A healthy workplace environment is conducive to increasing productivity in employees and contributes to a company’s growth. However, employment discrimination and toxic work environments are a constant threat to the sanctity of workplaces. Sadly, workplace discrimination is still widely prevalent in the United States. Although employers are investing heavily in work inclusion and diversity programs, employment discrimination statistics show that three out of five US employees have either experienced or witnessed discrimination in their workplace. If you are or have been subjected to discrimination by your employer, the latter has breached anti-discrimination and employment laws. This means that your employer is legally liable for correcting its practices and compensating you for the damages you incur due to the discriminatory behavior. Going into a legal battle against a resourceful employer alone can, however, prove ineffective. The best way to deal with the situation is to hire a seasoned employment discrimination attorney who will ensure you take all the steps necessary to build a strong case and recover your damages.
Workplace discrimination is when an employer uses sex, age, nationality, race, religion, disability, etc., as the basis of decision-making over performance at work. Employment discrimination laws at both federal and state levels seek to protect employees from workplace discrimination. In the case of government employers, the United States Constitution gives the statutes that prevent them from discriminating among employees. The employment discrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at the federal level.
Title VII of the civil rights act forms the basis of all the federal anti-discrimination laws in the United States. At the core, the law deems it illegal for employers to discriminate among and against employees and applicants based on their race, religion, sex, color, and country of origin. Besides this, the law also prevents an employer from retaliating against an employee who asserts their rights under the law.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer cannot discriminate in employment-related aspects, including hiring, termination, job assignment, compensation, salary, benefits, discipline, and promotions. The law also prohibits employers from implementing policies that seem neutral but can hurt a protected group of people. Additionally, harassment of employees based on a protected characteristic (sex, race, etc.) is also prohibited under the law.
Title VII of the Civil Act applies to:
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was added to the Title VII through an amendment and made it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants or employees based on childbirth, pregnancy, or any other related medical conditions.
The act makes it illegal for employers to force pregnant employees to take leave when they can fulfill their duty or judge their willingness and ability to work after the birth of their children. Based on accommodations and benefits, employers must treat pregnant employees like other employees who are temporarily off work due to other reasons.
Abbreviated as ADEA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act deems it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on age. The Act is applicable and can form a basis of the lawsuit only for employees that are at least 40 years old. Like Title VII of the Civil Act, ADEA is also applicable to all job-related aspects. In addition to this, a separate law known as the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act (OWBPA) prohibits employers from discriminating in terms of the benefits they provide to employees who are older than 40 years.
ADEA applies to:
Although the ADEA applies to state government employees, they cannot file a lawsuit against the state government but can assert their rights through the EEOC.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants and employees with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including benefits. The act not only protects applicants and employees with a disability but others who previously had a disability or the ones who are incorrectly perceived as having a disability. This means that an employer cannot base their job-related decisions on the history of disability of an applicant or employee. Similarly, if an employer assumes that an applicant or employee is disabled although they are not and uses it to make an employment-based decision, they violate ADA. The law also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their relationship with someone with a disability.
The act makes it compulsory for employers to pay men and women equally for equal amounts of work. Employees are considered to work equally if they perform under similar work conditions and do a job that requires equal responsibility, skill, and effort. This also applies even if the two jobs have different titles.
According to the law, employers can pay men and women differently for equal work based on their experience and seniority, an incentive system, merit, or any other grounds except gender. The Equal Pay Act applies to every government and private agency irrespective of their size.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants and employees based on their country of origin or citizenship. The prohibitions apply to all aspects of employment. It also makes it illegal for companies to hire employees who are not authorized to work in the United States. The law mandates that employers check the validity of their employees’ authorization to work in the US.
The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA) makes it illegal for employers to use genetic information for making any employment-related decisions. It also mandates employers to keep the genetic information they obtain through certification requirements for the Family and Medical Leave Act confidential.
If your employer has unlawfully treated you, the US constitution has identified remedies aimed at restoring your position and compensating for the damages you incur. Generally, remedies direct the employer to pay the victim a compensation for the damages they incurred due to the discrimination. This happens only after an employer is proven guilty of discrimination in court or admits to it. The compensation that you may receive can be of two types:
As the name suggests, compensatory damages are aimed to compensate you for the damages you incur due to discriminatory behavior on the part of your employer. This includes the expenses you incurred for finding a new job, emotional harm, loss of enjoyment, and other mental and physical stress caused by losing a job, denial of benefits, or any other discriminatory behavior.
These damages are awarded if the employer intentionally discriminates against their employees based on sex, age, pregnancy, race, disability, religion, or ethnicity. The damages are aimed to serve as a deterrent to prevent employers from further using discriminatory practices in the future.
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