A court case can be a lengthy process, exhausting those involved emotionally, physically and even spiritually. As you consider your options when it comes to your employment discrimination case, know that court isn’t the only avenue in which to pursue your claim. Thousands of Equal Employment Opportunity cases are handled outside the courts through mediation. You may find this process easier, saving you time, money and energy.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process through which a dispute is settled through mutual agreement of both of the parties involved. The parties get together in the presence of a mediator, discuss the case, and through analysis come to an agreement regarding what the outcome of the dispute should be. Mediation through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as in all mediation cases, must be a voluntary process for both parties.
How the EEOC Handles Mediation
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission selects cases for mediation, and then proceeds with the mediation process through meetings at mutually agreed upon times and places. Many participants in the EEOC mediation process claim a successful outcome. If a mutual agreement is reached, then that agreement is legally binding.
A Simpler, More Straightforward Process
Mediation, put simply, cuts out the headaches and turmoil of litigation. It is often a shorter process, enabling both parties to put the pain of the discrimination claim behind them as soon as possible. In addition, mediation is often more satisfying to both parties. While attorneys should be present during the mediation process, mediation tends to be less of a burden for all involved than litigation.
Other Reasons to Mediate
One key advantage of mediation is privacy. Individuals are not forced to go through the very public nature of a day in court. Embarrassing events and details can be discussed at length, in private, with no fear of public consequences.
You Still Need an Attorney
Whether or not you choose to move forward with the mediation process, you should still have an attorney standing by your side through the process. As mentioned above, mediation is just as legally binding as a court case, and as such should be treated with the same gravity and respect.
For the best employment attorney help available, call the Law Offices of Valli, Kane & Vagnini. You need an expert team of attorneys with decades of experience in employment law to help ensure your mediation or litigation is completed successfully. Call now to discuss how Valli, Kane & Vagnini can help.
Nooses in the Workplace: A Disturbing Trend
A noose is placed on a desk or a chair, or on a door or in a locker. The symbolism is clear. Nooses in the workplace are meant to intimidate because of race. The noose of the hangman is meant to be a frightening visual representation of the harassment that included thousands of black people who died at the hands of lynch mobs following the civil war and on into the twentieth century. This history has led to symbolic use of a noose. It has long been a tool of various hate groups. The turning up of nooses in the workplace has been having an affect on black employees, and that affect has been spilling over to affect other minorities.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) officials and law enforcement officials report on this trend. While companies routinely try to settle nooses in the workplace cases out of court, the EEOC are always pursuing dozens of such cases. The EEOC point out that, when in seen light of their overall caseload, these cases are disproportionally high. The EEOC maintains that nooses in the workplace is a growing trend.
Every case of nooses in the workplace has its own distinctive characteristics, but there seem to be elements common to most of the cases brought forward. The noose is almost never the only method of intimidation. Racist slurs, racial epithets, racist jokes, racist graffiti and other ongoing intimidation and harassment usually accompany the noose.
No one knows for sure why these racist incidents have risen lately. Some discrimination attorneys have speculated that there may be a growing intolerance by younger workers not familiar with the civil rights movement and struggles of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The incident may grow out of resentment of some whites over the implementation of affirmative action resulting in diverse workplaces where blacks and minorities were previously excluded.
Another reason cited for the rise in such incidents reported to EEOC is a growing number of employers fighting it in court. Some employers are referring to the incidents as banter and horseplay between employees without harmful intentions.
There have been some accusations of minority workers filing false claims for purpose of collecting money. Employment and discrimination attorneys generally agree that a false claim of racially related harassment, violence and misconduct in the workplace is extremely rare. History has borne out that out; there have been only a handful of false claims involving nooses in the workplace. Employment and discrimination attorneys also point out that, when subjected to scrutiny, the false claims are easily brought to light.
Gay Workers Rights in New York State since the Passage of the Marriage Equality Act of 2011
With the passage of same-sex marriage in New York, many individuals are wondering what if any effect it will have on employers and their obligations to their employees. While there is currently no federal law in place to protect the rights of gay and lesbian workers, New York State has such a law. In 2003, the New York legislature introduced the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), to combat discrimination against gay individuals in the workplace.
SONDA was passed on January 16, 2003. The act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights.” Employees are protected against an employer’s discrimination whether or not the employer’s beliefs of the employee’s sexual orientation are true or false. For instance, if an employer in New York State discriminates against their employee because they believe they are gay, even if the employee is not, they are still granted protection under SONDA. SONDA specifically added “sexual orientation” to the already protected classes in New York, such as race, sex, and religion. Because of SONDA, sexual orientation has become a protected class under State law, Human Rights law, Civil Rights Law, and Education Law.
A New York employer cannot fire or withhold a hiring of an employee simply because of their sexual orientation. If an employee was terminated, discriminated against or harassed in any way at their employment based on their sexual orientation, they should contact the New York State Division of Human Rights or an attorney. Wronged employees can collect lost wages and benefits, as well as compensatory damages for their pain and suffering.
The one exemption under SONDA is when the discrimination comes from a “religious or denominational institution or an organization operated for charitable or educational purposes that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization.” In these limited circumstances, if the employee has been wrongfully terminated or not given a job opportunity based on their sexual orientation, the employer is not liable if the action taken was based on religious principles. This exemption will not apply to public sector jobs or private for-profit companies.
On the federal level, the only protection against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation is given to employees who work for the government. Aside from these circumstances, there is no federal law currently in place protecting employees based on their sexual orientation. Being currently considered is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2009. With ENDA’s passage, employers would be prohibited from discriminating against an employee based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, ENDA would prohibit an employer from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis for hiring, firing, promotions, or compensation. Unfortunately, ENDA is still only being discussed and is not yet on the books. At this current time, there is still no federal level protection for employees who have been discriminated based on their sexual orientation in the workplace.
Although there is no federal level protection, employees who have been wronged based on their sexual orientation should still consider other avenues to pursue if such discrimination occurs. For example, employers can be liable for other employment and labor law theories such as defamation, wrongful termination, invasion of privacy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and sexual harassment. An employee who has been discriminated against based on their sexual orientation should not be discouraged with the lack of federal protection, but should rather contact an attorney and see what tools they do have at their disposal.
With the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in New York State, many of these discriminatory issues may come to light and have more presence in the future. Employees who have lacked the right to marry in the past now can, and should, be free to exercise that right without caveat and repercussion. If you have been discriminated against because of your sexual orientation, contact Valli Kane & Vagnini to see what your legal options and remedies are.