Should I Sue My Employer?

Should I sue my employer?  Maybe. Speaking in very general terms, there are three major categories of laws protecting employees. These categories are: (1) discrimination law, (2) leave law, and (3) wage payment law. Below is a very brief discussion of each:

  1. Discrimination: Discrimination against individuals on the basis of their membership in a protected class is illegal. Protected classes include: gender, race, disability, age, national origin, religion and others. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on their protected status. The discrimination can be failure to hire, decisions related to pay, discipline and decisions to terminate employment. The principle is that you cannot be treated differently than similarly situated employees on the basis of your protected status.
  2. Leave: Certain employees are entitled to leave by state and/or federal law. If you are entitled to leave, it is illegal for your employer to interfere with your leave, or retaliate against you for taking leave.
  3. Wages: There are also many wage payment laws which govern how your employer must pay your wages. These laws relate to payment of overtime lawful deductions from wages, and what constitutes “work” such that you have to be compensated.

If you are having issues with your employer, you should speak to an employment lawyer. You may have a viable lawsuit against your employer, and a good employment lawyer can help guide you in reviewing your situation.

should I sue my employer?
should I sue my employer?

Racial Discrimination in The Workplace: Vance vs. Ball

The rules have now changed in discrimination lawsuits and hostile work environments, as proven in Vance v. Ball State University, the US Supreme Court’s workplace discrimination ruling. In a 5-4 outcome, the US Supreme Court altered the landscape in which employees could sue for discrimination and hostile work environments by narrowly defining what constitutes a ‘supervisor’. The federal court defined a supervisor as one with the ability to hire, fire, demote and discipline in the workplace; specifically, one who is authorized to ‘take tangible employment actions against the victim’.

Accused of Racial Discrimination

In the case of Vance v. Ball State, a racial discrimination case, Maetta Vance accused her supervisor, Sandra Davis, of creating a hostile working environment and claimed racial discrimination. Vance, an African American woman, was the only black employee in the catering department at Ball State University and repeatedly suffered racial harassment by co-workers and workers in superior positions, to include Ku Klux Klan references, physical altercations, and demeaning tasks. Vance’s supervisors investigated the claims, but only provided written and oral reprimands to Vance’s co-workers and the harassment continued.

What is a 'Supervisor'

Under the court’s ruling and definition of ‘supervisor’, Vance’s discrimination case was thrown out, as Vance’s supervisor, Sandra Davis, did not meet the newly defined requirements of ‘supervisor’. Although Davis supervised daily work activities and had the ability to impact employment actions, Davis’ functions did not meet the comprehensive definition set forth by the US Supreme Court, as Davis did not have the authority to fire or demote Vance. In light of this failure to meet the new definition, Ball State University could not be held accountable for the hostile work environment. Vance has appealed this ruling based on the definition of supervisor by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC defines supervisor as any individual in the position of recommending employment actions and assigning or directing daily work activities.

Currently under the decision of the court, workers such as Maetta Vance will have little to no recourse for discrimination and harassment endured in the workplace. Other victims of discrimination and harassment who find themselves in the shoes of Maetta Vance will find proving their case a much heavier burden since the ruling of the US Supreme Court.

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If you've been treated unfairly based on a protected characteristic such as race you have the right to sue and seek compensation. Contact a New York Discrimination Lawyer to learn your rights.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (www.ada.gov) ("ADA") requires employer to provide “reasonable accommodations” to their disabled employees.  But what exactly is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA? The Code of Federal Regulations defines an accommodation as “any change in the work environment or the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities."

In general, there are 3 categories of reasonable accommodations:  (1) modifications/adjustments to the job application process, (2) modifications/adjustments to the work environment, or (3) modifications/adjustments that enable the employee equal benefits and privileges of employment that similarly situated employees without disabilities enjoy.  In general, the disabled employee must inform the employer of his or her desire for an accommodation.

A reasonable accommodation under the ADA may include:

  • making existing facilities accessible;
  • job restructuring;
  • part-time or modified work schedules;
  • telecommuting
  • acquiring or modifying equipment;
  • changing tests, training materials, or policies;
  • reassignment

Recall that the accommodation has to be “reasonable.”  While there is no clear cut test for what is reasonable, it essentially comes down to common sense.  To be reasonable an accommodation has to be practically feasible from the employer’s perspective.  From the employee’s perspective, an accommodation is reasonable when it enables the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her own job and provides him or her with an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment that employees without disabilities enjoy.

Too many people misunderstand their rights under disability discrimination laws.  If you have any questions, please contact us for further information.

EEOC Rules Transgender Status Protected from Discrimination Under Title VII

Employment Discrimination on the basis of gender includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and transgender status.  If you believe you are the victim of employment discrimination on the basis of your gender or gender identity, our New York employment discrimination attorneys can help you fight for your rights. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently determined that discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex or transgender status constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Mia Macy claimed that she was denied a job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when she announced that she would be transitioning her gender from male to female.  Macy applied for the job as a man and was told that she would get the job pending a background check, but was informed the position was no longer available after stating that she would be undergoing a sex change operation.

Believing she had been unlawfully denied the position, Macy filed a charge with the EEOC.  The EEOC determined that claims of discrimination based on transgender status, also referred to as claims based on gender identity, are cognizable under Title VII.  The EEOC explained that Title VII's protections encompass a person’s biological sex, as well as their gender, which includes cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.

In making its determination, the EEOC relied on U.S. Supreme Court precedent holding that Title VII forbids employers from penalizing employees who fail to conform to stereotypical norms.  Under that precedent, Macy would have been discriminated against if she was denied a position due to the perception that her transgender status did not conform to gender stereotypes.

A copy of the decision is here:  https://www.pcc.edu/programs/paralegal/documents/macy-v-holder.pdf

If you believe you have been a victim of employment discrimination on the basis of your gender or gender identity, please contact one of our New York employment discrimination attorneys.

How Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Protect You?

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects Americans against disability-related discrimination by making it illegal for any employer to discriminate against a qualified job applicant on the basis of his or her disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is any mental or physical impairment that limits a person’s ability in a major life activity.  Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability (as defined by the Act) cannot be used by employers as a reason to discount a job applicant, if that applicant meets all the employer’s requirements for the position. This includes any education, training, experience, skills and qualifications that are needed by a successful candidate.  However, the employer is allowed to refuse employment if the applicant is unable to carry out the “essential functions” of the position, either with or without the help of any “reasonable accommodation”.

Reasonable accommodation refers to equipment that can be used by a disabled person to help them carry out essential job functions. An employer is obligated to provide these facilities only if they are not prohibitively expensive or difficult to obtain.  Reasonable accommodations also include providing a sign language interpreter for a deaf candidate, or computer software or Braille facilities for a blind person who requires these things to help them perform essential job functions.   A reasonable accommodation can be something as simple as moving an employee’s desk closer to a bathroom.

If you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer based on your disability or for more information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, please contact us.