New York Employment Attorneys Blog

Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

Working Americans spend a significant amount of time at work; in many cases, workers spend more time with their co-workers than with family and friends. It should be no surprise, then, that among millions of workers spending billions of hours a year with their co-workers, workplace romances are not uncommon. Numerous studies bear this out: A study released in 2006 by the Society for Human Resources Management and CareerJournal.com found that forty percent of employees had reported being in an office romance; in a highly publicized 2012 study by CareerBuilder.com, thirty-nine percent of employees surveyed said they had dated a co-worker at least once and (of those thirty-nine percent, nearly a third went on to marry a co-worker); and in a more recent study by Vault.com, half of the respondents had engaged in office romance. The research makes clear that office romances exist throughout the country, though they are more prevalent in some sectors than others. The Vault.com survey found that employees in hospitality and tourism were the most likely to have engaged in an office relationship (sixty-one percent), while biotech and pharmaceutical workers were the least likely (twenty-four percent).

Deborah Keary, director of human resources at the Society for Human Resources Management, says, “The workplace is the new neighborhood. People spend an enormous amount of time in the office, and if romance is going to happen, it will happen there.” As the average age of marriage is increasing, young employees are more likely to be single. As women continue to join the workforce and rise through the ranks, they are more likely than ever to be working shoulder to shoulder with men. Longer work hours and popular culture celebrating office dating add to the phenomenon.

Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On July 7, 2016, the Second Circuit ruled that the Southern District Court of New York erred in dismissing a plaintiff’s discrimination case by evaluating each piece of evidence in isolation, rather than viewing that evidence as a whole. In Walsh v. New York City Housing Authority, Rita Walsh claimed that the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) discriminated against her based on her gender by not hiring her as a bricklayer. The district court dismissed the action, concluding that no reasonable jury could find that NYCHA decided not to hire Walsh because of her sex. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded her decision and order.

Walsh supported her discrimination claim with three pieces of evidence: the NYCHA has never employed any woman as a bricklayer; Walsh was arguably more qualified than two of the successful candidates in the “main, if not primary, task” required of a bricklayer, tile work; and the NYCHA stated that it did not hire her because it was looking for someone “stronger,” without asking her any questions about her physical strength. The district court deemed each piece of evidence insufficient to create a triable issue of fact and granted the NYCHA’s motion for summary judgment. The Second Circuit found that the district court made several mistakes in its procedure.

Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

How governments regulate workplaces varies from country to country. On June 20, 2016, we covered a sexual harassment case in the United Kingdom EPLI Gender Discrimination Claims Makes Waves in the U.K., in which a coach for a prominent English soccer team sued her employer, alleging sexual harassment. In this blog, we look at how the People’s Republic of China, the largest country in the world by population, deals with workplace sexual harassment.

In China, the female workforce is an important element of the country’s economic competitiveness, constituting 45 percent of the working population. Yet 80 percent of working Chinese women report experiencing sexual harassment at some stage of their career. On August 28, 2005, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress amended the Law for the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests of the People’s Republic of China to prohibit sexual harassment against women. Although the law does not explicitly impose an obligation on the employer to protect women from sexual harassment, many provinces have subsequently enacted local rules that do create such an obligation. Under these local rules, an employer may be liable if it fails to take actions to prevent or prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Under the PRC Labor Law and Women’s Protection Law, if the employer fails to take effective measures to prevent or prohibit sexual harassment, the relevant labor or other department may impose a fine or demand that the employer correct the situation.

Owen H. Laird, Esq.

Most employees who work in New York City are covered by the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) – one of the most liberal employment statutes in the nation.  This means that employees in New York City are afforded more protection against workplace discrimination and harassment than those who work outside of the City.

At the same time, New York City has one of the highest immigrant populations in the country, and many of those immigrants own or operate businesses in the City.  These immigrant-owned businesses are integral to the fabric of the city, and range from restaurants and corner stores to law firms and tech companies to factories and warehouses.

Lev Craig

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves’ ruling in Barber v. Bryant enjoined a new Mississippi state law – House Bill 1523, or the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” (“HB 1523”) – that would have gone into effect on July 1, 2016.  The court struck down HB 1523 on the grounds that it violated both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

HB 1523 authorized discrimination by businesses and public employees who asserted one of three “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions”: namely, the beliefs that marriage should be “the union of one man and one woman,” that sexual relations should only occur within a heterosexual marriage, and that a person’s gender is defined by their “anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.”

