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What is Considered Employment Discrimination?
Employment discrimination may happen when an employee (or potential employee) is treated less favorably than other similar employees, solely because of certain characteristics. These characteristics or backgrounds are ones that are protected by law and may include their age, sex, gender, religion, disability, or other categories.
Employment discrimination can also happen when one group of employees are treated better than another group, based again on protected classes or categories, which are defined by various laws. An example of this is where one group of workers clearly receives benefits that are denied to others on the basis of their sex.
Such discrimination typically happens when a person is already hired. It can also happen however when a person is still seeking employment (such as when a person isn’t hired because they are of a certain religion).
What is Multiple Factor Employment Discrimination?
In many instances, employment discrimination cases involve only one specific characteristic of a person. For example, a person may typically be discriminated against on the basis of their age or their country of origin. However, multiple factor employment discrimination occurs when an employer discriminates against a person based on more than one trait or characteristic.
For instance, an individual may be discriminated against in a work setting because of both their sex as well as their gender. Again, this can happen in a variety of contexts and can involve many different individuals as well as groups.
What are Some of the Laws Against Employment Discrimination?
There are various state and federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an employee. These laws have impacted work environments in many ways throughout U.S. history, and each has its own role in defining employment discrimination.
Some of the more significant laws involving employment discrimination include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This is a federal anti-discrimination act that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. It applies to both private employers as well as those in local, state, and federal governments;
- The Equal Pay Act (EPA): The EPA protects employers against gender discrimination. In particular, it provides that employees of different genders should be paid equally if they are doing equal work;
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The ADEA provides protection from discrimination for employers who are 40 years and older. It addresses specific situations, such as being forced to retire based on age;
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): As with other anti-discrimination laws, this prohibits discrimination against a person based on their disability status. It also touches on other aspects of employment, such as providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities;
- The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA): The IRCA imposes various requirements on employers in connection with employees’ immigration status. For instance, it addresses when and how an employer should verify the employment eligibility of workers; and
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA is a federal law that governs how employees can take unpaid medical leave. Among other provisions, it provides protection against being fired while on a legitimate or approved medical leave.
What Else is Prohibited by Employment Discrimination Laws?
As mentioned, it is also illegal to treat one group more favorably over another based on protected categories. For instance, it would be illegal to grant a higher pay salary to one group over another group of workers solely based on their race. This is especially true if both groups are performing the same tasks.
Additionally, employment discrimination laws are also expanding to include more different categories and classes. Specifically, sexual orientation and gender identity are being considered more and more when it comes to anti-discrimination policies and laws.
What are Examples of Workplace Discrimination?
One of the most common examples of workplace discrimination is where a potential employee is not hired solely on the basis of their race, age, or other protected status. Another common example is where a current employee is denied benefits or a promotion due to their membership in a protected class.
Of course, many wrongful termination claims are closely related to or involve discrimination claims. It is common for many people to be fired on the basis of their sex, age, gender, or other classifications, which makes it illegal under discrimination laws.
How Do I File an Employment Discrimination Claim?
In many instances, an employee is required to file with a government agency first before they can file a lawsuit for employment discrimination. This is done in most cases by filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will conduct an investigation into the discrimination claim will prescribe an appropriate remedy.
In the event that the remedy is not sufficient or satisfactory, the person can often then file a private lawsuit. However, they will usually be required to go through the EEOC or other similar agency first.
How Can I Prove Employment Discrimination?
Employment discrimination may be proven through many means and types of evidence. This can include:
- Written evidence of the discrimination, such as any emails or other communications, company policies or handbooks, job offers and employment contracts, and other writings;
- Verbal communications, such as statements made in an interview or other situations;
- Documents, such as pay stubs or human resources records that might support the claim; and
- Various other types of evidence that are relevant to your situation.
If you feel you have been discriminated against, you may wish to begin compiling any items such as these listed above. These may help support your case; contacting an attorney can also help you in terms of preparing for a case.
What Can You Receive If You Win an Employment Discrimination Claim?
This depends on the type of losses or damages caused by discrimination. Remedies in an employment discrimination claim often include:
- Payment for lost wages;
- Reinstatement to the previous work position after a wrongful termination;
- Reinstatement of lost benefits (such as lost retirement benefits); and/or
- Changes to the company’s policies and practices.
Filing a claim can also help uncover other instances of discrimination, so it can beneficial for an employee to file a claim if needed. Employers also cannot retaliate against a person who has filed a discrimination claim (even if the discrimination claim is not proven to be true). For instance, it is against the law for an employer to fire a person because they have filed a discrimination claim against them.
What Can Limit What You Receive If You Win an Employment Discrimination Claim?
Some factors might affect the outcome of an employment discrimination claim. For instance, if it turns out that there was some other reason an employer took action, it could affect the plaintiff’s damages award. For example, if it turns out that the employer fired an employee due to poor performance, and not their race, their claim may be affected.
State laws may also place limits on the amount of damages or the type of remedies involved in such cases. These can differ from state to state. As such, it is in the employee’s best interests to work with a lawyer, who can help sort out these limitations.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Employment Discrimination Case?
Employment discrimination cases can be complex and may involve many different parties. You may need to hire a discrimination lawyers if you need help with a claim. Your lawyer can help you prepare your case. If you need to file with an agency like the EEOC, your attorney can also guide you through that process as well