Understanding Workplace Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1864 prohibit an employer from basing any employment decision on the race of the employee. Generally, this protects every employee regardless of his or her race. Historically, courts have held employees seeking to prove discrimination against a traditional majority to a higher standard of proof. The modern trend is to treat each claim the same, regardless of the races involved.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from basing any employment decision on the sex of the employee. This means that if your wages are cut, your employment is terminated, you are moved to a worse job or any adverse action is taken, that decision cannot be based on the fact that the employee is either male or female.
Click here if you feel you may be a victim of sexual harassment.
National Origin Discrimination
An employee is protected from harassment on the basis of his or her country in which they were born or the country from which their parents came. This means that an employer cannot take adverse employment action against any employee because he or she is, for example, Egyptian, Iranian, Mexican or any other specific national origin.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from taking adverse employment action against an employee based upon that employees legitimately held religious beliefs. Religious discrimination carries with it an added duty of the employer to give reasonable accommodation to the employees legitimately held religious beliefs. The only requirement for having a legitimately held religious belief is not that it be a recognized religion but that it be a religion that the employee legitimately believes in. The employer’s duty to accommodate the religious belief of the employee is limited by an employer showing of undue hardship in the accommodation but with most large employers this will not be a significant issue.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides employees with protection against their employer taking adverse employment action based upon the employee’s disability. It also protects an employee being forced to work in adverse employment conditions; such as, where they cannot access their work space, where they are denied time off, or where they are denied a flexible employment schedule, all of which may be necessitated by their disability. Disability discrimination claims are some of the most fact-intensive complaints that are brought under the general heading of employment laws. Similar to complaints of religious discrimination, the disability laws require that an employer reasonably accommodate an employee’s disabling condition. This accommodation can include: modifying a work schedule, changing a work location, providing special equipment or other reasonable steps that the employee needs to be able to effectively perform the essential functions of his or her position.
An employee is protected from adverse employment action based upon his or her age by the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA) and many similar state laws. The ADEA protects employees once they reach the age of forty (40) and continues that protection until they decide to leave the workforce. The ADEA is unique among employment laws in that it will protect an employee who is, for example, sixty-five (65) from being treated differently than an employee who is forty-three (43). This is unique in that you have two employees, both within the protected category, one of whom is treated better than the other and you can still state a claim for age discrimination. The ADEA is also unique in that among the federal laws protecting against employment discrimination, it is the only one which does not allow for punitive damages and does not have a separate compensatory damage element. Instead, the ADEA permits an employee to recover all the employees lost wages and benefits, attorney’s fees, and then it doubles the amount of the employees lost wages and benefits, if the employer cannot show that his decision to take the adverse employment action against the employee was not willful.
Learn about some of the Warning Signs of Age Discrimination
The laws which protect an employee from workplace harassment are all based on the same laws which protect an employee from workplace discrimination. Essentially, what every law says is that because an employer cannot treat an employee differently, based upon the employees race or sex or religion or national origin or disability or age, that employer also cannot subject an employee to harassment because of that employee’s membership in the same protected category. This means that if you are being harassed because of your sex, then that is sexual harassment. If you are being harassed because of your race, that is racial harassment. Each different form of harassment is equally illegal and equally protected.
An employee’s job is protected from retaliation for the employee having engaged in protected activity. What the law defines as protected activity varies somewhat from state to state. However, there are certain elements which are going to be common to every employment situation.
An employer cannot take adverse employment action against an employee for complaining of unlawful employment discrimination. An employer similarly cannot take adverse employment action against an employee for participating in an EEOC process. An employer also cannot retaliate against an employee for bringing a complaint of violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or other federal laws designed to protect the employee. In addition to these Federal Laws, there are also state laws which protect employees from being terminated or having adverse employment action taken against them in violation of each state’s separately defined public policy.
Examples of this protection include what is commonly known as whistleblower retaliation. Whistleblower retaliation is an instance when an employee is terminated or has other adverse employment action taken against him or her because the employee refuses to remain silent about or refuses to engage in illegal activity. An employee is also protected for filing a complaint of workers’ compensation. In addition, most states will protect an employee from retaliation for serving on a jury.