Several laws protect employees from racial discrimination in New York

New York City is home to countless individuals from all corners of the world, making it truly a "melting-pot" in every sense of the term. Indeed, those living in the Big Apple come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including individuals of virtually every race and national origin. Given this diversity, it is more important than ever that safeguards exist to protect New Yorkers from discrimination in the workplace - particularly, racial discrimination.

Race discrimination claims in New York

While most people are aware that federal Civil Rights laws prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee on the basis of race, many may not be acquainted with New York's various anti-discrimination laws.

For instance, both New York State and New York City have provisions that make discriminatory practices in the workplace illegal. Specifically, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) both declare that it is unlawful for an employer to fire or refuse to hire an individual because of the individual's race, color and/or national origin.

If a New Yorker is the victim of discrimination in the workplace, he or she may be able to bring a legal claim for damages under either the NYSHRL or the NYCHRL. However, a person alleging racial discrimination under these laws must be able to prove that:

  • He or she is a member of a protected class
  • He or she is qualified to hold the position in question
  • He or she has suffered an "adverse employment action," which can be any material adverse change in the terms and/or conditions of employment, such as a firing
  • The firing, or other adverse action, occurred under circumstances giving rise to the inference of racial discrimination

If the victim can adequately prove these elements, the burden then shifts to the employer to rebut the alleged racial discrimination by introducing evidence indicating that legitimate and nondiscriminatory reasons existed to support its employment decision. However, the victim still has an opportunity to prove that the reasons offered are merely a pretext for discrimination, which can be done by demonstrating that they are false and that discrimination was the actual reason for the employment action.

Other protected classes beyond race

It is important to remember, however, that these various anti-discrimination laws provide protections for many other groups of people as well. For example, in addition to race, color and national origin, both the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL - as well as the federal Civil Rights law - prohibit workplace discrimination based upon religion, sex and age. Moreover, the Human Rights Laws in New York offer further protections beyond those provided under federal law, including banning employment discrimination on the basis of military status, sexual orientation and marital status, among other grounds.

Ultimately, discrimination claims can be quite complex in New York, especially given the many federal and local laws that govern these types of suits. Accordingly, it is often best to consult with an experienced discrimination attorney if you believe you have been the victim of employment discrimination. An attorney can explain your options and help ensure your rights are properly defended.