Employment Discrimination Laws You Should Be Aware Of

A variety of antidiscrimination laws affect the employment practices of your business. Employment discrimination laws apply to all employment practices from hiring to firing employees, and everything in between. The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that administers federal employment discrimination laws.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Employers are not permitted to base their employments decisions on these protected characteristics when it comes to all aspects of employment, including hiring, promotions, discipline, salary, benefits, job assignments, and firing.  

Employers must also comply with Title VII by maintaining a workplace that is free from harassment based on a protected characteristic (such as race, sex, and so on). Employers must not only make sure that employees are not harassed by supervisors and coworkers, but also customers, vendors, and other third parties.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The PDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, and it applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, leave, and benefits. The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967  prohibits discrimination against individuals who are forty years of age or older. The ADEA prohibits age discrimination in all aspects of employment including hiring, firing, compensation, benefits, discipline, and job assignments. The law applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

In order to comply with the ADEA, employers must avoid basing employment decisions such as hiring, firing or promotions on age or stereotypical beliefs about older workers. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire an older worker based on the assumption that the worker will retire soon or won’t be able to take direction from a younger supervisor. Employers may not post job advertisements that could discourage older workers from applying. For example, using terms “young” or “recent graduate” in job postings would violate the ADEA.

Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in any aspect of employment, including applications, testing, hiring, firing, job assignments, leave, and compensation. The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Under the ADA, an individual has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. An individual is also protected under the ADA if he or she has a history of such impairment or is regarded as having such impairment.

In addition to the prohibition against discrimination, the ADA imposes an affirmative duty on employers to assist qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities to assist them in performing their duties. Generally, the duty to request an accommodation falls on the employee.

Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits gender based wage discrimination. Employers must pay equal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal jobs within the same company. This means that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions. The Equal Pay Act applies to virtually all employers.

Immigration Reform and Control Act

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants on the basis of citizenship or national origin. IRCA also prohibits employers from knowingly hiring individuals who are not authorized to work in the United States. The law requires employers to verify the identity and employment authorization of all employees prior to their hire.

In addition to these federal employment discrimination laws, your business may also be subject to employment discrimination laws in your state. Check with an employment attorney in your area to determine whether your business is complying with state employment discrimination laws. 


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