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The basics of workplace discrimination In New York

State and federal laws protect employees and job applicants from discrimination in the workplace, even when employees participate in lawsuits or investigations against employers or file complaints of discrimination. However, not all workers understand what discrimination is or how to file a complaint.

According to the New York Department of Labor, discrimination is an act of prejudice or preference. It can include differential treatment based on national origin, race, religion, gender or age that has a poor impact on a person. Discrimination could also be based on marital status, disability, citizenship, veteran status, retaliation or criminal record. All employees have the right to file a discrimination complaint if they believe that their employer discriminated against them based on any of the above factors. A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory incident. Workers do not have to file complaints on their own; a representative may do it for them, such as a social worker or a lawyer.

Discrimination complaints must include the employee's contact information, the contact information of the employer or person violating discrimination law and details about the discriminatory incident. Employees should also note any witnesses. If a representative files the complaint, it has to include the representative's name and that the individual is representing a worker. The worker must also sign and date the complaint and send it to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission or N.Y. Division of Equal Opportunity Development.

An example of discrimination in the workplace is an employee being denied a promotion based on age. If the worker seeks the guidance of an employment law attorney, it could make the process less stressful. The attorney can enlist the help of an investigator to get more details about the employer in an attempt to build a strong case for remedies.

Source: New York State Department of Labor, "How to File a Discrimination Claim", September 21, 2014

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