Can my employer fire me for No Reason? (Part II)

AM I BEING DISCRIMINATED IN MY JOB? CAN MY EMPLOYER FIRE ME FOR NO REASON? (Part II)

Last month, in Part I of this Article, I told you about several statutes dealing with discrimination in the workplace.  As you know, discrimination can be based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, among others.  Please remember that even though I will be referring to discrimination at the workplace, these statutes cover also persons applying for jobs.  As I said in Part I, I will be referring to federal law only; however, New York State law parallels federal law and, sometimes, it goes beyond the protections of the federal law.  Finally, remember you should contact an attorney to discuss your case or potential case.

In Part I, we talked about:

Employment at Will

In New York State, employers can fire or terminate any employee for no reason at all.  In addition, employers are free to hire or reject any applicant without giving an explanation or cause.  Furthermore, employees can quit employment without explaining his/her reasons for doing so.  You should keep in mind that under certain collective bargaining agreements the “at will” rule may not apply. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and/or national origin.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the New York State Division of Human Rights are authorized to investigate, mediate, and file lawsuits on behalf of employees. You should remember that you can bring a private lawsuit pursuant to Title VII; however, you have to comply with certain requirements before you can file it. 

The Equal Pay Act of 1963

The Equal Pay Act requires equal pay for men and women who perform equal work.  However, you should remember that the Act allows for certain differences.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The Age Discrimination in Employment prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older in the United States.  You should remember that the Act also prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, or firing/layoffs.

Other statutes dealing with discrimination in the workplace are:

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

The Immigration Reform Act of 1986 prohibits discrimination based on national origin or citizenship.  Please note that the statute was originally designed to prohibit the hiring of people not authorized to work in the United States.  However, it contains provisions prohibiting discrimination against those people who are eligible to work in the United States. 

The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987

The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 expanded the coverage of previously enacted federal statutes prohibiting discrimination in employment and other areas to any “program or activity” receiving federal funding.  The Restoration Act makes the civil rights statutes applicable to the entire school system, corporations, and/or organizations receiving federal funding or aid.  One of the key provisions of the Restoration Act is that it eliminates the Eleventh Amendment Immunity for a state government suit.  That is, the state government can be sued pursuant to this Act. 

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, also known as “ADA” applies to all employers covered by Title VII.  The ADA covers public services, public accommodations, telecommunications, as well as employment.  Employers are prohibited from discriminating against people with physical and/or mental disabilities.  In 2009, the ADA was amended to afford more protections to disabled employees and therefore more disabilities are covered.  In addition, the amendments ease plaintiff’s burden of proof in disability discrimination cases. 

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; that is, discrimination against employees with physical and mental disabilities.  However, the Rehabilitation Act is limited to government employers or federal employment, programs conducted by Federal agencies, programs receiving federal financial assistance, and federal contractors.  The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in the ADA.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 is a law that was passed in response to a series of United States Supreme Court decisions which limited the rights of employees who had sued their employers for discrimination.  The Act of 1991 amends prior discrimination statutes.  It provides for the right to trial by jury on discrimination claims.  The Act of 1991 also allows damages for emotional distress.  However, it limits the amount that a jury could award.

Next month, I will write about a few additional federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace (i.e., the Civil Rights Act of 1866 also known as Section 1981; Executive Order 11246; and wrongful discharge provisions).

You should remember that these federal laws apply only to employers with a certain number of employees.  If you have any doubt as to whether any of these laws or others applies to you or your employer, please contact me to discuss your case.

Please note that many of these federal anti-discrimination laws (i.e., Title VII, ADA, ADEA, EPA, etc.) are enforced by the EEOC.  You can contact the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 or at www.eeoc.gov.  Even though you do not need representation to make a complaint before the EEOC or to assert a defense against a complaint, it is recommended you consult with an attorney about your case.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the employment law and discrimination in the workplace.  Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in an employment/discrimination case.  Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar employment cases may have different outcomes. 

I represent individuals in discrimination cases.  If you have any questions or concerns about discrimination in the workplace, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Please look for my next article in the January edition. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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