New York and New Jersey are “at will” employment states. Generally, this means that the employer-employee relationship can be ended by either party, at any time, for any reason. However, it is unlawful for an employer to fire or otherwise take an adverse action against an employee based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. An employer also cannot retaliate against an employee who opposes, reports, or speaks out against race discrimination.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar state and local laws, it is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his or her race, color, or national origin. Both state and federal law prohibit intentional discrimination as well neutral job policies that disproportionately affect minorities in a negative way.
Race discrimination can come in many forms, from the most obvious to the very subtle. Employers are liable for conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment or that interferes with an employee’s work performance. Examples of such conduct include:
* Ethnic slurs
* Racial “jokes”
* Offensive or derogatory comments
* Other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin
An employer may also violate state and federal law where it excludes minorities from positions or groups employees such that certain jobs are predominately held by individuals of a certain race, color, or national origin. Moreover, race discrimination may be actionable even where no employment relationship exists. For example, during the recruiting process, requests for pre-employment information regarding an applicant’s race that is utilized as a basis for making selection decisions may constitute evidence of discrimination.
In addition, an employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of race or color, can be unlawful if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a particular race or color and is not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. For example, a “no-beard” employment policy that applies to all workers without regard to race may still be unlawful if it is not job-related and has a negative impact on the employment of African-American men (who have a predisposition to a skin condition that causes severe shaving bumps).
In our work representing victims of racial discrimination, we at Reid Kelly, P.C. fight hard to protect our clients’ rights and hold employers accountable. If you think you may be the victim of racial harassment or discrimination, call us now at (718) 412-8452, or contact us online here.