Investigation Follows Allegations of Pregnancy Discrimination by Global Elite Group at JFK Airport
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a multi-agency investigation into pregnancy discrimination and retaliation and other workplace violations in the security industry following new allegations of pregnancy discrimination at JFK airport. The Department of Labor and the Division of Human Rights will lead the investigation through the Governor's Joint Task Force on Worker Exploitation and Employee Misclassification to ensure businesses operating in New York are following State law, which forbids pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.
"It is unconscionable that any company would force someone who is pregnant to choose between job security and the health of herself and her child," Governor Cuomo said. "In New York, discrimination against those who are pregnant is illegal, and we will hold employers who violate the law fully accountable. New York is proud to be leading the way in the fight to protect the rights of women and break down barriers to equality, and this investigation will help ensure businesses follow the law and women have equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace."
At the Governor's direction, DOL, DHR, the Department of State, and the Workers' Compensation Board, coordinated through the Joint Task Force, will investigate pregnancy discrimination and retaliation and other workplace violations in the security industry, including additional forms of discrimination and retaliation, unemployment insurance fraud, workers' compensation fraud, wage violations and licensing improprieties.
The investigation will build on recent enforcement actions across the security industry. In the last two years alone, DHR has received 323 complaints alleging various types of discrimination, including some based on pregnancy, in the security industry; DOL has opened 357 wage theft investigations with approximately $1 million in stolen wages identified; and DOS has opened 1,174 investigations into licensing improprieties, with nearly $500,000 in fines imposed and 238 licenses suspended or revoked.
The investigation comes after reports that two Global Elite Group employees alleged that they were suspended because they asked to be reassigned from areas that exposed them to noxious fumes because they were pregnant. The Global Elite Group provides security services at JFK Airport, which is a Port Authority of NY/ NJ property.
Previously, Global settled a class action lawsuit for over $700,000 for non-payment of minimum wage and overtime laws. There is also evidence that some workers may have been misclassified as independent contractors, and that the employer continues to fail to pay its employees in accordance with the State labor law.
Know Your Rights, Know Your Responsibilities
In June, Governor Cuomo directed the Division of Human Rights, Department of Labor and Workers' Compensation Board to launch a comprehensive, multiplatform, multilingual education and outreach campaign for employees to know their rights and for employers to know their responsibilities to prevent unlawful pregnancy discrimination.
Any employee that believes they have been discriminated against because of pregnancy, or denied a reasonable accommodation for a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, can file complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights: visit: https://dhr.ny.gov or call 1-888-392-3644.
These actions build on the Governor's record of fighting for workers' rights and against discrimination and worker exploitation.
- On Equal Pay Day 2018, Governor Cuomo advanced legislation to ban all employers, public and private, who do business in New York State, from asking prospective employees about their salary history and compensation.
- On January 1, 2018, New York launched the strongest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy in the nation ensuring that both parents, regardless of gender, can bond with a new child and care for family in times of need, without risking their economic security.
- In 2017, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 161, prohibiting state entities from asking the salary history of prospective employees.
- In 2016, the Governor raised the statewide minimum wage to $15, which will impact an estimated 2.3 million people.
- In 2015, Governor Cuomo announced a first-of-its-kind statewide Task Force to root out worker exploitation issues in multiple industries in New York. Now permanent, the Joint Task Force on Worker Exploitation and Employee Misclassification has launched more than 16,000 wage theft and misclassification cases across more than a dozen industries impacting over 150,000 workers.