Owen H. Laird, Esq.

In a reminder that gender discrimination is not only a problem in the United States, the former team doctor for a top English Premier League football team recently settled her gender discrimination claim against the club on the eve of trial. Eva Carneiro was the lead doctor for Chelsea Football Club until a feud with the team’s manager over her decision to take the field to tend to an injured player triggered a series of events that ultimately led to Chelsea demoting Ms. Carneiro, at which point she resigned.

Ms. Carneiro sued Chelsea and the manager, alleging that she had been constructively dismissed (i.e., forced to resign), sexually harassed, and discriminated against because of her gender. Specifically, she alleged that Chelsea subjected her to a sexist atmosphere, that the manager made sexist and derogatory comments, and that the Club subjected her to disparate treatment as a woman. Given that the incident began with a highly public confrontation during a match, involved a very popular club, and the sensationalist nature of the British press, the case received immediate attention in the media.

Lev Craig and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

When Philip Sullivan decided to apply for a warehouse job at Grisham Farm Products, Inc. (Grisham), he learned that Grisham required all applicants to complete a 3-page “Health History” as part of their employment application. This form asked applicants to respond to 43 questions concerning their medical histories, including whether they had consulted with a healthcare provider in the past 24 months or suffered from specific medical issues, such as heart conditions, depression, and sexually transmitted infections, among others.

As Mr. Sullivan has disabilities, he was worried that his answers would reveal them and thus negatively impact his chances in the hiring process; therefore, he decided not to apply for the job and instead contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC sued Grisham on his behalf, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). The ADA prohibits employers from inquiring into a person’s medical history before making a conditional offer of employment, and GINA prohibits employers from requesting genetic information from job applicants.

Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On June 2, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proposed enforcement guidance addressing national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). The guidance sets forth the agency’s interpretation of national origin discrimination under Title VII. This enforcement guidance will supersede the 2002 EEOC Compliance Manual, Vol. II, Section 13: National Origin Discrimination.

Title VII prohibits an employer from treating its employee unfavorably due to his or her national origin, which includes discrimination based on ethnicity, the appearance of an ethnic background, or the association with a particular country or part of the world. National origin discrimination often overlaps with race, color, or religious discrimination because a national origin group may be associated or perceived to be associated with a particular religion or race. For example, discrimination against people with origins in the Middle East may be motivated by race (Arab), by national origin (Jordan), or religion (Islam). As a result, the same set of facts may state claims alleging multiple bases of discrimination. The proposed guidance also includes three new areas of coverage: job segregation, human trafficking, and intersectional discrimination.

Yarelyn Mena

In David Brady v. Bath Iron Works Corporation, Bath Iron Works Corporation (“Bath Iron Works”) terminated David Brady, a long time employee, for drinking a beer with a co-worker while on FMLA leave. Mr. Brady alleged that Bath Iron Work’s termination of his employment violated the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

In 2014, Mr. Brady began to suffer from mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, and took intermittent FMLA leave. On June 23, 2015, Mr. Brady again took intermittent FMLA to undergo treatment related to his mental health issues.

Yarelyn Mena

On May 31, 2016, in Janean E. Chambers v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that an employee may suffer an adverse employment action where an employer refuses to promote the employee to a non-existent position. Janean Chambers—a longtime, legally blind, Black employee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”)—filed a complaint alleging race and disability discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, and Rehabilitation Act against the HHS after HHS denied her several requests for promotions.

In 2006, HHS promoted Ms. Chambers to management analyst. In 2007, she applied for a another promotion; however, her supervisor, Michael Curtis, informed her that her position was capped at the current pay level and that she could apply for other positions within HHS of a higher pay level or request a “desk audit” to demonstrate that her skills warranted a higher pay level. Ms. Chambers instead decided to continue working in her position and sought an “informal” promotion by requesting the creation of a higher pay level vacancy with the same responsibilities as her current position, which HHS commonly granted. Mr. Curtis supported Ms. Chamber’s efforts but advised her that he did not have the authority to create a new position.