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NYC Employment Lawyer > Blog > Employment Discrimination > Is It Possible To Be Discriminated Against Based On Fears Of Having COVID-19?

Is It Possible To Be Discriminated Against Based On Fears Of Having COVID-19?


With the COVID-19 pandemic approaching almost a full year of existence, it is not an understatement to say that society has been forever altered in countless ways. One of the most pernicious, however, is a rise in discriminatory behavior against those thought to either have COVID-19, or those who are seen as somehow responsible for it (for example, Asian and Pacific Islander people). It can be easy to feel as though such treatment is the new normal – but discrimination is still against the law, and you still have the right to seek redress.

Violence and Distrust

New York – and other areas around the United States – have, in recent months, been experiencing heightened instances of violence against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, with a majority of them being classified as hate crimes. NYPD statistics from 2020 report an eightfold increase in crimes perpetrated against Asian-Americans, with the majority of them classed as “coronavirus-related hate crimes.” Meanwhile, the statistics saw a noticeable drop in hate crimes against all other minority populations in New York.

While thankfully, this spate of violence has not extended to the workplace, it has arguably affected the perception of superiors, especially with regard to new hires. Incidents have been recorded of employment discrimination based on perceived status as a carrier of COVID-19, as well as other incidents occurring on grounds of alleged racial discrimination. There are multiple laws which criminalize such behavior, but especially in an environment where people simply want to stay safe, it can feel too overwhelming to try and hold discriminatory employers accountable.

Two Types Of Discrimination

The most common types of discrimination seen over COVID-19 are twofold; that which is based on a diagnosis of COVID-19 (or perceived diagnosis), and racial or national origin discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, based on a belief that they “created” or “spread” the virus. Neither is acceptable, obviously, with both characteristics being protected under New York City law. The New York Commission on Human Rights considers, as of this writing, that an actual or perceived COVID-19 infection qualifies as a disability, and the laws against disability discrimination apply.

Race and national origin, conversely, are two of the immutable characteristics protected under the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which means that if one can show that they would have been treated differently had they been of a different race or national origin, their employer has acted unlawfully. If you believe that you have a case, you can follow generally the same process that you would follow any other time.

Contact A New York Employment Discrimination Attorney

At this point in time, the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but it does not mean that we should get used to the negative consequences that the pandemic has wrought. Discrimination is still discrimination; if you have been mistreated on the job due to your race, or because of an actual or perceived case of COVID-19, you have the right to try and hold your employer accountable. The New York City employment discrimination attorneys at Mansell Law, LLC are ready to try and answer any questions you may have. Call our offices today at 646-921-8900 to schedule a consultation.




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