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NYC Mayor Implements ‘Undercover Applicant’ Initiative to Combat Employment Discrimination

The concept of employment discrimination covers a broad range of acts across the entire employment process – from initial application to termination and appeal. Employment discrimination is considered any adverse treatment against an employee or potential employee based solely on that employee’s membership in a protected class.

In New York, it is illegal to refuse employment to an applicant based on any of the following reasons:

 Race
 Color
 National origin
 Religion
 Sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions
 Disability, including use of a service animal
 Age (40 and older)
 Citizenship status
 Genetic information
 Marital status
 Sexual orientation
 Lawful activities outside the workplace
 Military status
 Observance of Sabbath
 Political involvement
 Criminal charges (not necessarily convictions)
 Status as a survivor of domestic violence

While a potential employer is permitted to refuse employment to a member of a historically underserved class, the reason for the denial must be grounded in an issue with the candidate’s employment history, qualifications, attributes or references – not his or her personal identity.

Nonetheless, New York City officials believe the practice of employment discrimination – particularly in the application stage – is alive and well and they have implemented a program to hopefully put a stop to this illegal misconduct.

Undercover Agents From the Human Rights Commission to Detect Discrimination

In April, 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a bill requiring agents from the Human Rights Commission to send out a certain number of fake job applications to companies looking to hire. Using a technique known as “matched-pair testing,” two equally-credentialed applicants will apply for the same position, with one belonging to a protected class of individuals.

The test will be to see which of the applicants the employer chooses and why – with a possible $25,000 fine awaiting any employer who cannot articulate a reason for disqualifying the minority candidate.

The program expects to conduct at least five tests per year but agents are permitted to engage in more if certain industries or businesses are known to be repeat offenders. In a unique paradigm shift, the Commission hopes to bait discriminating employers at the outset rather than handle claims of discrimination after the fact.

Fortunately, it has retained a number of former undercover police officers to handle the “stings,” and funding for the Commission has increased 25 percent to cover the cost of the program.

A statement by the Commission noted that “[we support] efforts to increase awareness of New Yorkers' rights and responsibilities under the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment for many protected categories….It's critical for business owners, employers and housing providers to understand their obligations under the law, and for job and housing applicants to know their rights and how to avail [themselves] of the law's protections."

Contact Lynch, Schwab & Gasparini Today!

If you are facing a difficult employment discrimination issue at your workplace or were recently denied a job for which you felt qualified, you may be able to launch an employment discrimination claim under New York’s favorable anti-discrimination laws. For more information, contact one of our Westchester County employment discrimination lawyers at Lynch, Schwab & Gasparini today by calling 914-304-4353.

Posted on June 24, 2015 in Sexual Harassment and Discrimination