We now know the outcome of a very divisive presidential election. We've commented on the election and the position of the candidates when it's been directly relevant to our practice…and we've tried to do it tactfully and with respect for those who do not agree. It's no secret, however, that the views of the democratic party tend to align with the views and practice of employment and civil rights attorneys. But the nice thing about being a lawyer is that you are trained to see both sides and to work with and represent individuals with differing views without taking the differing views too personally.
The individuals you are helping may have even voted against the very laws they now need to take advantage of. But that's okay. We chose to go into this practice because we are committed to helping victims. And discrimination does not discriminate. Any person of any race may need to take advantage of the antidiscrimination and retaliation laws at some point in their life. We have represented white men who are discriminated against because of disabilities they received on the job or in military service; men who blew the whistle on unsafe job practices; individuals who were fired because of their age; women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted; women who have been paid unequally; African Americans who are still being called the n-word at work in 2016; members of the LGBTQ community who are harassed because of their sexual orientation; and the list goes on.
There are too many issues that were raised in this election to go through each one, but it's important for those who are feeling fearful to remember that this is a country of checks and balances. There is well settled constitutional and state law on many of the divisive issues in this country and, for those who fear that the Supreme Court will become too conservative, the law is not always as black and white, liberal vs. conservative as you think. Many “controversial” decisions are actually unanimous. For just one example, Justice Scalia was the author of the unanimous opinion that Muslim women can wear a hijab at work, a case that was a victory for employees and victims of religious discrimination.
Finally, since we practice in New York, we do want to give some encouragement to New Yorkers because we have some of the best and most encompassing employee-rights and civil rights laws in the country. In disability discrimination cases, the New York courts have been much more employee friendly than the federal courts. The New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws protect more categories of employees than the federal laws, including transgender individuals. In New York, you can't discriminate against gays in places of public accommodation so your wedding can't be turned away. In New York, we will soon have paid family leave. In New York, breastfeeding moms are protected. In New York, pregnant women get reasonable accommodations for pregnancy related conditions. So we are fortunate.
While we believe that this election has exposed for all the world to see issues that we see every day in our practice – racism, sexual discrimination, persecuting individuals with disabilities – we are hopeful that support for that rhetoric was limited to a small portion of the electorate, regardless of how people voted. And, if it's true that individuals who do subscribe to that way of thinking have been emboldened, we will be here to help you no matter who you voted for.
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