Laws that Protect You From Employment Discrimination

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If you think you have experienced discrimination in the scope of employment, it is important to know where to look for answers. Before calling a lawyer or abruptly filing an EEOC application, research the federal regulations that are in place to prohibit employment discrimination. Below are some resources to consult to help you understand if what you experienced constitutes discrimination and is protected.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees that each person receives equal protection of the laws. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from violating an individual’s rights to due process and equal protection. Due process protection requires that employees receive a fair process before the termination if the termination relates to a “liberty”.

Section 1981 of the U.S. Code provides additional federal remedies to deter harassment and intentional discrimination in the workplace.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to most employers engaged in interstate commerce with more than 15 employees, labor organizations, and employment agencies. The Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (includes pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions) or national origin. It is illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring, discharging, compensating, or providing the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Employment agencies may not discriminate when hiring or referring applicants. The Act also prohibits labor organizations from basing membership or union classifications on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers and unions from paying different wages based on the employee’s sex, and does not prohibit other discriminatory hiring practices. It provides that if workers perform equal work in jobs requiring “equal skill, effort, and responsibility . . . performed under similar working conditions,” the workers must receive equal pay.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating due to age and outlines plans for benefits, pensions, and retirements.

Congress enacted the American with Disabilities Act to eliminate discrimination against those with handicaps. It prohibits discrimination based on a physical or mental handicap by employers engaged in interstate commerce and state governments.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows an employee to take leave from their job in certain situations, while maintaining security of their employment. Employees of covered employers may take unpaid time off for family or medical reasons, including childbirth, adoption, or serious health conditions of the employee or their child, spouse, or parent.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate employees. The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law. The EEOC interprets and enforces the Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, and sections of the Rehabilitation Act. The Commission was established by Title VII, and Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 1614 contains its regulations and guidelines. Visit to learn about the types of discrimination prohibited by the laws enforced by EEOC, as well as links to the relevant laws, regulations and policy guidance, and also fact sheets, Q&As;, best practices, and other information.

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