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Filing a Discrimination Lawsuit in New York

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

Discrimination can take many forms.  In years past, common types of discrimination involved unwanted comments or advances in the workplace.  Women were not allowed to vote until 1920.  Laws mandated where certain non-white races could and couldn’t congregate in businesses or public places. Plessy v. Ferguson (163 U.S. 537) sanctioned the legality of racial segregation through the “separate but equal” doctrine.  Irish and Jewish people were discriminated against, particularly in not being allowed to work or live in certain places in New York City. Older people were often forced out of long-held jobs in favor of younger, cheaper labor.  Certain classes of people were discriminated against in matters as simple as finding housing.   Interracial and same-sex marriages were not legal or legally recognized.

Then, times and attitudes started to change.  What used to be acceptable at work, like catcalls and sexually suggestive comments directed at women, were no longer acceptable.  Women were given the right to vote in 1920.  Jews, Irish, and African Americans were no longer barred from living, working or gathering in certain places.  Schools were no longer segregated.  African Americans no longer had to use separate entrances or eat at separate counters.  The U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial and same sex marriage countrywide.

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    Discrimination is far from being eradicated.  What was commonplace years back may still occur in pockets or evolve as times and attitudes and technologies evolve and classes of people are redefined.  However, what is different today compared to back then is that there are avenues of recourse in place to deal with discrinimation in its various forms.  There are now laws on the books that protect classes of people from discrimination in the workplace, in public places, or infringe upon what are considered universally-recognized rights.  Laws now prohibit practices that were once legal, or if not legal, were considered “normalized” practices in society.  For those that do violate anti-discrimination rules and laws, victims can seek recouse through filing complaints with the local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or seeking legal advice on filing a discrimination lawsuit.

    If you think you’re facing discrimination in the workplace or elsewhere, there are options for you to consider.  This article aims to give you resources, including how to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit and who you should consult about such issues.

    What Are Grounds for a Discrimination Lawsuit?

    While the finer details of discrimination may differ at the local, state, and federal levels, discrimination is generally defined as any action or rule that unfairly targets or singles out an individual or class of people. 

    filing a discrimination lawsuit

    Federally, discrimination is forbidden by several modern-day laws beginning with the Equal Pay Act of 1963:

    • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 protects against discrimination over wages based on one’s gender.
    • Title VII (1964) prohibits employment discrimination because of color or national origin, race, religion, or sex.
    • The Age Discrimination in Unemployment Act of 1967 protects against age discrimination for employees 40 and older.
    • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protected federal employees who had disabilities.
    • The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 protects employees with physical and mental challenges in public and private jobs.
    • The Civil Rights Act of 1991 expanded on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by providing avenues for monetary relief when an employee is subject to discrimination.
    • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s or applicant’s genetic information.

    Some specific examples of discrimination include, but are not limited to, unfair treatment because of your protected status; being harassed on the job by bosses or colleagues; denial of reasonable workplace accommodations for medical, religious, or domestic violence reasons; illegal questions about your medical or genetic status; and retaliation for shining a light on any of the above incidences.

    At the state level, New York has the Human Rights Law.   This law forbids discrimination based on “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, marital status or disability”.  It covers the areas of employment, fair credit, housing, and public accommodations.  This was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2019.

    If you feel you’ve been the victim of some form of descrimination, below are some tips on how to file lawsuit for discrimination.  Your best bet though is to seek legal advice.  Contact us for a free consultation with one of our experienced employment attorneys in NYC

    How to File a Discrimination Claim

    OK, you’ve thought about it and done your initial research.  And after careful consideration, you decide to file a charge.  What’s the procedure for making a complaint?  How long do discrimination cases take?  These are some of the common questions you may ask yourself as you go over your options.  

    Discrimination claims, like many other civil matters, do have statutes of limitations.  Generally speaking, you have about six months from the date the alleged discrimination happened to file your case.  That is if the discrimination is only addressed at the federal level.  However, you can potentially get your case extended to about ten months if the matter at hand is also addressed at the local and state levels, as well as federal.  Other factors and deadlines may affect the statute of limitations on filing a discrimination lawsuit both at the state and federal levels.  

    There are two state agencies and one federal agency through which you can find out the correct way to file a discrimination claim:

    • New York City Commission on Human Rights
    • The New York Division of Human Rights
    • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

    New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR)

    The New York City Commission on Human Rights was established to enforce the New York Human Rights Law and New York City Administrative Code’s Title 8.  The agency is made up of two groups, the Law Enforcement Bureau and the Community Relations Bureau.  The first bureau focuses on legal enforcement of discrimination laws.  The latter provides community outreach on various discrimination-related issues.  The Commission offers a free newsletter and free workshops to educate employers and the public about rights and obligations under civil rights laws.

    New York Division of Human Rights (DHR)

    As far back as the end of World War II, New York was first and foremost in the nation when it came to protecting civil rights.  The state established the first laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  They were enforced by the State Commission Against Discrimination, which later became the New York Division of Human Rights.

