Am I Entitled To Antidiscrimination Protection As A Military Servicemember?
After the Vietnam War, veterans were widely shunned and often required a police escort due to widespread anti-war protests. The negative perception of the U.S. military that exists in this day and age is not nearly so vehement, but it can still unfortunately lead to discrimination and harassing behavior against those who are serving or who have served in any branch of the military. If you believe that you have experienced harassment or discrimination due to your status as a current or former military servicemember, New York law does offer options that can be used to potentially set matters right.
State And Federal Laws
Both federal law and New York law can be used to shield members of the military from discriminatory treatment, though federal law covers more people. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) was enacted in 1994, and it prohibits any kind of adverse employment action (not only firing, but pay cuts, demotions, denial of other benefits like time off) against anyone based on their status as a military servicemember, current or former. It also bars retaliation from an employer against any employee who chooses to exercise their rights under USERRA.
New York law did not protect military servicemembers from discrimination until 2017, when the New York Human Rights Law was amended to cover this type of mistreatment. The same protections apply to military servicemembers that apply to the other classes covered under the HRL – they may not be discriminated against in terms of housing, employment, or the enjoyment of other benefits. The law applies to employers with at least 4 employees (though it is important to note that independent contractors and interns do count as ‘employees’).
Filing A Complaint
If you have experienced discriminatory treatment in housing or employment that you believe is based on your military status (whether real or perceived), you have the right to file a complaint and seek redress. A majority of discrimination complaints filed under federal law are handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but for complaints related to USERRA, the Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (VETS) is the agency one must contact.
If you choose to seek redress under New York state law, your first step is to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, which will then investigate your claims. If it is found that there is grounds to believe discrimination occurred, your case will then receive a public hearing. However, if the Division does not find any grounds to let your case move forward, it will be dismissed. You have the right of appeal, but not everyone is aware of this, and very often, the window will pass.
Call A New York Employment Discrimination Attorney
Members of the military serve the country selflessly, and are entitled to be treated with respect, regardless of politics or perception. If your military status has led to unfair or discriminatory treatment in the workplace, calling a New York City employment discrimination attorney at Mansell Law, LLC can be the first step toward getting some kind of justice. Contact our offices at 646-921-8900 for a free consultation.