Discrimination in the Workplace Employment and labor laws prohibit unfavorable or unfair treatment of an applicant or employee based on race, color, religion, sex, natural origin, disability, or age. Federal law forbids “discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.” Employment policies or practices applicable to all employees may be illegal if they have “a negative impact on the employment of people of a particular [class] and is not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business.”
Do you believe that you may have been discriminated against in the workplace? If so, you may be entitled to compensation under federal and state laws. To learn about your legal rights and how our attorneys may be able to help, simply fill out our free, no-obligation case review form.
Race, Color, or Natural Origin Discrimination
Two major types of discrimination concerning race, color, and natural origin are addressed and prohibited under Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An employer may be in violation of the law(s) if they:
- Fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, or origin; or
- Limit, segregate, or classify his employees—or applicants for employment — in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, or origin.
Employers may also not publish notices or advertisements for employment indicating a preference or prohibition of a certain race or ethnicity.
Any company or organization receiving Federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services may not, based on race, color, or origin:
- Deny or alter services or benefits provided to other employees;
- Use methods of administration subjecting employees to discrimination;
- Select a location that excludes or denies them benefits; or
- Deny an employee the opportunity to participate in an advisory or planning board, if the occasion arises.
Under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of an employee’s sex in the payment of wages. Employees of different sexes may not be denied equal compensation for performing substantially equal work in the same establishment. However, sexual discrimination does not only apply to wages. Some other examples of sexual discrimination include:
Hiring (e.g. an applicant, with excellent credentials and qualifications, is denied employment on the basis of sex)
Firing (e.g. a female employee is let go due to “cutbacks,” while a male employee with less seniority remains employed)
Promotion (e.g. female employee who has been with a company for a long time is passed over for a promotion for a male with less experience)
Job Classification (e.g. female employee denied right to a title that would typically be given to a man with the same responsibilities. Many times, compensation is adjusted by job classification.)
Benefits (e.g. requiring female employees to use sick and vacation days for maternity leave, while offering long-term disability plans for male employees who sustain an injury)
Training Opportunities (e.g. sending employees of only one sex for special training sessions that are developed to enhance job performance)
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects employees over the age of 40 from discrimination in the workplace. Under the Act, employers are prohibited from:
- Refusing to hire or discharge an employee;
- Offering different compensation, terms, or conditions of employment; and
- Limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee in a way that would adversely affect their employment opportunities.
Employers and employment agencies may not fail or refuse to refer an individual for employment on the basis of age.
Titles I and V of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits employment discrimination of qualified individuals due to a disability. This applies to both private and government positions. Acts of discrimination based on disability may include:
- Denying an aid, benefit, or service that is provided to other employees;
- Providing different aids, benefits, or services unless necessary;
- Denying the opportunity to participate as a member for a planning or advisory board;
- Imposing eligibility criteria that screen out those with disabilities, unless vital to the execution of the position; or
- Administering programs, services, and activities that do not meet the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, and other terms of employment based on a person’s religious affiliation or beliefs. Religion is broadly defined to include “moral or ethical beliefs about right are wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.” The Act requires employers to accommodate the religious practices of an employee unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the company. The Act is intended to protect employees from intimidation, abusive ridicule, insults, or slurs and ensure a safe and non-hostile work environment.
The Act prohibits harassment or other discrimination based on:
- Affiliation: simply for affiliating with a particular religious group;
- Physical or Cultural Traits: certain traits, such as accent, language, or dress related to the religion;
- Perception: the mere belief an employee or potential employee is a member of a particular religious group;
- Association: a relationship or connection with a person or organization of a particular religion.
To protect employees who want to file a lawsuit or complaint against their employer, state and federal labor laws prohibit employers from engaging in retaliatory behavior. If an employee files a lawsuit or complaint for racial discrimination in the workplace, employers are prohibited, by law, from terminating, demoting, harassing, refusing promotions, altering benefits, forcing an unpaid leave of absence, or changing job assignments in retaliation.
Employees who have filed a lawsuit or complaint concerning racial discrimination in the workplace and have experienced retaliation may be entitled to additional damages.
Title VII Damages
Under Title VII, victims of discrimination may be entitled to:
- Job reinstatement and promotion;
- Wage recovery and other job-related losses;
- Financial damages;
- Injunctive relief (a company is forced to amend its policies for the purpose of stopping discrimination); and/or
- Payment of lawyer fees.
Before a lawsuit may be filed by the employee, a formal complaint must be registered with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The organization determines whether there can be an amicable solution between the employer and employee. If the case cannot be resolved, it may either launch a civil lawsuit on the employee’s behalf or give that power to the employee himself with a “right to sue” letter.
Charges must be filed within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act, so do not hesitate to contact one of our employment discrimination.
To discuss your situation with a discrimination attorney, fill out our free, no obligation consultation form.