Employment law is designed to protect you when you go to work each day. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. In fact, it is required by Federal, State, and New York City laws.

This covers a wide range of actions, including:

  • Sexual Harassment
  • Retaliation
  • Overtime, Wage and Hours Claims
  • Non-compete and Employment Agreements

At Donnelly Stehn, our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in employment-related matters. We understand the stress and emotional devastation that often come with being subjected to harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and unfair compensation at work. We dedicate our practice to helping the victims of discriminatory and unfair employment practices obtain the legal remedies they deserve. We offer professional and personalized legal services to our clients and pride ourselves on taking the time to listen to those we represent to fully understand their needs.

Employment Law in New York

The law provides a number of remedies to workers who suffer from illegal and unfair employment practices. Available damages may include back and front pay, reinstatement, money for pain, suffering, and emotional injuries, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. We are also experienced in representing clients in disputes concerning employment agreements such as non-compete and confidentiality agreements.

Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Laws

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the primary law under which federal discrimination lawsuits are filed. This law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on sex, race, religion, and national origin. At the state level, the New York Human Rights Law also bars employers from discriminating against workers. These laws additionally protect workers from being retaliated against for complaining about perceived discrimination. The New York City Human Rights Law offers the most protection to employees discriminated against in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is recognized as a form of sex discrimination. That includes unwanted sexual advances, requesting sexual favors, sending sexual texts or emails, sexually motivated physical actions, as well as other physical or verbal conduct that is sexual in nature.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment covers situations in which a supervisor tries to get a worker to accept sexual advances in exchange for a tangible employment action, such as a promotion or to avert the threat of being fired.

A sexually hostile work environment refers to circumstances in which sexually harassing conduct is so severe and pervasive that it creates a hostile workplace. This category encompasses a broad array of behavior, such as repeated sexual innuendo and other off-color remarks, unwelcome touching, or pornographic displays, along with leering, whistling, or other suggestive actions.

The law prohibits employer retaliation against an employee who complains about sexual harassment, overtime, and wage & hour claims non-compete & employment agreement.

How a Quid Pro Quo Situation Can Arise

The phrase “quid pro quo” literally means giving something in return for something else. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has used this phrase in the context of gender discrimination for situations when someone in a workplace asks an employee to provide sexual favors in return for favorable employment decisions. Both the victim and the perpetrator of quid pro quo conduct can be of either sex, and they can be of the same sex as each other. Also, any person who is affected by the conduct can bring a claim, even if the victim does not.

Unwanted sexual advances or requests for sex can come from either supervisors or co-workers. Some people assume that quid pro quo conduct happens only when actual sexual intercourse is involved, but this is not true. Any request seeking an employee to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior, whether explicit or implicit, may suffice to support a sexual harassment claim under a quid pro quo argument. 

Similarly, a variety of threats or inducements can serve as the basis for these claims. Perhaps the most obvious quid pro quo situation happens when a supervisor demands an employee to provide him or her with sexual favors to grant a promotion. But this conduct also extends to decisions taken to fire, demote, refuse to promote, or otherwise retaliate against a worker who has refused unwanted sexual advances. Sometimes these patterns develop into widespread gender discrimination because one gender or the other is consistently favored or disfavored for promotion, depending on whether employees of that gender grant or refuse requests for sexual favors.

You do not need to prove that you incurred financial losses to pursue a quid pro quo claim. Since the conduct itself is illegal, you simply need to focus on proving that it happened and that you rejected it. An employee who has been subjected to this form of sexual harassment should focus on keeping detailed records of what happened. Crucial evidence can come from emails, instant messages, text messages, or other internal documents at your place of employment. These are important because quid pro quo conduct rarely has witnesses other than the victim and the perpetrator. Together with the dates and times of the incidents, these documents can help establish both that the conduct happened and that you told the person engaging in the conduct that it was unwelcome.

Retaliation

You might feel reluctant to file a claim against your employer or someone in your workplace. Employees often are reluctant to pursue a discrimination lawsuit because they depend on their job to keep their home, care for their family, and meet other basic needs. While it is understandable to fear losing your job, your employer is not permitted to fire you as revenge for your suing them or reporting them for discriminatory conduct. If your employer does take revenge against you in this situation, you should consult a New York retaliation attorney at Donnelly Stehn for guidance on how to proceed. Our firm can help you protect your right to be free from retaliation for taking action against employment discrimination.

New York and Federal Laws Prohibit Retaliation in the Workplace

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) wants to encourage workers to file complaints about discrimination that affects their places of employment. Therefore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that employees who file claims with the EEOC may not be subjected to retaliation by employers. There are three main components that a worker needs to show in a retaliation case:

  • The worker engaged in protected activity to help curb discrimination
  • The employer took an adverse action against the employee
  • The protected activity caused the adverse action

Adverse actions can extend beyond simply terminating employment. An employee can file a retaliation claim based on a demotion, a refusal to promote, or even the denial of certain employment benefits. For example, the employer might have passed over the employee who filed an EEOC complaint when other workers in his or her job received pay raises. Any sort of different treatment that disadvantaged the worker involved in the protected activity may be sufficient to establish an adverse action.

The most complex section of this process consists of showing causation. There are many potential reasons other than retaliation for an employer to take an adverse action toward an employee. Employers usually try to argue that they took these actions because of legitimate business reasons related to job performance. To prove otherwise, a worker should look for any documents or other direct evidence suggesting that retaliation caused the adverse action, as well as circumstantial evidence showing that other similarly situated employees were treated better.

If you cannot show a specific adverse action, you still may be able to pursue a retaliation claim under New York City’s Human Rights Act. Sometimes employment retaliation can emerge in forms that are more subtle than simply firing or demoting somebody, or even denying them a pay raise. The Human Rights Act holds employers accountable for retaliation in any manner, whether or not it consists of any specific action or leads to an adverse change in conditions of employment. A claim that may not succeed under the federal Civil Rights Act thus may have a stronger chance of success under this city law.

Protect Your Rights by Consulting an Employment Lawyer

Federal, state, and city laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New York’s Human Rights Law, shield employees from gender discrimination in the workplace. Their protections extend to all forms of sexual harassment because they arise from a worker’s gender. If you have been affected by sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in your workplace, you should contact a New York employment discrimination attorney at Donnelly Stehn to discuss the situation. Our firm has advised individual employees from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, and Westchester, in evaluating whether they have a claim and helping them pursue the justice they deserve. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.