Employees are protected against discrimination in the workplace by a number of federal and state laws that apply to different employees, employers, and factual scenarios. What follows is a general overview of these laws.
What Laws Prohibit Workplace Discrimination?
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Title I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- The Civil Rights Act of 1991
- The Florida Civil Rights Act
Who is Protected Against Workplace Discrimination?
Generally speaking, employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion, pregnancy, disability, marital status, and national origin. These are known as protected classes.
Who is protected is also determined by which employers are subject to the laws protecting employees. For the most part, an employer must have 15 or more individuals to be subject to anti-discrimination laws. An important exception to this rule is sex-based wage discrimination, which applies to virtually all employers regardless of number of employees.
What is Discrimination?
As a general definition, discrimination is an adverse employment action that occurs, in part or in whole, on the basis of an individual belonging to a protected class.
While some discrimination is explicit and overt, most discrimination is not voiced, but shown through the employer’s actions. Therefore, employers can show discriminatory intent in their actions involving:
- the screening and interviewing of applicants for employment;
- the hiring, firing, promotion, discipline, and demotion of employees;
- the compensation, raises, benefits, and training given to employees;
- the type of work, duties, shifts, and responsibilities assigned to employees; and/or
- the failure or refusal to make a reasonable accommodation for disabled or religious employees.
Keep in mind that it is not discrimination if a member of a protected class suffers an adverse employment action. Rather, the employee is required to show that the reason for the adverse employment action was the employee belonging to the protected class. This may be done either by (1) direct evidence of discriminatory intent; or (2) circumstantial evidence of discriminatory intent. Circumstantial evidence typically consists of showing that an employer treated similarly-performing employees different on the basis of race, sex, or other protected status.
The laws protecting against workplace discrimination are complex and intertwined. Contact us for a free initial consultation.