Workplace Discrimination in New York: 6 Ideas about How the Pressures of the Big Apple Exacerbate it

New York employment discrimination and retaliation cases drain millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours every year. What about the Big Apple makes some employees particularly vulnerable to being discriminated against on the job?

Here is some speculation:

1. To live well in New York City, one typically needs a lot of money.

New York City is notorious for being an incredibly expensive place to live — particularly if you want to rent or buy in Manhattan or in the nicer neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Moreover, the city serves as the financial hub for the entire continent of North America.

With so much pressure to earn more, it’s unsurprising that many workers “put up with” more discomforts and inconveniences than do their counterparts in Small Town USA.

2. Quality labor abounds.

Unlike in small towns, where good labor may be hard to come by, in New York City, great workers typically abound. When you feel like “just a number” — and when your coworkers and bosses and clients see you as “just a number” as well — this depersonalization sets the stage for sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

3. Company policies often confuse.

Different anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies exist in different NY industries. If you switch companies (or divisions), you may have to adjust to new standards for what constitutes appropriate behavior, dress, and decorum. This buzzing confusion can lead to a misreading of signals and body language which in turn can lead to the committing of interpersonal offenses, including harassment and discrimination.

4. New York City’s diversity has pluses and minuses.

For over a century, New York has constituted a melting pot. People from hundreds of different ethnicities mingle in the streets and work shoulder to shoulder. While this co-mingling no doubt diffuses certain racial and ethnic tensions, it also ironically has the capacity to increase tensions under certain circumstances and in the minds of some people.

Consider: Say your boss once had a terrible encounter with a Bangladeshi years ago on the NYC streets. If you also happen to be Bangladeshi, chances are that your boss may associate you with that sour encounter, and he may unconsciously thus become biased against you. This bias in turn can lead to racial discrimination.

5. The city can be difficult to navigate for older workers and disabled workers.

New York disability discrimination and age discrimination problems can emerge when a work environment presents physical challenges. A company that operates on the 11th floor of a building that has no elevator, for instance, may be loathe to hire a disabled worker who would otherwise be qualified, even if that decision violates the law. 

In other words, New York business owners and bosses can be tempted to subtly discriminate to gain what they might perceive to be a competitive edge.

6. The stress of the city can bleed into the workplace.

Honking taxicabs, smog, flashing billboards, and general hustle and bustle can raise cortisol levels and lead to more easily frayed nerves, which in turn can create conditions in which sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation can flourish.

For help dealing with your New York City employment discrimination situation, get in touch with the lawyers of Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP at once by dialing (212) 688-5640 or by checking out our online resources at

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