Employers in New York and around the country likely know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has advocated vigorously for extending the scope of federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace to cover gay and transgender workers. The EEOC provided insight into the current state of employment discrimination in a report released on June 20, and the federal agency says that about a third of the 90,000 or so discrimination complaints that it receives each year concern harassment in the workplace.
Along with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act sets forth multiple guidelines that employers need to adhere to when dealing with pregnant workers. For instance, employers are prohibited from treating their employees differently because they are, were or plan on getting pregnant. They also can't discriminate against those who contract pregnancy-related medical issues or have considered or received abortions. It's important to note, however, that these protections only apply when employers have at least 15 workers.
New York employers would do well to familiarize themselves with the proposed guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in early June. It is focused on preventing discrimination based on workers' national origin. While employers may believe that they understand what this type of discrimination involves, the agency points to different scenarios that are discriminatory but which may not be immediately obvious.
When people in New York think about sexual harassment in the workplace, they will likely envision quid pro quo harassment. This term describes an owner, manager or supervisor asking for sexual favors in exchange for something like a promotion, raise, more hours or avoidance of termination. A hostile work environment, however, goes beyond clearly stated sexual requests. Indirect actions can create a sexually uncomfortable place to work. Hostility can also include negative attitudes toward other employees on the basis of gender, race, religion or ethnicity. The workplace conditions could even impact employees who are not the direct target of harassment.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employers in New York and throughout the country from treating workers differently based purely on their sincerely held religious beliefs. However, questions about how far these protections should stretch have often led to contentious legal battles. One of the latest such cases involves Muslim workers at a Wisconsin snow blower and lawn tractor manufacturer. The workers claim that a new company policy is preventing them from practicing their faith and violates federal law.