Employment Discrimination Laws in a Nutshell
There are a variety of state and federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on certain characteristics when making decisions about hiring, terminating, promoting, demoting or compensating employees, or any other terms and conditions of employment. Employers are also barred from retaliating against employees who file a discrimination-related complaint or engage in other protected activities. While the laws vary from state to state, all employers have an obligation to adhere to the following federal laws.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
This law prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, national origin, religion and gender. Title VII also established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government agency that is tasked with investigating employment discrimination claims. Before an employment discrimination lawsuit under federal law can be brought, it is necessary to file a claim with the EEOC. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from discriminating against individuals who are 40 years or older and their age cannot be used as a factor in any employment decision.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating or harassing disabled employees and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations that will enable a qualified disabled worker to complete his or her job functions.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
The PDA prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy regarding any aspect of employment in businesses with 15 or more employees. Women who are temporarily unable to perform their jobs due to pregnancy must be treated similarly to other temporarily disabled workers. The ADA may also protect a woman who suffers from a pregnancy related medical condition.
The Bottom Line
In sum, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and potential job candidates because of race, religion, sex, age, disability, pregnancy or national origin. Not only can violations lead to financial penalties, a discrimination lawsuit can damage a business’ reputation. By engaging the services of an experienced employment law attorney, you can establish policies and procedures to ensure that your business is in compliance with these laws.