Anti-discrimination laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) exist to help protect against various forms of discrimination, including employment discrimination. But who, exactly, is protected by anti-discrimination laws, and how do you take advantage of these laws if you have been discriminated against?
What is Employment Discrimination?
The term “discrimination” refers to a wide variety of negative behaviors in employment law, all of which involve unequal treatment of certain employees compared to others. Employment discrimination is intended to harass, demean, abuse, or otherwise harm employees, not because of their behavior, but because they belong to a certain group of people that the discriminating party does not like.
Discrimination can take a number of potential forms, including:
- Paying certain employees less than others, independent of their record or experience
- Refusing to give certain employees raises or promotions
- Verbal abuse or harassment, including the use of racist or sexist slurs
- Refusing to respect personal space, including unwanted physical contact
- Denying certain employees access to benefits, including sick or vacation days
- Disciplining employees for invented offenses
- Firing employees for complaining about discrimination
- Retaliation for reporting discrimination, either against themselves or others
Who Does Anti-Discrimination Law Apply To?
Technically speaking, anti-discrimination law applies to everyone. No one may legally discriminate against an employee without good reason, and anyone may potentially be the victim of discrimination. For example, it is just as illegal to discriminate against a man for being a man as it is to discriminate against a woman for being a woman. In addition, anyone may be the victims of retaliation by an employer if they do the right thing and report discrimination that they witness.
However, there are a few caveats to that statement. First, anti-discrimination law only protects against discrimination based on certain accepted categories of discrimination. Federally, this includes discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability status. Many states, including New York, include other categories of prohibited discrimination, including discriminating based on age, marital status, or veteran status.
In addition, it is easier to pursue a case under anti-discrimination laws if you belong to a particular group that is traditionally recognized as having been victims of discrimination. This includes women, African-Americans, immigrants, and people with disabilities, among others. That does not mean you do not have a case if you do not belong to one of those traditionally recognized groups, though. It simply means you need diligent legal counsel that much more to ensure your case is a success.
If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 39 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000 or visit his contact page.