When hiring employees, companies in New York and throughout the country need to find people who fit their cultures. However, it is important to create a culture that doesn't discriminate against certain groups of people. When a company is first created, its founders often look for employees that are as similar to them as possible. This is because they feel like those types of people are the best choices to help the business succeed.
Employers in New York need to develop a clear understanding about what it means to deal with employees in protected classes, especially in matters related to promotions, hiring or firing. Human resources professionals work to protect their companies from legal liabilities by protecting employee rights under the law and ensuring compliance with existing legislation. By adhering to clear policies, companies can help to protect themselves from potentially costly litigation.
Employers concerned with staying up to date with laws about discrimination and harassment might need to review their policies and training programs. New York and other jurisdictions have added new laws that companies need to comply with. In addition to staying informed about current workplace standards, employers should focus on preparing clear policies that describe unacceptable behavior and develop training programs that effectively engage staff members.
New York employers who have employees that have disabilities might wonder when they must offer reasonable accommodations to them. Many employers think that they do not have to offer reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees unless the employees request them. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided guidance about when employers must begin an interactive process with employees concerning their need for accommodations.
New York employers can take steps to limit the possibility of sexual harassment claims arising among their workers. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes mistreatment based on gender illegal, and companies must also observe state and, in New York City, city laws to reduce their exposure to legal liability. Company culture and ongoing training play important roles in preventing inappropriate behavior among staff members.
Generally speaking, an employer cannot base a hiring decision on a worker's gender, race or national origin. New York employers and others also cannot discriminate based on age if a person is 40 or older. While small businesses may be exempt from certain discrimination laws, it is still a good idea to conduct a thorough search to find the best person for the job.
Certain New York employers must abide by the terms of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The act states that workers have the right to take leave to care for themselves or family members who have medical issues. They can also take leave for the birth or adoption of a child. A private employer must generally offer FMLA leave if it employs 50 or more people for 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous year.
Employers generally do not realize this, but job seekers may find it particularly difficult to know what to do when an application has questions that they may be uncomfortable answering. The same may apply when screening questionnaire has illegal questions. After all, they would not be applying if they didn't want the job (or needed the income). So it is not uncommon for eager applicants to unwittingly complying with illegal directives, and could cause an uninformed employer to foster discriminatory practices.
Most employers in New York understand the delicacy of terminating a worker who has taken or requested a leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. A recent case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit highlights the importance of documenting nondiscriminatory reasons before firing someone approved for medical leave. The federal appeals court upheld the summary judgment granted to the employer by the lower court.
With sexual harassment frequently in the news, some employers may wonder if they are taking sufficient measures to protect themselves if an employee alleges that harassment is taking place. There are several dos and don'ts for employers in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.