New York City racial discrimination attorneys see many cases involving complex discrimination laws. The Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act, the list goes on and on. These laws were created to remedy and prevent discrimination against people who need protection the most. Employers in New York City and across the country have discriminated against many different groups for all sorts of “reasons”. Although we have made strides toward equality and fairness, we are reminded today that there is still work to be done.
The Daily News has reported that Interim Healthcare, Inc., our country’s oldest health care franchise company recently placed a blatantly discriminatory help-wanted ad in a local Rockland County, New York Pennysaver. The company, which provides medical staffing, home care, and hospice services, placed an ad for a female nurse. The advertisement stated that a client of theirs in West Haverstraw needed a “laid back nurse, no Haitians, must have strong respiratory mngt.” Although the ad reads like something from the 1800s, it was placed in October 2015.
The ad quickly went viral on social media and sparked outrage in the Haitian community and elsewhere. Both the Pennysaver Group and Interim Healthcare issued swift public apologies. Interim acknowledged that the ad was “totally unacceptable.” The chairman of Pennysaver Group in an effort to explain how the ad made it to print recognized that it was “mistakenly published without proper editing protocol.”
There is little doubt that the advertisement as published violates Federal and New York State civil rights laws. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual because of sex, religion, race, birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.” The advertisement placed by Interim, which designates a specific exclusion for people of a particular country, is almost the textbook definition of an ad that violates equal employment laws.
If the advertisement is discriminatory, is it indicative of a bigger problem at Interim? Do the company’s recruiting policies systematically discriminate against Haitian people? Is there evidence of harassment or retaliation against Haitian employees or others?
Time will tell. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has begun an investigation into the matter to determine if this was indeed an unfortunate mistake or is indicative of a larger pattern of discrimination by Interim. The New York Attorney General’s office has requested specific information from Interim on the staff responsible for hiring and for creating advertisements, and it wants documents detailing what remedial steps the franchise has taken. According to the Daily Beast, his office “is also investigating whether any complaints of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation have been leveled by Interim Healthcare employees or independent contractors nationally.”
In addition to issuing its apologies, Interim states that it has terminated the employment of two employees they hold responsible for the advertisement. One of these was the senior human resources director.
The company has also begun a sensitivity training program and announced plans to conduct their own independent investigation into the matter. They hope to find out what went wrong in this particular case and implement procedures and policies to ensure that it never happens again.
Hopefully, for the workers at Interim and the large Haitian community in Rockland, the investigation by the Attorney General will turn up no evidence of a pattern of discrimination. Perhaps the placement of this help-wanted ad was not indicative of the corporate culture but was a single offensive act by a since terminated employee.
It is possible, however, that the investigation will uncover a different story. There may be many employees who have experienced discrimination or harassment because of their national origin. If so, they may be entitled to file claims against Interim and recover monetary damages.
If you feel that you have experienced employment discrimination in New York City because of your national origin, race, religion, or disability, you may wish to speak with an attorney. Our experienced New York City discrimination attorneys have been zealously fighting for the rights of employees for decades and may be able to help you.
Update: On March 9th, 2016 Attorney General Schneiderman announced that his investigation found that the ad did violate civil rights laws. Interim Healthcare will pay a $100,000 fine. The company has agreed, as part of a settlement, to develop better antidiscrimination policies and internal protocols to prevent future bigoted posts.