Discrimination: What You Need to Know
Discrimination laws may exist at the state or federal level, and they often vary broadly. Additionally, some discrimination laws only apply to businesses with particular numbers of employees or those that meet other predetermined criteria, so it is essential that today’s employers fully comprehend what discrimination laws apply to them to ensure these laws aren’t broken. This article offers an overview of the different types of discriminatory acts often experienced by American workers, as well as information employers must know to avoid becoming the subject of an employee discrimination lawsuit.
Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment is not always obvious or overt. On the contrary, it is often quite subtle in nature. Sexual harassment or discrimination may occur in the event that an employee is demoted, passed over for a promotion or terminated because of being male or female, or it may occur when a superior makes it difficult for an employee to perform a job because of sexual comments or other related inappropriate actions. In the legal sense, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment,” per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the event that an employee feels they are being sexually harassed, the first step is often to report the occurrence to a supervisor. Those who feel the problem wasn’t remedied after doing so, or in situations where the supervisor is accused of being the harasser, the employee may decide to report the behavior to an outside entity, such as law enforcement or a state or federal organization.
Regrettably, race discrimination, or the act of discriminating against a party because of his or her heritage, remains common in the United States. While discriminating against employees because of race is illegal at the federal level, many states also have their own laws pertaining to race discrimination. Additionally, some states have taken strides in recent years to make it easier for employees to file race discrimination complaints by implementing state organizations or offices to manage these types of complaints. Thus, it is of particular importance for modern business owners to understand not only federal race discrimination rules, but also those that pertain to them at the state level to avoid becoming the subject of an employee lawsuit.
As the name suggests, “pregnancy discrimination” refers to the act of discriminating against a woman on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or for an associated medical reason. The EEOC’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act was established in 1978, and it applies to American companies that employ 15 or more parties. Essentially, it dictates that pregnant women who are unable to perform job duties as they typically could must be treated in the same manner as employees with disabilities. Additionally, it dictates that pregnant employees are privy to the same benefits as their non-pregnant counterparts, meaning that if other medical needs are covered by the employer, pregnancy-related medical needs must be, as well.
“Gender discrimination” refers to the act of treating someone differently because of his or her gender. Sexual harassment can be considered a form of gender discrimination, as is paying a male employee more than a female employee for performing the same job or duty. Gender discrimination is prohibited at the federal level, and states may also implement their own rules and laws in this regard. Therefore, business owners should thoroughly research both federal gender discrimination laws and any that apply to them at the state level, as well.
National Origin Discrimination
American employers are not allowed to discriminate against workers because of their national origin. Those who have recently immigrated to the United States are among those most likely to face national origin discrimination, which is prohibited at the federal level.
Disability laws are complex, and they serve to protect people from being discriminated against due to some type of disability. Essentially, these laws state that disabled individuals must be treated in the same manner as their non-disabled counterparts, but they also may dictate matters such as whether a company restroom must be handicap accessible, whether a disabled worker has access to a handicapped parking spot, and so on.
Age discrimination, as the name suggests, refers to discriminating against individuals because of their age. The Age Discrimination Employment Act prohibits discriminating against people who are 40 or older, however other federal laws exist to prevent discrimination against people of all ages. Discrimination laws are often complex, and because they may exist at the both the state and federal levels, it is of particular importance that today’s employers understand what laws apply to them.
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