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Articles Posted in Employment Discrimination

As employment law attorneys, our email and social media is flooded with information from fellow employment lawyers about how employers should handle the coronavirus pandemic. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses some issues relating to how employees might handle the crisis.  Please note, this blog is informational only and should not be relied upon as legal advice, and certainly not medical advice.  The information below should be considered “food for thought.” If you have specific questions about your employment situation, we encourage you to call our lawyers, who remain available by phone throughout the crisis.

1. Listen to advice from government and medical authorities

First and foremost, pay attention to guidance given by officials from the government and from medical authorities.  Leading medical authorities include the CDC and WHO, but local health departments are also issuing guidance.  Best practices almost universally include washing hands, avoiding close contact with others, and proper hygiene including coughing and sneezing best practices. If you must report to work, continue to follow these instructions.

As coronavirus fears continue to spread throughout the country, workplaces are struggling to decide how to prevent possible outbreaks in their work forces.  Indeed, Seattle based tech giants Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are closing offices and asking employees to work from home.  But, discussions about employees’ medical conditions necessarily invokes concerns about disability discrimination statutes, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

The federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance to help employers navigate the tricky waters of combating the spread of coronavirus while remaining compliant with anti-discrimination laws.  Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the EEOC’s guidance.

Preliminarily, the EEOC noted that while disability discrimination laws remain in effect and employers must follow these laws, the laws do not stop employers from following the CDC’s guidelines for employers.  The CDC’s guidelines include encouraging sick employees to stay home, separating sick employees upon arrival to the workplace, and reminding employees to use appropriate proper hygiene.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency charged with investigating and prosecuting claims of discrimination arising under federal law.  Generally, federal law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion, color, disability, age, and genetic information.  Further, federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report or oppose unlawful workplace discrimination.

Before an employee may sue an employer for discrimination or retaliation (arising under federal law) employees must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.  In January 2020, the EEOC published data reporting the number of charges filed across the United States and its territories in 2019.  The publication shows the number of filings broken down by state and type of charge, and percentage of charges as a total of all filings and as a percentage of all filings within the state. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the EEOC’s report.

New York saw a total of 3,220 EEOC charge filings (or 4.40% of all charges filed in the United States). This shows a continued a downward trend of EEOC charges in New York. As pictured in the graph below, in 2016, New York saw 3,740 total EEOC filings which steadily decreased to 3,220 last year.

As Long Island employment lawyers, one of the questions we encounter is whether an employer can ask an employee for medical records. A request of this nature can implicate issues relating to disability discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Today’s Long Island employment law blog tries to shed some light on the issue.

Requests for Medical Records Under Anti-Discrimination Laws

The EEOC has consistently noted that employers with legitimate concerns relating to an employee’s medical condition which may impact that employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of his job, may make any inquiry into that employee’s medical history. But, that inquiry must be limited and related to the medical condition at issue.

October 2019 was a busy time in the world of employment law. Two major developments include (1) New York State sexual harassment training deadline hits; and (2) the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a Title VII case which will decide whether the federal workplace anti-discrimination laws prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses these developments.

1. Sexual Harassment Training in New York

As of October 9, 2019, all employers in New York, regardless of size, must have completed sexual harassment training for all employees. The training must include an explanation of what sexual harassment is, it must provide examples of sexual harassment, it must discuss available remedies for victims of sexual harassment, and it must discuss how victims can bring complaints of sexual harassment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits, among many other things, employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities. In addition to protecting employees with disabilities, the law also protects employees who associate or have a relationship with another individual who has a disability. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the law concerning associational discrimination under the ADA and a recent appellate court decision related to such claims.

The explicit language of the ADA prohibits employers from denying jobs or benefits to individuals because of a known disability the individual has or because the individual is known to associate or have a relationship with another person who has a disability. In an associational discrimination disability case, plaintiffs must prove, among other elements, that an adverse employment decision was made “under circumstances” which allows an inference that the disability of a relative or associate caused the employer’s decision. One way to show this is by establishing distraction evidence. A plaintiff can show distraction with evidence that the employer was motivated to take action against the employee out of fear that the employee will not pay attention at work because of the disability of a disabled person.

In Kelleher v. Fred A. Cook, Inc., the plaintiff-employee worked as a laborer. Just months after starting work, the employee’s daughter was born with a neurological disorder. Later the next year, the employee told his supervisor about his daughter’s condition and that because of the condition, on occasion he would need to rush home to care for her. The employee alleged that after this disclosure, his work conditions deteriorated. For example, his work location changed and his coworkers were offered assignments at higher wages than he was assigned.

We are proud to announce that Peter J. Famighetti and Matthew Weinick, partners at the Long Island employment law firm, Famighetti & Weinick PLLC, have been selected for inclusion by Super Lawyers New York Metro magazine.  This exclusive list is reserved for no more than five percent of the attorneys in New York State.

According to Super Lawyers, the list is “research driven” and peer influenced.  It is a rating service of lawyers who, according to Super Lawyers, have “attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.”  Super Lawyers uses a patented multi-part evaluation process to select lawyers for inclusion on its list.  The process includes:

  • Peer nominations

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the first Monday of September in each year, being the day celebrated and known as Labor’s Holiday, is hereby made a legal public holiday.”

While mostAmericans lament the end of summer, Labor Day always offers one last long summer weekend before returning to school or the usual grind of work at summer’s end. Workers enjoy many national holidays by taking the day off, but even though days such as Memorial Day and July 4th are associated with barbecues, Americans always take time to remember the meaning behind those important days.

What about Labor Day though? Do Americans stop to really think about the meaning behind the holiday? Or is it just the symbolic end to summer fun and sunshine? Today’s Long Island employment law blog explores the history of Labor Day.

Employees facing discrimination in the workplace must usually rely on statutes to sue their employers. Governments, however, must operate within the boundaries of the Constitution, including when the government acts as an employer. So, employees who work for a government, such as a state, town, city, or special district, may be able to bring legal claims against their employer when the government violates the employees’ Constitutional rights. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses a recent appellate court decision in New York which raises the bar for employment related claims against municipalities.

Elizabeth Naumovski worked for SUNY Binghamton as an assistant basketball coach. Soon after she started working, rumors circulated that Naumovski was having an “inappropriate relationship” with “J.W.,” a gay female-student athlete.  The rumors continued into the next academic year, so the school responded by imposing restrictions on interactions between students and coaches.

Yet, the rumors allegedly continued to persist into the next year. In early February 2010, the defendant head coach and athletic director spoke by phone and agreed to terminate Naumovski, allegedly because Naumovski demonstrated favoritism to some students.

The phrase “sexual harassment” has certainly been in the news lately. But, it may be hard to discern when an individual has been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, at least in the eyes of the law. The United States Supreme Court has established standards for courts to follow when analyzing sexual harassment claims, yet it is still difficult for judges around the country to determine whether an employer has participated in unlawful activity.

The Supreme court has created a high standard under federal law that plaintiff-employees must clear in order to prove that they were victims of sexual harassment. Fortunately for New York employees, on June 19, 2019, the New York State Legislature approved a bill (S.B.6577) that offers more workplace protections for workers. Below are some of the amendments the bill seeks to make to New York State sexual harassment laws.

Elimination of the Faragher-Ellerth Defense

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