What is Employment Discrimination?
Most states and the federal government have laws that prohibit private persons, organizations or governments from discriminating against people because of certain protected characteristics. In employment, individuals are protected from discrimination by employers under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities in Employment Act, and other federal and state laws.
When Does Employment Discrimination Occur?
Employment discrimination occurs when a person:
- believes he or she has control over some aspect of your life,
- identifies you as belonging to a legally protected group because of a characteristic, and
- using his or her control, treats you unfairly because you belong to a protected group.
Proof of Employment Discrimination
To prove employment discrimination, you must show that the employer intended to treat you differently because of the characteristic. This intent can also be demonstrated if the employer has treated a lot of other persons with the same protected characteristic unfairly.
What are Considered Protected Classes/Characteristics for Employment Discrimination?
- Race or Color
- National Origin
- Sexual orientation (in some states and cities)
Typical Examples of When Employment Discrimination Can Occur in the Workplace?
- Hiring, forced retirement, firing.
- Job advertisements and recruitment.
- Compensation and pay.
- Health/Medical and fringe benefits.
- Waivers of the right to sue in exchange for severance pay.
What Else is Prohibited by Employment Discrimination Laws?
- Harassment by your employer or coworkers when your employer knows they are harassing you due to the protected characteristic.
- Retaliation against you for reporting discrimination, filing a lawsuit due to the discrimination or participating in an investigation.
- Employment ads excluding certain persons with a protected characteristic or showing a preference: This is permitted only when the employer has proven that age is a "bona fide occupational qualification."
- Promotions offered or given only to persons with a certain preferred characteristics.
Federal Employment Discrimination Laws and Agencies - EEOC
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Federal anti-discrimination laws. They investigate claims of discrimination in the workplace. Generally, in order to file a lawsuit in Federal court, an employee must first file a claim with the EEOC. The deadline for filing a claim with the EEOC is 180 days after the discriminatory act. Because the EEOC investigators are often overworked and have countless other cases, people often get a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC, hire a private lawyer, and pursue their employment discrimination claim in Court.
State Employment Discrimination Laws and Agencies
Most states also have their own laws regulating discrimination in the workplace, and agencies to enforce these laws. The names of these state agencies vary by state, as does the deadlines for filing a claim.
Do I Need a Lawyer for my Employment Discrimination Case?
Pursing an employment discrimination claim against an employer is complicated because procedural laws vary depending on where and when you file your claim. A lawyer will help you with the filing deadlines specific to your claim. Also, because the EEOC investigators will not get to your claim immediately, a lawyer can help you investigate and pursue any additional remedies. It is also a good idea to see a lawyer before signing a waiver or other severance package. If you are an employer being sued for employment discrimination, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.
Have you experienced employment discrimination?
Call Joseph C. Stroble (631) 244-8297
For a FREE CONSULTATION