Have you lost out on a job for reasons other than experience or credentials? Did you lose your job for reasons unrelated to job performance? Were you harassed or singled out in an unfair manner at work? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have been a victim of employment discrimination.
Employment discrimination is widespread and affects the lives of hard-working men and women every day. Loosely defined as the inappropriate singling out of employees or job applicants, employment discrimination is prohibited under state and federal employment law.
Employment discrimination lawyers specialize in protecting the rights of those wronged by their employers. If you have been a victim of employment discrimination, you may want to meet with an employment discrimination lawyer to evaluate your legal options.
Employment Discrimination Practices
In accordance with state and federal law, it is illegal for employers to discriminate in any/all areas of employment, including:
- Hiring / firing practices
- Fringe benefits (insurance, retirement, vacation, sick leave, etc.)
- Company facilities
- Job training
- Job advertisements
- Other areas of employment
Employment discrimination is a blanket term describing a range of discriminatory practices in the workplace. Sexual, racial, religious, gender, age and national-origin-related harassment are common examples of employment discrimination. For example, an employee may be discriminated against due to assumptions of ability or other factors stemming from stereotypes. Retaliatory harassment is another common type of unlawful harassment in the workplace. i. These and other forms of workplace harassment can be grounds for filing a lawsuit.
Employers are liable for discriminatory practices conducted in the workplace. If you have been a victim of employment discrimination, an employment law attorney can help you understand your legal rights.
Rights of Employment
There are a host of legal protections afforded employees under state and federal law. Commonly known as Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, these legal protections have been enacted to ensure that employers are held accountable for their actions within the workplace.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion, color, race, sex or national origin.1 Bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ) are rare exceptions to Title VII in which employers are legally justified to consider certain qualities or attributes for employment. Examples of BFOQ exceptions include religious beliefs in the hiring of clergy, and mandatory retirement ages associated with commercial pilots.2
Equal Pay Act of 1963: Anti-discrimination legislation aimed at ensuring men and women receive "equal pay for equal work." In accordance with the Equal Pay Act, employers must compensate substantially equal jobs jobs requiring an equivalent amount of skill, responsibility and effort equally, regardless of gender. Compensation differentials may exist in cases of "affirmative defenses," in which an employee's pay differential reflects his or her seniority, merit, quality of work or other factor aside from sex.3
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964: Patterned on legislation targeting racism and sexism, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits ageism in the workplace, i.e., the unlawful discrimination of people over the age of 40.4 ADEA laws apply to companies with 20 or more employees and have few exceptions. One such exception affects commercial pilots who are required by law to retire by age 65.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Similar to the provisions covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 provides employment protections to individuals with physical or mental impairment. Disabilities covered under ADA legislation judged by merit on a case-by-case basis are typically those affecting life activities in a major way. This can include paraplegics, epileptics, HIV/Aids sufferers, the visually/hearing impaired, the mentally retarded and others. Certain individuals may be excluded from ADA law, such as illicit drug abusers.5
Civil Rights Act of 1991: Enacted following a number of key discrimination law decisions, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 helped to redefine employment law by clarifying employer liability in cases of discrimination. Before the law was passed, employers were able to avoid discrimination liabilities by providing a business justification for employment termination. Passage of the statute in 1991 provided the right of the plaintiff to trial by jury and introduced the notion of damages caused by emotional distress.
Filing an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit
Employment discrimination is a violation of state and federal employment law. Employers accused of discrimination in the workplace can be held accountable by filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. Filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employment discrimination lawsuits must include the following information:
- Your contact information (name, address, phone)
- Employer/guilty party contact information
- Description and date(s) of the discriminatory act(s)
If you feel that you have been a victim of employment discrimination, including wrongful termination, you can speak with an employment discrimination attorney to discuss your options. It is important to remember that time is of the essence when it comes to filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. Cases of employment discrimination involving federal employees or job applicants face a different complaint and lawsuit filing process. Employment attorneys can help you to determine your appropriate course of action.
1 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
2 Federal Aviation Administration
3 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
4 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
5 U.S Department of Justice
Victims of employment discrimination concerned about the repercussions of filing an employment discrimination lawsuit may protect their identity by having a third party (individual, organization or agency) file the lawsuit on their behalf.
In 2007, there were 82,792 charges of employment discrimination filed with the EEOC, including 30,510 claims of racial discrimination, 24,826 claims of gender discrimination, 19,103 claims of age discrimination and 17,734 claims of disability discrimination.
Source:U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission