What is Actual v. Perceived Discrimination?

In New York City, both local and state laws exist to protect people from various forms of harassment and discrimination. When discrimination happens, it is often due to a disability, age, pregnancy or another issue that may affect a worker’s ability to perform a job. For example, a woman who takes time away from work to have a surgery may be given reduced hours when she returns. Also, she may notice that she is treated differently. In this case and similar ones, it is important to understand what constitutes actual discrimination and perceived discrimination.

What Is Actual Discrimination?

Actual discrimination is direct discrimination. It is usually based on written or verbal statements. In the previous example of a woman returning to work after surgery, imagine that her boss wrote her an email. If the boss said that her hours were cut due to her recently taking time off after the operation, that would be a documented case of actual discrimination. Although it is illegal to do that, the reason is clearly stated.

What Is Perceived Discrimination?

Perceived discrimination may include a wide range of issues. For example, it could be an unexplained cut in hours, a transfer to a lower-paying position, a transfer to another department or getting treated differently. If the woman in the example came back from her surgery and was given reduced hours without being told that it was related to her recent leave, it could be perceived discrimination. Even if the boss means well and is trying to make things easier for the woman, this action is perceived as discrimination to the returning employee.

The perceived discrimination inclusion was added to the law to protect people who are treated differently due to misconceptions and other misunderstandings. When courts consider perceived discrimination, they do not look at the extent of the person’s disability or limitation. They look mostly at the attitudes or actions of offenders based on their perceptions of the person’s ability to perform necessary job functions. As long as the beliefs behind the defendant’s discrimination are erroneous, a judge will usually favor the plaintiff.

Protection for Disabled Individuals

Local, state and federal laws are designed to protect people who have partial, full, temporary and permanent disabilities. The laws are there to ensure that they are treated fairly when it comes to training, promoting, hiring and firing. If a person can perform certain functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodations, that individual has a qualified disability and is protected by law. In court, qualified individuals can usually prove that they have an impairment or have a history of an impairment.

When to Call a Discrimination Lawyer in New York City

If you feel that you are a victim of perceived or actual discrimination, it is important to speak with an attorney who can tell you if you have a case. Since people who are the victims of perceived discrimination often have a harder time getting promoted, hired or treated fairly, it helps to have an attorney as an advocate. In many cases, people do not get jobs because of perceived impairments, and that can become a pattern among uninformed employers in the city. Speaking up helps bring these issues to light and helps employers realize them. After you were told or felt that your job changed or ended because of a disability, you need an attorney. If you live in Long Island, Manhattan or the metro area, we can help. To see if you have a case, please contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

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