Employment Discrimination FAQs
Q: Wrongful termination: How am I protected from workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation under Federal law?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 USC 2000e ("Title VII"), protects you from unlawful workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to hire or discharge any individual, or to otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his/her compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of an individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This covers hiring, firing, promotions and all workplace misconduct.
Title VII does not protect individuals employed by their parents, spouse or children, and does not protect domestic servants or independent contractors.
Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
Other federal laws such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2009 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act provide protection against additional forms of discrimination directed against women.
Contact our office to speak to an experienced employment lawyer in New York City about wrongful termination, workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation, or other workplace issues.
Q: What remedies are available to me for workplace discrimination, workplace harassment or retaliation under Federal law (Title VII)?
Under Title VII, you may recover the following:
Consisting of salary and fringe benefits that you would have earned during the period of workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation from the date of the termination of employment, failure to promote, or other adverse employment action to the date of the settlement or trial.
Consisting of payments to compensate you for damages actually and/or proximately caused by the workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation. Compensatory damages include those for future loss, emotional distress and pain & suffering.
Limits or "caps" are placed on compensatory damages awarded under Title VII according to the size of the employer. The caps are as follows:
Up to 100 employees: $50,000
101-200 employees: $100,000
201-500 employees: $200,000
500+ employees: $300,000
These caps apply only to individuals. In a class action situation, each plaintiff can be awarded the maximum amount specified for the size of their company.
Reasonable attorney's fees may be awarded to the prevailing party.
Punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the employer has engaged in intentional discrimination, harassment or retaliation with malice or reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual.
The above listed caps are also placed on punitive damages according to the size of the respective employer.
Compensating you for anticipated future losses due to discrimination. Front pay, however, is less commonly awarded.
Injunctive relief, such as reinstatement or a court order requiring that an employer prevent future misconduct, may be awarded in cases of intentionally discriminatory, harassing or retaliatory employment practices.
If you believe you have suffered employment discrimination, retaliation, or workplace harassment, contact our office to speak to an experienced employment lawyer in New York City about your case.
Q: Wrongful Termination in New York: How am I protected in New York from workplace harassment, employment discrimination or retaliation?
The New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") and New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL") also protect you from employment discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on age, disability, sex, gender or other legally protected classification. Under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL, it is unlawful to discriminate against individuals when hiring for a job, while on the job, or if an employee has filed a complaint of discrimination.
The New York State and New York City laws against workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation apply to employers with 4 or more employees. Under certain circumstances, individual supervisors may also be sued under the New York State and City laws. The New York City law also protects independent contractors (the New York State law does not).
New York State Human Rights Law
In most aspects, the New York State law mirrors the federal law (Title VII), with some exceptions. The State law protects against a broader class of employment discrimination, workplace harassment and retaliation than Title VII, including protecting against discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, marital status, military status, and other specified classes. Other specified classes in New York include harassment or discrimination based on sex, age, disability, national origin, gender, and religion (i.e., the classifications also protected under Title VII).
You can find the New York State law under Article 15 of the New York State Constitution. It is also referred to as the New York Executive Law Section 296 or McKinney's Executive Law Section 296.
New York City Human Rights Law
The New York City law protects against an even wider range of employment misconduct than either the federal or New York State law, including protecting against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on citizenship status, physical/mental disability, arrest record, and victim status (of offenses such as domestic violence and stalking). As with the State law, the New York City law also bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The New York City law against discrimination, harassment and retaliation also has one of the broadest anti-retaliation provisions of any law in the United States. In order to have a claim of retaliation under the New York City law, an employee must complain about workplace discrimination or harassment based on pregnancy, age, race, gender, sex, national origin, disability or other legally protected classification. The employee need have only a good faith, reasonable belief that he or she is being discriminated against; proof that such discrimination actually existed is not required.
For more details, contact our office to speak to an experienced NYC employment lawyer about wrongful termination, workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation under New York or federal law.
Q: What remedies are available to me in New York for employment discrimination, workplace harassment or retaliation?
Under the New York State law (the "New York State Human Rights Law" or "NYSHRL"), victims of workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation may receive compensatory damages, including back pay and emotional distress -- and, unlike the federal law (Title VII), there is no statutory limit or cap on the amount of compensatory damages that you may receive. The New York State law may also entitle you to reinstatement of your employment. Punitive damages and attorney's fees or costs, however, are not recoverable under the New York State Human Rights Law.
Under the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), there is also no statutory limit on the compensatory damages that you may receive. Punitive damages and reasonable attorney's fees and costs to the prevailing party are available under the NYCHRL, as are reinstatement, back pay and front pay.
Q: How much time do I have to file an employment discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation claim under Federal law?
The federal law (Title VII), requires that you first bring a charge before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") before you can file a private claim in court. You should contact our office as soon as possible to speak to a New York City employment lawyer about your wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment or retaliation claim because you have only 300 days to bring your charge before the EEOC in states, including New York, where the state or local agencies have subject matter jurisdiction over the claims.
The EEOC will investigate your case, and if you receive a right to sue letter, you will have 90 days after the letter to file your case in court. You must make sure to file your claim in court before the 90 days expire or you will be barred from pursuing your claim.
Contact our office to speak to an experienced employment lawyer in NYC about pursuing a workplace harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation claim under New York and/or federal law.
Q: How much time do I have to file an employment discrimination, workplace harassment, or retaliation claim under New York State and New York City law?
The New York State and New York City laws require that you file a discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation claim within three (3) years of the claimed misconduct. The three years begin to run once you are made aware of the alleged discriminatory, harassing, or retaliatory behavior. In some circumstances of continuing discriminatory, harassing or retaliatory behavior, courts have deemed timely misconduct occurring more than three years prior to the filing of the action in court.
Unlike the federal law, you do not have to pre-file a charge or claim of workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation under NYS or NYC law with an administrative agency before bringing a suit in court.
If you choose to file a New York State or New York City employment discrimination, harassment or retaliation claim with an administrative agency, instead of bringing your claim directly to court, you will then not be able to also file your claim in court. In that case, you have one (1) year to bring your claim to an administrative agency (240 days if your case also includes employment claims under federal law). You would bring your claim to either the New York State Division of Human Rights or the New York City Commission on Human Rights. The agencies will investigate your claim and if they find probable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation has occurred, there will be a public hearing before an administrative law judge.
You must make sure to file your claim within the appropriate time limits or you will be barred from pursuing your claim. Contact our office to speak to an experienced employment lawyer in NYC about pursuing a workplace harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation claim under New York and/or federal law.
Q: What is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009?
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act provides broader protection for women who suffered workplace discrimination in compensation based on their sex. The Act amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other anti-discrimination statutes to specify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such statutes occurs with each paycheck that is lower due to the workplace discriminatory decision or practice.
The result of the Ledbetter Act is that each paycheck that is affected by a discriminatory decision or practice gives rise to a claim for workplace discrimination.
The Ledbetter Act also:
In addition to existing penalties, establishes a recovery of back pay for up to two years preceding the filing of a complaint "where unlawful employment practices that have occurred during the charge filing period are similar or related to unlawful employment practices with regard to discrimination in compensation that occurred outside the time for filing a charge";
Amends Title VII and other anti-discrimination laws to state that an "unlawful employment practice" occurs when:
a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted;
an individual becomes subject to a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice; or
an individual is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid, resulting in whole or in part from such a decision or other practice;
prohibits employer retaliation against employees who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their own wage or that of another employee;
increases penalties against a discriminatory employer including compensation of legal fees and liability for punitive damages against an employee; and
issues grant money for salary negotiation skills training for girls and women.