unfair promotion or pay practices or as a result of lost wages due to a wrongful termination. In New York, compensatory damages can also include attorneys’ fees, court costs, and other litigation expenses. In addition, under certain circumstances, a court may require an employer to pay punitive damages for egregious conduct.

In New York, there is no cap or limit for the amount that a prevailing plaintiff is eligible to receive in compensatory or punitive damages – though punitive damages are typically reserved for exceptional cases. On the federal level, damages are capped based on an employer’s size. Ultimately, what is recovered in a prevailing claim of race discrimination in New York is based upon the specific facts and circumstances of the case, as well as the level of emotional distress that the plaintiff has undergone, and the jurisdiction and forum in which the claim is filed.

Racial Discrimination Lawyer White Plains New York
westchester county employment lawyer

Claudia Pollak

Claudia Pollak, Esq. is an experienced Westchester and NYC-based employment lawyer representing employees facing discrimination, retaliation or wrongful termination because of their race, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender, or other protected characteristic. She also advises on executive severance agreements and restrictive covenants. Call her at 914-LAW-9111 (914-529-9111) for a free consultation.

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