COVID-19 Discrimination

In these unprecedented times, as healthcare workers and government officials work tirelessly to fight off a serious health threat, another pandemic of its own remains at large. Swiftly and steadily spreading across the United States, Covid-19 brings with it reports of discrimination and xenophobia that several lawyers say they haven’t seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. New York City’s Commission on Human Rights has reported having to create a COVID-19 response team after receiving a staggering number of allegations of discrimination “in housing, public accommodations and employment on the basis of race, national origin, disability and lawful source of income,” receiving 248 reports of harassment and discrimination related to the virus since February 2020.

The American workplace is no stranger to such changes, as it endures some of the most silent but serious changes in the ethical realm. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has urged employers to be mindful of harassment, intimidation or discrimination in the workplace against Asian Americans or people of Asian descent during the novel Coronavirus pandemic, warning that these actions in the workplace could result in “unlawful discrimination on the basis [of] national origin or race.” As such, it’s important for employees to remain aware that existing employment laws still apply in these unusual times, know that they are still protected against discrimination, harassment, and related misconduct in the workplace, and educate themselves on the subject in order to remain vigilant to these critical issues. Here’s what you need to know:

Employment in almost all states is at will.

This means that an employer can fire an employee, or an employee can quit their job, for any reason unless the employment contract provides otherwise. The only exceptions involve terminations that violate a law, such as an anti-discrimination law. This means that an employer can lay off an employee due to financial pressures caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the employee cannot sue for wrongful termination on this basis. However, an employee can sue for discrimination or harassment that occurred during their employment, outside the context of their termination.

Know Your Employment Discrimination Laws

Employment discrimination occurs when a person believes he or she has control over some aspect of your life, identifies you as belonging to a legally protected group because of a characteristic, or uses his or her control to treat you unfairly because you belong to a protected group. Here are some conditions that qualify:

  • Harassment – unwanted touching, name calling or badgering by your boss or coworkers
  • Retaliation – against you for reporting discrimination, filing a lawsuit due to the discrimination or participating in an investigation against your employer.
  • Whistleblower– you were fired, demoted or received lower performance scores because you reported or threatened to report a violation
  • Promotions – offered or given only to persons with a certain preferred characteristic
  • Wrongful Firing– you were fired without good reason, your job was eliminated without justification, a co-worker with less experience or qualifications was retained over you.

Proving Employment Discrimination

To prove employment discrimination, you must show that the employer intended to treat you differently because of the characteristic. This intent can also be demonstrated if the employer has treated a lot of other persons with the same protected characteristic unfairly. Examples of Employment Discrimination include:

  • Hiring, forced retirement, firing
  • Job advertisements and recruitment
  • Compensation and pay
  • Health/Medical and fringe benefits
  • Waivers of the right to sue in exchange for severance pay

Get the Right Help!

If you or someone you know might be facing any of these claims, you should contact The Law Office of David H. Kaplan. David Kaplan is an experienced litigator with a wealth of knowledge and expertise with the wisdom gained therein, and can help you fight back legally within the areas of employment discrimination, wrongful termination, and anything of the sort. For more information, visit