When you are receiving unfair treatment at work or having a disagreement with your work supervisor, it can be difficult to talk to your coworkers or anyone you met through work about the problem. You might worry that you are leaving yourself vulnerable to further bullying or retaliation by talking about it, or you might worry that your coworkers will not want to listen because they fear retaliation themselves. Confiding in family and friends about the problems you are encountering at work can provide you with much needed emotional support, but when it comes to finding ways to solve the problem that will enable you to move forward with your career, you need professional advice from an employment lawyer. The New York City employee counseling lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can answer your questions about employment contracts, employer retaliation, workplace discrimination, and more.
Negotiating About an Employment Contract or Severance Agreement in New York City
New York is an at-will employment state, which means that, at all jobs except the ones where you have signed an employment contract, your employer can fire you at any time, for no reason, and on very short notice. Therefore, if an employer offers you a job with a contract that guarantees that your job will last until a certain date, it is understandable that you would be in a hurry to sign on the dotted line. No matter how attractive an employment offer seems, you should always read the contract carefully before you sign it. For example, many employment contracts have nondisclosure or non-compete clauses, and it is not always easy to tell how restrictive they are and whether they are enforceable until you review them with an employment lawyer. Likewise, mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts put the employer at an unfair advantage when it comes to resolving disputes related to the contract. If possible, you should ask to amend the contract so that the courts of the State of New York have the right to rule on disputes arising from the contract; your lawyer can help you propose the amendment.
Likewise, if your employer terminates your job because the company is downsizing, they might offer you a separation agreement, whether you have signed an employment contract or are employed on an at-will basis. Even though the separation agreement might offer you severance pay, so that you will be able to cover your expenses while you look for a new job, you should carefully weigh the options before you sign the agreement. When you sign the separation agreement, you are waiving your right to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. If you think that you were actually fired for discriminatory reasons, you should not sign the agreement because you will not be able to file an employment discrimination lawsuit if you do.
Legally Protected Activities in NYC Workplaces
Employers have the right to take adverse actions against employees because of misconduct or substandard job performance. Examples of adverse actions include negative performance reviews, denial of raises, and termination of employment, among others. They do not have the right to take adverse actions against employees for participating in legally protected activities; this is employer retaliation. The following are examples of protected activities:
- Filing workers’ compensation claims after a work injury
- Reporting employer misconduct to regulatory bodies or reporting illegal activities in the workplace to law enforcement
- Requesting an unpaid leave of absence from work, pursuant to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Filing a discrimination complaint
- Requesting accommodations for a disability
- Participating in an investigation into misconduct or illegal activities in the workplace
- Reporting a workplace safety hazard to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Requesting Reasonable Accommodations for a Disability in New York City
Employees with documented disabilities and job candidates have the right to request reasonable accommodations from their employers. You do not have to provide details about your diagnosis when requesting accommodations; your doctor can just give you a letter certifying that you are entitled to accommodations. Medical privacy laws protect you from having to reveal any information about your medical history to your employer. You have the right to receive the accommodations not only after you start the job, but also during the hiring and training process.
These are some examples of reasonable accommodations:
- A wheelchair-accessible workspace
- Having a service animal present with you at work
- Accessibility software on employer-provided devices
- Frequent breaks to take medications or test your blood sugar or because you cannot stand or sit for prolonged periods
- Reassignment of non-essential work duties to other employees
- A modified work schedule
The law considers an accommodation reasonable if it enables the employee to do their job and if it does not cause the employer undue financial hardship. Employers and their employees can and should negotiate about what constitutes a reasonable accommodation.
Filing a Complaint About Employment Discrimination in NYC
Before you can file an employment discrimination lawsuit in court, you must file a complaint with one of the governmental agencies that handle discrimination complaints, so that they can conduct a preliminary investigation. In New York City, the relevant agencies are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the New York Division of Human Rights, and the New York Commission on Human Rights. These three agencies work together to investigate complaints about employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, disability, and other protected characteristics. While employees can file completes and deal with these agencies without professional legal representation, it is much easier to get a successful outcome from your discrimination complaint when you work with an employment discrimination lawyer. When it comes to meeting deadlines, documenting evidence, or presenting a strong case, your New York City employee counseling lawyer can help.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employee Counseling in New York City
The employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you resolve disputes with your employer about discrimination, employment contracts, severance pay, and more. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in New York, New York to set up a consultation.