Small Business Anti-Discrimination Laws

Can a Small Business be Held Liable for Anti-Discrimination Laws?

In this educational legal video, experienced Hamburg employment lawyer Andrew P. Fleming discusses small business anti-discrimination laws and if a small business can be held liable for violating them.

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Once in awhile, we’ll get a call from someone who says, “I have just two employees in my business, but somebody wants to sue me for discrimination. I’m a small dental practice, and all I have is a receptionist and one dental hygienist. Am I subject to discrimination laws? I’m just a small mom and pop operation.” In cases like these, the answer would be no, because the federal laws apply to employers of 15 or more people. To be sued in federal court in cases referred to as Title 7 claims – those involving age, race, sex, and certain other kinds of claims – you would have to have 15 or more employees.

In state court – to be sued under the New York State Human Rights Law – you would have to have at least four employees. Believe it or not, I’ve been involved in litigation where the lawsuit was aimed at trying to figure out whether or not the employer had four employees. The question is, “Is a person counted as an employee if they own the business and are shown on the payroll as an employee?” In any event, it’s four or more. In 2016, the law was modified as it relates to claims of gender discrimination in the workplace. At that time, New York State declared that even an employer who has only one employee can be sued for gender discrimination.

That law was modified to cover small, one-person shops where employees – most often women – are subjected to sexual harassment by the business owner. For a long time, you were not permitted to sue your employer, even in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. That law was changed in 2016, specifically to allow for gender-based claims. I don’t know why they imposed that limitation but, in the New York State Assembly and in implementing the law, its authority is limited to gender discrimination claims.

The experienced Hamburg employment lawyers at Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP have extensive experience in aggressively representing the rights of employers in age discrimination claims as well as other workplace disputes. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We can explain small business anti-discrimination laws in full and ensure you are not in violation. Let our experience work for you.

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