Discrimination FAQ

The New York State Division on Human Rights (NYSDHR) and the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) provide information on state and city anti-discrimination laws. There are also many federal laws that define and prohibit discrimination. The following are some frequently asked questions about these federal laws.

What are the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination?

There are several federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in employment practices, including:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older
  • Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector and in state and local governments
  • Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

How can I determine if I have a viable discrimination claim?

You may have suffered from actionable discrimination if you:

  • Are a member of a protected class
  • Are qualified for the job
  • Are terminated, demoted, held back because you are a member of the protected class
  • Were damaged by that discrimination (i.e., lost wages or suffered emotionally).

Contact the experienced employment and labor attorneys at Taubman Kimelman & Soroka, LLP, for information about the specific legal options that may be available to you in the circumstances of your case.

What is a protected class?

Protected classes are groups that lawmakers specifically protect from discrimination. Anyone who suffers discrimination because of their age, sex, race, national origin, disability, creed, or religion can be protected under statutory federal law. Some states and even cities protect people against other types of discrimination, such as sexual orientation discrimination.

A government must pass a law prohibiting discrimination against a particular class of people to create a new protected class.

Who are whistleblowers?

A whistleblower is an employee, former employee, or member of an organization, especially a business or government agency, who reports misconduct to people or entities that have the power and presumed willingness to take corrective action. Many whistleblowers are "internal" whistleblowers, individuals who report misconduct to a fellow employee or superior within their company. External whistleblowers, however, report misconduct to outside persons or entities. In these cases, depending on the information's severity and nature, whistleblowers may report the misconduct to lawyers, the media, law enforcement, or watchdog agencies, or other local, state, or federal agencies.

What sort of discriminatory practices are prohibited in employment?

Among the discriminatory practices which are prohibited in employment are the following:

  • Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age
  • Retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices
  • Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities
  • Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.

What remedies are available when discrimination is found?

The relief or remedies available for employment discrimination, whether caused by intentional acts or by practices that have a discriminatory effect, may include back pay, hiring, promotion, reinstatement, front pay, reasonable accommodation, or other actions that will make an individual "whole" (in the condition he/she would have been but for the discrimination). Remedies also may include payment of attorneys' fees, expert witness fees, and court costs.

Damages may be available to compensate for actual monetary losses, for future monetary losses, and for mental anguish and inconvenience. Punitive damages also may be available if an employer acted with malice or reckless indifference. Punitive damages are generally not available against federal, state, or local governments.

What is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and how does it operate?

The EEOC is an independent federal agency originally created by Congress in 1964 to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Commission is composed of five Commissioners and a General Counsel appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. A charge alleging discrimination under Title VII must first be filed with the EEOC before a person can file a lawsuit based on the discrimination.

What is the discrimination filing procedure?

A discrimination claim with the EEOC must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination, or within 300 days if the charging party first institutes proceedings with a state or local agency. These are very strict deadlines, and the failure to meet these time limits for filing an EEOC charge will foreclose any later court suit under Title VII. Because of these short time limits, it is imperative to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible if you or someone you know is a discrimination victim. These time limits do not apply to claims under the Equal Pay Act because persons do not have to first file a charge with EEOC under that Act in order to have the right to go to court.

When can an individual file an employment discrimination lawsuit in court?

A charging party may file a lawsuit within 90 days after receiving a notice of a right to sue from the EEOC. Under Title VII and the ADA, a charging party can also request a notice of right to sue from EEOC 180 days after the charge was first filed with the agency. Then the party must bring suit within 90 days after receiving this notice. Under the ADEA, a suit may be filed at any time 60 days after filing a charge with EEOC, but not later than 90 days after EEOC gives notice that it has completed action on the charge.

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