Contrary to what many people think, not all discrimination is illegal. For example, it is not unlawful to “discriminate” against an employee who fails to do his or her job properly, or who habitually arrives late for work.

What is illegal is discrimination on the basis on a person’s gender, race, age or disability. It is illegal to discriminate against a woman who is pregnant. In a recent change in the law, it is now illegal in New York State to discriminate on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation. There are many other types of discrimination that are also illegal. Some of these may not be so obvious. For instance, it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of a perception that a person is disabled, regardless of whether that person is actually disabled.
In addition, it is illegal to retaliate against an employee for engaging in a “legally protected activity”. One such protected activity is complaining to a supervisor about what the employee believes to be unlawful discrimination. This is protected if the employee believes in good faith that he/she was treated unlawfully, even if this belief was mistaken. Another protected activity is filing a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights or some other governmental agency. There are many other protected activities, such as complaining about the illegal treatment of a fellow employee.
Employment Law also includes the wage and hour rules of New York State and the federal government, the laws and regulations of the National Labor Relations Board, the rules and procedures that apply to persons applying for unemployment compensation and disability insurance, and many other topics.

This description barely “scratches the surface” of the complex nature of Employment Law. Moreover, Employment Law is constantly changing, probably more rapidly than any other area of legal practice.
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The complicated and fluid nature of Employment Law makes it essential that both employees and employers seek competent legal advice before making decisions that may land them in court—or out of work.
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