    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established in 1965 by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to oversee the provisions of that act, particularly Title VII.  The agency investigates claims of discrimination brought by alleged victims.  It also mediates and helps settle discrimination disputes, as well as file a lawsuit for discrimination, on behalf of an alleged victim (more on that in the following sections). Commissioners are appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

    how to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit

    Do I Have to File the Complaint Myself?

    You have the right of filing a discrimination lawsuit yourself.  The agencies offer free resources and guides to do so.  However, due to the various complexities in how to file a discrimination claim, it’s best to consult legal counsel.  Our attorneys can help you with questions on how to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit and navigate issues like what agency(ies) to file your complaint with; what category your complaint falls under, how long to expect the process and resolution to take, etc.

    What Should Your Discrimination Complaint Contain?

    Whether you file the complaint yourself, or through an attorney, there are several things your complaint must contain at minimum, the following

    1. Contact information including your name, address, and phone number
    2. The name, address and phone number of a third party if you’re filing on behalf of someone else
    3. The name and address of the alleged discriminating agency
    4. The how, what, where, when, and why of the alleged discrimination
    5. The type of discrimination you believe was involved
    6. The names of any people involved, including witnesses
    7. A representative’s and/or your own signature and that day’s date
    8. Any other information you think is germaine to the case

    Procedure for Making a Complaint of Discrimination to EEOC

    The process of filing a discrimination complaint may vary from agency to agency, but at the federal level, this is an idea of what to expect:  You can file your complaint online or in person at your local EEOC office.  Your EEOC representative may suggest mediation.  The EEOC cannot enforce any potential resolution.  Neither is either side obligated to agree to mediation.  If mediation is turned down, the EEOC will then begin an investigation.  If after an investigation, the EEOC finds the employer did violate discrimination laws, it will first offer to settle the case before any lawsuit is filed.  If a settlement cannot be reached, it will sue on your behalf or file a Notice of Right to Sue, if you choose to pursue the matter on your own.  If you do so, you have 90 days from the Notice’s issuance to file your suit in court.  

    How to File a Discrimination Lawsuit in Federal Court?

    Title VII requires an attempt at settlement first before heading to court.  However, if your complaint is not resolved through local, state or federal means outside the court system, you can pursue the matter in court.  There are two exceptions, age and gender-pay based discrimination, to the EEOC process.  In those cases, you can bypass the EEOC and go straight to the courts.  There is a two-year deadline from date of alleged discrimination.  But again, as discrimination laws and complaints are a complicated process, it’s highly recommended to consult one of our experienced employment attorneys.

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      FAQ:

      Can You Sue a Restaurant for Discrimination?

      Yes, but only on the basis of sex, race, color, religion or national origin.  As this is a potentially gray area, it’s best discussed with an experienced attorney to make sure any potential lawsuit is viable and has a chance of succeeding in court.

      How Much Does the EEOC Charge for Its Services?

      The EEOC itself does not charge for its services in mediation, investigation, or litigation that it personally handles.  You will likely pay out of pocket if you file the lawsuit on your own or through a private attorney.

      Where to File a Discrimination Lawsuit?

      You may file a complaint online or through your local EEOC office in person.   You must go through the EEOC process before filing a formal lawsuit.  The two exceptions to this following the EEOC process are age and gender-pay based discrimination. In those cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the alleged discrimination.

      Do I Need a Lawyer to File an EEOC Claim?

      You do not need an attorney to file an EEOC claim.  There are free resources online to walk you through the process of an EEOC complaint (or complaints filed through the New York City Commission on Human Rights or the New York Division of Human Rights).  But as the in and outs of discrimination law can be complicated to navigate, it’s highly advised to seek legal advice.

      What Happens When You File a Discrimination Claim?

      A discrimination claim begins with a filing with the EEOC.  The EEOC will first suggest mediation.  Neither side is obligated to accept mediation, nor accept any offered settlement.  If mediation fails, the EEOC will then investigate. It will often offer to settle if it finds the employer did engage in discrimination.  If no settlement is reached, then the EEOC will sue on the victim’s behalf, or issue a Notice of Right to Sue if the victim pursues the  matter on their own in the courts.

      What Reasons Can You Sue Your Employer for?

      You can sue your employer if you feel your employer has engaged in discrimination as defined by the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991; the Equal Pay Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Unemployment Act of 1967, the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.

      What If I Already Filed a Complaint Elsewhere?

      It’s possible to file concurrent claims if involving more than one area of alleged discrimination (sexual versus age discrimination for example).  State and federal jurisdictions also have what’s referred to as “concurrent jurisdiction.”  In short, a litigant may have rights to pursue relief at the state level, while also seeking relief at the federal level.  However, according to the Supreme Court case, Claflin v. Houseman, that’s only in the absence of any exclusive federal jurisdiction mandated by Congress, or any incompatibility between state and federal jurisdictions.

      Can an Attorney Help You File a Complaint?

      Navigating the claims process can be challenging, and many people feel overwhelmed by the process. There are many layers on each local, state and federal level when it comes to discrmination law. 

      Law Office of Yuriy Moshes

      New York discrimination lawyers bring experience in employment law.  Contact one of our experienced employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes P.C. to discuss your individual case further and find out what options may be available to you.

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