You might be familiar with the word “discrimination.” But do you know what it really means? And do you understand how it applies in the context of your job?
To “discriminate” against a person means to treat that person differently, or less positively, for one reason or another. Discrimination can occur while you are at school, at work, or in a public area, such as a shopping center or subway station. You can be discriminated against by school friends, teachers, coaches, colleagues, supervisors, or business owners.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is in charge of protecting you from one type of discrimination – employment discrimination because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information. Other laws might protect you from other types of discrimination, such as discrimination at school.
The laws implemented by EEOC protect you from employment discrimination when it includes:
- Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.
- Harassment by managers, colleagues, or others in your workplace, because of your race, shade, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.
- Denial of a reasonable workplace change that you need because of your religious beliefs or disability.
- Inappropriate questions regarding or disclosure of your genetic information or medical information.
- Retaliation because you complained about work discrimination or helped with a job discrimination proceeding, such as an investigation or suit.
The EEOC enforces federal laws banning discrimination against a job applicant or a worker during a range of work circumstances including hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages and benefits.
Federal laws currently in place consist of:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Makes it illegal to discriminate against somebody on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. This law also protects workers against retaliation for moving forward with a case involving discrimination in the workplace.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: This amendment to Title VII extends the protections regarding “sex” to include prohibiting sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and/or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA): Prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women who conduct equal work in the same workplace.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): Protects employees or future workers who are 40 or older from discrimination in the workplace.
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): Makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability from work or during work.
These laws are the basis of how the EEOC enforces discrimination in the workplace. Court law interpretation and changes to these laws are evolving.
Many of the state laws currently in place are similar in nature to federal civil rights laws, but might offer added protections against employment-related discrimination. Nearly all states have adopted discrimination laws associated with employment, with protection against discrimination based on various factors, such as race, gender, age, marital status, national origin, religion or disability. If a state does not clearly state their employment protections against discrimination, the person that is reporting the discrimination would refer to federal law pertaining to the type of discrimination in question.
If you have been abused or discriminated against at your workplace, please remember that you have legal rights. You might be able to file a discrimination claim with a discrimination lawyer near me against your employer and pursue compensation for damages consisting of medical expenses, lost income, as well as pain and suffering.
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