Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have become a popular alternative to traditional taxicabs in New York City. Now the rest of New York can legally benefit from these services. In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation permitting ride-hailing companies to operate on Long Island and in upstate New York under strict new regulations. According to the New York Times, the state Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that “more than 20,000 drivers are expected to provide rides for Uber and Lyft.”
This news could not come at a more welcome time for Uber in particular, which continues to deal with the public criticism over its employment practices. This past February, a former Uber engineer published a scathing report describing a culture of employment discrimination at the company. Following an in-house investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Uber's CEO resigned and several other executives left the company.
Having “Zero Tolerance” for Discrimination and Harassment
The Holder report offers a useful roadmap for many other New York employers on how to best identify and stop illegal discrimination in the workplace before it reaches critical levels. All employers must be proactive with their anti-discrimination policies. For example, the Holder report recommended the following changes to Uber's human resources complaint process:
- Identify or hire a person who will draft and update human resources policies and “own” them. This person should also be a “repository of critical information” regarding the company's policies and practices.
- Implement a “zero-tolerance policy for substantiated complaints of discrimination or harassment,” that does not afford special treatment to employees based on performance or tenure.
- Develop “multiple avenues for lodging a complaint” of workplace discrimination or harassment.
- Have protocols in place for “escalating complaints,” i.e. clear guidelines for determining “when a complaint should be further investigated and abused.”
With respect to overall employment practices, the Holder report made further recommendations to promote greater diversity and reduce discrimination based on race, gender, and other legally protected characteristics:
- Prohibit “romantic intimate” relationships between “individuals in a reporting relationship,” i.e., a supervisor should not date or attempt to date an employee within their department.
- Ban the consumption of alcohol during “core work hours,” restrict the availability of alcohol at other company-sponsored events, and take “appropriate action to discipline and address inappropriate employee conduct fueled by alcohol consumption.”
- Ensure that the company's performance review process is not racially biased or overly reliant on subjective criteria.
Do You Need Help From a New York Employment Discrimination Lawyer?
When employers have effective anti-discrimination policies in place, it is incumbent on the employees to use them. New York courts will often dismiss employment discrimination claims because the employee failed to avail themselves of the company's internal procedures before suing. Of course, in many cases the employee may not be fully aware of how these internal procedures work.
An experienced New York employment law attorney can help. If you have been the victim of illegal workplace discrimination or harassment and need to know what steps to take first, contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today.