Employment Disputes in New York
Employment disputes arise out of nearly all aspects of running a business. Companies must grapple with and respond to intricate and constantly changing laws designed to protect the rights of workers. Employees also owe legal duties to employers, oftentimes even after the employment ends. Levy Goldenberg LLP, New York’s leading business litigation firm, represents clients in a wide array of employment litigation matters including lawsuits before state and federal courts and in alternate dispute resolution forums.
The broad area of employment law addresses everything from hiring and firing decisions, working conditions, and wages and overtime. It also covers all kinds of illegal discrimination, harassment, and workplace safety. Employers may face all kinds of disputes involving full-time and part-time workers, independent contractors, and commission-based employees. No matter what industry you are in or how many employees you have, all businesses face employment-related issues. When an employment dispute arises, it often leads to litigation. Here is what you need to know about the most common types of employment disputes.
Employees have the right to work in an environment free of discrimination. Prospective job applicants also have the right to seek employment without discrimination. These rights are codified in the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Law, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to refuse to hire or employ someone, to discharge an employee, or to discriminate against such an individual in compensation or privileges, based upon an individual’s:
- National Origin
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity or Expression
- Military Status
- Predisposing genetic characteristics
- Familial Status
- Marital Status
- Domestic Violence Victim Status
In an employment discrimination case, the plaintiff must establish that he or she is a member of a protected class and that the adverse employment action was taken because of that fact. The plaintiff also has the burden of showing that he or she was qualified to hold the position in question and that the wrongful discharge or other adverse employment action gave way to an inference of discrimination.
Once the plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the defendant’s employer to rebut the presumption of discrimination. The employer will have to prove that it had legitimate, independent, and non-discriminatory reasons to support its action. If the defendant employer meets its burden, the plaintiff will then have to show that the employer’s stated reason for the action was merely a pretext for discrimination. Examples of adverse employment actions that may be the subject of such disputes include:
- Termination or suspension of employment
- Giving less distinguished titles
- Decreasing wage or salary
- Material loss of benefits
Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment exists when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to alter the condition of the employee’s work and create an abusive working environment measured by the totality of the circumstances of which no single one is conclusive. The relevant inquiry in these types of cases is whether the alleged victim welcomed the particular conduct in question from the alleged harasser.
By its very nature, a hostile work environment claim is predicated on a series of separate acts that collectively constitute an unlawful discriminatory practice, and requires more than a few isolated incidents. However, if the alleged conduct is extraordinarily severe, and a single incident of sexual assault may create a hostile work environment.
It is unlawful for employers to retaliate or threaten to take such actions against their employees for exercising their legal rights, such as reporting or filing a discrimination or sexual harassment claim or reporting that the employer is engaging in illegal activity. As with hostile work environment allegations, retaliation will not be found if there is ample proof of a legitimate, independent, and nondiscriminatory reason for the employer’s action, such as:
- The employee’s poor job performance
- The employee’s failure to meet established prerequisites for the position or pass required examinations
- The position was given to another employee with better qualifications
- The position was eliminated pursuant to a business reorganization justified by the employer’s financial difficulties
Wage and Hour Disputes
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage and overtime pay standards. New York employers must adhere to the FLSA as well as state and locate minimum wage requirements. Wage and hour claims are becoming increasingly common in New York. Many of these claims are brought as class actions. Violations may occur when employers:
- Fail to pay the minimum wage
- Misclassify employees
- Miscalculate rates of pay
- Fail to pay commissions and bonuses
- Deducting tips
Choose The Employment Litigation Attorneys at Levy Goldenberg LLP
Employment litigation involves complex legal and factual issues. An unfavorable outcome in these types of cases can have a devastating and long-lasting impact on any business. Small and medium-sized companies are especially vulnerable. If you or your company is involved in any employment-related dispute, contact the experienced employment litigation attorneys at Levy Goldenberg LLP today to discuss your case.