How do discrimination laws protect employees?

How do discrimination laws protect employees

Many people in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and throughout the country are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws, which offer a broad range of protections covering everything from age to disability to religion. But how do discrimination laws protect employees? They do so in several ways.

Classes with federal protection

There are several classes forming essential personal characteristics that have been identified by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and that are federally protected. The following classes have protection against all forms of discrimination, including discrimination occurring in the workplace.

1. Age

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, forbids discrimination against workers due to their age when the workers are 40 or older. The prohibited discrimination includes unfavorable treatment. It does not prevent employers from showing favoritism to older workers, however.

The ADEA’s protections include multiple facets of employment, including hiring decisions, promotions, layoffs, training, terminations, specific jobs and more. It also identifies several prohibited forms of harassment, including derogatory remarks about a person’s age, using age as the main factor for negative employment actions and creating a hostile work environment for workers who are older. Clients, customers, colleagues and supervisors may all be harassers under the ADEA.

2. Disability

Both workers and people who are looking for jobs and who have long-term mental or physical disabilities are protected from discrimination by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The ADA’s definition of a disability includes many conditions, including muscular conditions, mental illnesses, sensory disorders and physical disabilities.

Under the ADA, employers are forbidden from discriminating against workers who have a history of having disabilities or who appear to have them. Employers may not treat employees badly because of their relationships with others who have long-term disabilities.

Finally, employers may not use different compensation scales for workers with perceived or real disabilities, and they cannot subject candidates for jobs to pre-employment screenings or medical examinations that could reveal physical or mental disabilities.

3. Sex

In all states, employers must pay women and men equal wages for the same work under the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This law forbids discrimination based on sex. The titles of the positions don’t have to be the same if the level of responsibility and work are largely similar. The Equal Pay Act also applies to benefits, allowances, vacation time, bonuses, stock options, travel reimbursement and other benefits.

When a discrepancy arises, employers may not reduce the higher-paid employee’s wages. Employers also are prohibited from retaliating against job candidates or employees who pursue a discrimination lawsuit or complaint.

4. Genetic information

A fairly new law, Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 forbids discrimination based on genetic information. This information includes data about hereditable diseases. In cases in which genetic data is gathered for a work event, the employers may not use the information in order to treat employees unfavorably.

5. National origin

Employees and job seekers may not be discriminated against because of their national origins. Employers are prevented from implementing company-wide policies that make it hard for employees of other nationalities to do their work.

6. Pregnancy

Employers are forbidden from discriminating against female workers because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical problems under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, or PDA. This law extends to all facets of employment, from hiring decisions to terminations.

Pregnant employees must be treated the same as other workers who experience short-term disabilities. Employers may thus be required to make accommodations, including offering disability leave, lighter assignments or unpaid leave. The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, also provides that covered employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

If an employee experiences complications related to her pregnancy, she may also be covered under the ADA. These types of protection generally start during pregnancy and last until after the birth of the child.

7. Race

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not discriminate against workers or applicants on the basis of their skin color or race. This act also forbids employers from discriminating against workers who are married to people of certain races.

Under the law, harassment that is related to race includes numerous actions. It may include derogatory comments, slurs, racial jokes, racially motivated pictures and other such things.

8. Religion

Title VII additionally protects people from discrimination at work due to their religious beliefs. Employers must offer reasonable accommodations for the religious needs of workers. This may include allowing time off during religious observances, permitting head coverings and allowing religious grooming unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the business.

9. Other protected classes

There are some other classes that also are protected from discrimination. For example, a person’s citizenship status is a protected characteristic under the Immigration and Nationality Act. People who have declared bankruptcy are also protected. Veterans are protected under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

10. State-protected classes

Individual states have their own anti-discrimination laws, including both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These may provide additional protections to classes that are not covered under federal law.

The EEOC helps to protect millions of workers across the nation. How do discrimination laws protect employees? Employers are expected to understand both the federal and state anti-discrimination laws and to maintain discrimination-free workplaces. When employers fail to do so, they may be held to be civilly liable and be forced to pay damages. People who believe that they have suffered from prohibited workplace discrimination may want to contact the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler to schedule a consultation.