It is important to be aware of common misconceptions with employment laws. Although many people are aware that they have the right to seek damages for discrimination and harassment by an employer, most people are not sure whether or not they have an actionable claim. Because some people rely on “common wisdom,” a number of misconceptions about employment claims that exist could hurt the disposition of your case of employer discrimination.
Harassment and Discrimination
1) Discrimination and harassment are the same.
Although they are often lumped together and can be associated with each other, the legal understanding of discrimination and harassment differs.
Discrimination deals with employment decisions like recruitment, interviewing, hiring, promotion and terminations. If an employment decision is made based on age, race or ethnicity, gender, religion, or disability, then that decision is discriminatory.
When negative actions outside of employment decisions are directed at an individual person, the misconduct is called harassment. Examples of harassment in the workplace are racist jokes, slurs and insults, and unwanted physical contact.
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2) If an employment decision is unfavorable to a member of a minority group, it qualifies as an actionable claim of discrimination.
An employer is within his rights to terminate an employee as long as the reason for the termination is not based solely on the fact that the employee is a member of a protected class and he follows the company’s own personnel protocol. It is not membership in a minority group that makes the employment decision actionable discrimination; it is whether the employment decision is based upon the membership in that group.
3) Gender discrimination or sexual harassment only happens to women.
On the contrary, men as well as women can be victims of discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation. Employment laws in New York City cover gender discrimination at work for both men and women.
4) If you signed an employment contract, you have no right to sue your employer over dismissal.
A contract, which limits your ability to sue, is not an automatic bar to filing a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. Numerous legal defenses can be considered and a skillful attorney can often successfully challenge the terms and validity of the employment contract, allowing for the possibility of damages awarded by the courts or a successful settlement.