By Jay Chatarpaul, Esq.
What you should know about employment discrimination law
You got employed just over a year ago. You were very excited to be part of the team and something larger than you. From the day of your employment, you have put in your best to make sure you move your company forward.
However, you have been feeling bad for the past week. You were due for a promotion, but your employer doesn’t seem to notice your hard work. All your peers got their promotion, but you got nothing.
You feel underappreciated, even sub-human, that your skill and effort did not get the compensation you deserve.
The above is something a lot of people have experienced at one point or the other. Getting treated badly in the workplace due to your trait which is unrelated to the performance of your job is employment discrimination, and it is a sad experience.
Not only is employment discrimination hell for the employee, it is also bad for the US economy as a whole, and even for the employer. The reason for this is not far-fetched. People who experience workplace discrimination are likely to be less productive, reducing your output for your employer and the United States at large.
Employment discrimination can be based on age, disability, pregnancy, race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, natural origin, etc. Federal law and most state laws prohibit any form of discrimination in any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, pay, promotions, job assignments, training, layoff, fringe benefits, and any other condition of employment.
Under employment and labor law, policies that apply to all employees may be illegal if they have a negative effect on a particular class of employees and is not job-related or necessary for the business’ operation.
The following are the various ways you might experience discrimination in the workplace, and why they are illegal.
Employment Discrimination based on color, race, or natural origin
Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, race, or natural origin. An employer will be in violation of this law if it does any of the following:
- When the employer doesn’t hire an individual based on race, color, or origin.
- Discriminating against an employee concerning his compensation, privileges of employment, terms, or conditions because of his race, color, or origin.
- Segregate employees or job applicants into classes based on race where this segregation is going to deprive the individual of employment opportunities or adversely affect his status as an employee.
Employers are also not allowed to publish notices of employment where they state a preference for persons of a particular race or ethnicity.
Also, companies and organizations that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services, cannot on the basis of color, race or origin:
- Deny or modify services it provides to other employees.
- Use administrative methods that subject employees to discrimination.
- Select a location that denies people of a particular race benefits.
- Deny an employee the opportunity to participate in an advisory or planning board.
Employment Discrimination based on sex
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prevents employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, especially in the payment of wages. In essence, each person should be entitled to equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex. However, sexual discrimination is not limited to wages, other forms include:
- Hiring: When an applicant is qualified but is denied the job role on the basis of sex.
- Firing: When a female employee is let go due to “cutbacks” but her male employees are allowed to remain on the job.
- Promotion: When a female employee who has been with the company for a long time is passed over for a promotion for a male counterpart with less experience.
- Job Classification: When a female employee is denied the right to a title that is typically given to a man with the same job role.
- Benefits: When a female employee is forced to use out of her sick and vacation days for maternity leave, while male employees get long-term disability plans if they sustain an injury.
- Training opportunities: Sending employees of a specific sex for a training that would help them enhance their job performance and productivity.
Employment Discrimination based on Age
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers above the age of 40 from discrimination. Employers are prohibited from:
- Refusing to hire or discharge an employee based on age.
- Offering different compensation, terms, or conditions of employment.
- Limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee in a way that would reduce his/her employment opportunities.
Employment Discrimination based on Disability
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act prevent the discrimination of qualified persons on the basis of disability. This applies to private and government positions. Examples of this type of employment discrimination include:
- Denying a benefit, aid, or service made available to other employees.
- Denying the employee of the opportunity to be a member of an advisory or planning board.
- Imposing eligibility criteria that automatically screens out people with disability, except where it is vital for the execution of that job role.
Employment Discrimination based on Religion
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in firing, hiring, and other employment terms based on an employee’s belief or religious affiliation. The Act requires a company to make accommodation for the religious belief of an employee unless it would cause undue hardship for the company.
Employees are protected from retaliation by their employer for filing a lawsuit or complaint against their employer. By law, when employees complain of discrimination, employers are prohibited from demoting, harassing, altering benefits, refusing promotion, forcing an unpaid leave of absence, terminating, or changing job assignment in retaliation.
Employees who suffer retaliation as a result of their complaint of discrimination may be entitled to additional damages.
Filing a lawsuit
Before an employee can file a lawsuit, he/she has to register a formal complaint with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The organization determines if there is a way to resolve the dispute between the employee and employer. If this fails, it could either bring an action on the employee’s behalf or give the employee a “right to sue” letter.
Make sure that you file charges within 300 days of the discriminatory act. Also, before you begin the lawsuit, get in touch with an employment discrimination lawyer.