There are several federal laws, described below, which prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation against employees. In addition to these federal laws, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have similar laws addressing discrimination, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
It is important to note that discrimination and harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. Federal and state laws provide protection for those individuals who have been terminated from their employment (or forced to quit), but they also apply to many other employment situations. For example, discrimination can occur in connection with hiring, compensation, job assignments, transfers, promotions, use of company facilities, training programs, fringe benefits, pay, retirement plans, and disability leave; or other terms and conditions of employment.
These laws apply whether the discrimination or harassment at issue involves a coworker or a supervisor in the workplace. In some situations, harassment or discrimination by a non-employee, such as a client or a customer, may also be covered.
In addition, while most harassment or discrimination takes place at the location of your employment, conduct outside of the formal workplace may also be covered by the laws described above. For example, harassment may take place at a company sponsored event, such as a business meeting at a hotel or a company picnic.
If you complain about discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you are protected from retaliation against you for making such a complaint. This protection applies to internal complaints within your company and to external complaints of discrimination, such as filing a charge of discrimination with an administrative agency or a lawsuit alleging discrimination.
If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you may be able to require your employer to take action to restore you to the same position you would have been in if the discrimination had not taken place. You may be entitled to reinstatement to your position, and/or money damages to compensate you for back pay, front pay, and emotional distress.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of their sex, race, color, national origin and/or religion.
Under Title VII, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual in the workplace because of their sex. This applies to both men and women and may include a variety of employment practices.
Title VII also prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Title VII also prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
Under Title VII, it is illegal to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her race or color in the workplace. This includes employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups. This also includes discrimination because of marriage to or association with an individual of a different race; membership in or association with ethnic based organizations or groups; or attendance or participation in schools or places of worship generally associated with certain groups. Harassment on the basis of race violates Title VII. This may include ethnic slurs, racial “jokes,” offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual’s race.
National Origin Discrimination
Under Title VII, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual in the workplace because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group. This also includes discrimination because of marriage or association with persons of a national origin group; membership or association with specific ethnic promotion groups; attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples or mosques generally associated with a national origin group; or a surname associated with a national origin group. Harassment on the basis of national origin violates Title VII. This may include ethnic slurs, racial “jokes,” offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual’s national origin.
Under Title VII, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual in the workplace because of their religion. In addition, an employer is required to reasonably accommodate the religious belief of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.
Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits. If men and women perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions but are paid differently, there may be a violation of the EPA.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in all employment practices. The ADA also protects you if you have a history of such a disability, or if an employer believes that you have such a disability, even if you do not actually have a disability. In addition, an employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability unless doing so would impose an undue hardship (a significant difficulty or expense).
Bell & Bell LLP attorneys have successfully handled hundreds of workplace discrimination and harassment cases. For a consultation with a lawyer at Bell & Bell LLP regarding discrimination and/or harassment, call 215.569.2500 or contact us online.