Discrimination is a general word that people commonly use to mean that someone has been treated unfairly, especially when compared to someone else. Although “unfair” does not always equal “illegal”, there are certain circumstances under which unfair treatment in the workplace violates federal, state or local anti-discrimination laws and constitutes illegal discrimination. Under these circumstances employees may have legal recourse for violation of their rights.
Anti-discrimination laws make it illegal for employers covered by those laws to refuse to hire an applicant, to fire an employee, or to otherwise discriminate against employees by paying them a lower salary, denying them promotion opportunities, disciplining or demoting them, or selecting them for a layoff, when those actions are based on legally protected categories. Unlawful discrimination includes:
- RACE, COLOR AND NATIONAL ORIGIN DISCRIMINATION Discrimination against an employee, or an applicant for a job, because he or she is African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, dark-skinned, or light-skinned is not only unacceptable in our society, but can also violate civil rights laws dating back almost 50 years. Employers covered by those laws are prohibited from making employment decisions based on an individual’s race, skin color or national origin.
- SEX DISCRIMINATION Federal, state and local laws have been passed to address what many lawmakers have long recognized as unfairness in the treatment of women versus men in the workplace. Employers covered by these laws are required to compensate women and men with equal pay for equal work; to afford women and men the same promotional opportunities with no “glass ceiling” in place; and to otherwise treat women and men who are doing the same job equally in all of the terms of their employment.
- PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION In 1978 Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which made it clear that illegal sex discrimination includes discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. At that time Congress also required that employers covered by that law treat women affected by pregnancy or related medical conditions the same way they treat other employees who are similarly affected by temporary physical limitations, including providing workplace accommodations and leave benefits.
- RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION Religious discrimination in employment may also be a violation of federal, state and local laws. Discrimination on the basis of religion includes discriminating against an employee because of any aspect or his or her religious observance and practice, as well as his or her sincerely held religious beliefs.
- AGE DISCRIMINATION In 1967 Congress formally recognized that older workers were disadvantaged in their efforts to retain jobs and to regain employment when they were displaced from jobs. At that time Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”) making it unlawful to discriminate against applicants for employment or current employees who are over 40 years old because of their age. Discrimination based on age may include targeting older employees for layoffs or a reduction-in-force (“RIF”) because they are over 40. State and local laws also make age discrimination in employment by covered employers illegal.
- DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION Several federal, state and local laws make it illegal for employers covered by those laws to discriminate against qualified job applicants and qualified employees because they have a physical or psychiatric disability or handicap. The legal protections for qualified individuals with disabilities also cover individuals who are discriminated against because an employer perceives them to be disabled – even if they are not—and individuals who are discriminated against because they have a record of a disability.
- GENETIC INFORMATION including FAMILY MEDICAL HISTORY Scientific advances in the area of genetic research have raised concerns about whether genetic information could ever be used to deny people health insurance coverage or to discriminate against them when applying for a job or in the job they currently have. In 2008 Congress passed the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (“GINA”) which made it illegal for an employer covered by that law to obtain genetic information from employees, or to discriminate against employees on the basis of their genetic information. Genetic information includes an individual’s family medical history.
- SEXUAL ORIENTATION and GENDER IDENTITY DISCRIMINATION We are currently living in a very exciting time for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) individuals with respect to employment discrimination law. For decades there have been attempts to pass federal laws to expressly make employment discrimination against an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity illegal. To date, all of those attempts have failed. However, the EEOC and some federal courts recently issued decisions indicating a growing trend toward finding that discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity is, in fact, sex discrimination. Specifically, the trend appears to be moving toward finding that employers who discriminate against individuals because they are gay or transgender are, in fact, discriminating against them because they do not meet the employer’s gender stereotype of what a man or woman should be. Under long-standing case law, this type of gender stereotyping can constitute illegal sex discrimination.
QUESTIONS ABOUT WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION? FARRELL LAW has the knowledge and experience to provide answers. Attorney Michael Farrell has almost 20 years of employment law experience handling cases alleging illegal discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age and disability.
CONTACT FARRELL LAW to set up a consultation with Miami employment discrimination attorney Michael Farrell to discuss your discrimination questions and concerns. He will take the time necessary to explain any anti-discrimination laws that may apply to you and discuss the range of options available to you for enforcing your rights under any such laws. There is no cost for an initial consultation.