What are your legal rights if you feel you may have suffered from workplace violations in New York?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you feel there may have been workplace violations in New York (These questions are from the ACLU website, under "Do you work in a nail salon in New York?", however, they're relevant for many other professions!):
Are you worried about your health and safety in the workplace? Or, have you needed to visit the doctor because your job has made you feel sick?
Workers have the right to a safe and healthy work environment. If you're concerned about the safety conditions of your workplace, you can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or a local attorney.
Does your workplace refuse to give you breaks?
Most workers are entitled to meal breaks. If the break is less than 20 minutes, workers have a right to be paid for the break, if it is longer than 20 minutes, the employer does not have to pay for the time, but they must still grant the meal break.
Are you treated differently because your an "independent contractor"?
It's important to know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor in New York. If an employer sets your pay rate, provides you with needed job tools and equipment, and supervises you closely, you may be an employee, not an independent contractor. An independent contractor is more of a freelancer. A freelancer sets their own hours, their own pay rate, has their own equipment, and provides a specialized service. If you feel you are more of an employee, but your employer classifies you as an independent contractor, you may be missing out on a lot of employee benefits.
Are you treated differently because of your status as an immigrant?
If is illegal for an employer to inquire about your immigration status during the hiring process. Employers should not inquire about a person's citizenship prior to making any employment offer. It is also illegal to discriminate against an employee based on race or national origin. The Immigration Reform and Control Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person based on immigration status in the hiring, firing, and recruitment process.
Have you lost your job because you've become pregnant or has your workplace refused to allow you time off to visit a doctor for your pregnancy?
There is no maternity leave law in New York, but workers have the right to request up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave per year for a newborn child (the employee may have had to work for their employer for 12 months prior to taking leave). It's illegal to discriminate against a pregnant person in any aspect of employment. Employers need to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.
Have you suffered discrimination on the job?
The New York Human Rights Law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of race, religion, age, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or military status. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for complaining of discrimination.
Have you suffered from sexual harassment at work?
If you've suffered from unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome touching, or crude jokes in the workplace? Have you been pressured into exchanging sexual favors for a workplace promotion or benefit? If this or other actions have created a hostile work environment for you, there are steps you can take. There are worker protections in place to prevent sexual harassment, however, sometimes it still happens. That's why there are steps employees can take if they've suffered from sexual harassment in the workplace. They can complain to their company's human resource department, they can file a complaint with the EEOC, or they can hire an attorney. It is illegal for certain companies to retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint of harassment or discrimination.
For questions specific to your case, consult with a knowledgeable and experienced local attorney.