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Answering Common Questions About Employment Law

While we are happy to discuss any questions you have during your initial consultation, certain common questions tend to recur. Below you can find answers to those common questions. If you would like more information about our services or need legal help regarding an employment law matter, call Katz Melinger PLLC at 212-460-0047.

What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Employment Claims In New York?

How long you have to file a lawsuit is a complex question that varies according to the type of claim you are making. The answer also depends on whether the allegation involves a violation of local, state, or federal law.

The statute of limitations for an employment claim can range from months to years. In many cases, however, there is only a short window of time to file a claim. For example, employees in New York alleging a discrimination claim under federal law typically must file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the date when the alleged discrimination occurred. A discrimination claim under the New York City or State Human Rights Law must be brought within three years after the discriminatory act.

For claims regarding an employer's failure to pay the minimum wage or overtime wages, the limitation period varies. Under state law, employees can file a claim within six years of the violation. However, wage and hour claims under federal law must be brought within either two or three years of the violation, depending on the circumstances. For these reasons, it is critical to act promptly in seeking legal representation to preserve your rights.

What Is The Role Of Human Resources In Employment Law Violations?

Workers should report suspected violations of employment law to their human resources (HR) department as a first step. HR departments are obligated to investigate all employee claims in good faith and take corrective action when needed. If HR fails to investigate or correct legitimate potential employment violations, then legal action may be appropriate.

Does New York Offer Additional Protections to Employees?

Yes, in many cases, New York law provides more protections to employees than federal law.

The New York Labor Law, which governs wage and hour laws, can allow employees to recover damages that are not available under federal law, and it goes back six years as opposed to two or three years under federal law. Additionally, municipalities can pass ordinances to provide even more protections for employees who work in that city, such as a higher minimum wage.

The New York State Human Rights Law and certain local laws, such as the New York City Human Rights Law, increases protections for claims of discrimination by, among other things, expanding the categories of protected classes substantially. For instance, under the New York City Human Rights Law, workers can bring claims for discrimination based on perceived age, as well as such categories as creed, marital status, partnership status, caregiver status, sexual orientation, and alienage or citizenship status. The NYC law provides a lower standard of proof to prove discrimination and also allows workers to seek uncapped punitive damages which could be higher than allowable under federal law.

To fully understand your rights and obligations under local, state, and federal law, email us to set up an initial consultation.

I Know Retaliation Is Prohibited, But Is It Safe To Talk To A Lawyer?

Yes, it is. In the initial stages of an inquiry, no one needs to know you are speaking to a lawyer (our firm offers confidential consultations). If you decide to act on your claim, it can be advantageous for your boss to know that you have a lawyer because it shows that you are serious about protecting your rights. Whether or not to let your employer know that you have spoken with a lawyer is something to discuss during your initial consultation.

You should also remember that retaliation is more than just termination. If you are suspended or demoted, or if your boss tries to make your work life unbearable because you made a complaint or hired a lawyer, these actions provide even more evidence for you in litigation.

Does Talking To A Lawyer Mean I'll Be Involved In A Lawsuit?

No. Talking to a lawyer is a good first step in taking legal action, but it doesn't commit you to litigation (or any further action, for that matter). For example, you may talk to a lawyer and decide not to take any action. If you want to resolve an issue with your employer but not file a lawsuit, we can communicate with the company on your behalf and try to negotiate a deal. Some legal problems can be solved using tools other than full litigation, such as a demand letter that is well-grounded in the law. We can also help you file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the New York State Division of Human Rights. Even if you begin litigation, most cases settle before trial. You are likely to have several options; our role is to provide you the knowledge you need to make the right decision for you.

What Evidence Is Needed To Prove Employment Discrimination?

You will want to gather any evidence that shows not only that you are being treated differently from other employees, but that the reason for that disparate treatment is your membership in a protected class (race, gender, disability, etc.). It's a good idea to discreetly take notes of conversations with your boss or coworker (complete with dates and other info) that show or suggest discriminatory attitudes/behaviors. It can also be helpful to find paperwork containing discriminatory language or showing disparate treatment, such as repeated failure to be promoted despite being the most qualified candidate.

If you aren't sure whether a piece of evidence is relevant, simply show it to your attorney.

A Co-Worker Of The Same Gender Has Been Making Lewd Jokes About Me. Even Though Neither Of Us Is LGBTQ, Is This Sexual Harassment?

Yes. Sexual harassment is about power and dominance, not necessarily sexual attraction. If anyone is harassing you in a sexual manner or harassing you about topics that have a sexual component (claiming you are not a "real" man/woman, for instance), that is sexual harassment.

If sexually charged comments or behaviors are making you feel uncomfortable at work, it is worth your time to speak to an attorney.