As an employer, you should know that the United States Department of Labor protects your employees from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. You may not discriminate against your employees based on sex, pregnancy, color, race, religion, and national origin.
But the discrimination laws get more complex. Other EEO laws also protect employees from retaliation, and age & disability discrimination. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
What does this mean exactly?
You need to know the ins and outs of EEO laws. Let’s look at some of the more common and complex types of employer discrimination. The following can help you avoid a future lawsuit.
Harassment refers to continued misconduct of an employee. It includes creating a situation that most people would consider threatening. This can include ethnic slurs, name calling, distasteful jokes, threats, physical assault, etc.
This may sound straightforward, but sensitivity levels vary. What some or most may view as a harmless joke, another person may view as an offensive attack.
It is important to stay mindful. Encourage politeness over humor, and create clear conduct policies.
Unfortunately, you not only need to control yourself in this regard. You are responsible for any harassment that occurs in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits you from discriminating against the disabled. This covers mental and physical disabilities. This sounds like common courtesy but can actually prove tricky for some employers.
For instance, if you feel the need to fire somebody with a disability, you need to take precautions. Make sure you document instances where they acted against company policy. This will help prove that you are not firing them due to their disability.
Federal employers may also run into a sticky situation with employees who suffer from alcoholism or addiction. Management cannot fire the employee, as the ADA protects them. The employer must follow protocol, involving suspensions and mandated rehabilitation, avoiding discrimination charge.
In Federal sector cases, retaliation is the most founded type of discrimination. An employer cannot punish applicants or employees for asserting their rights. They do not need to incur any type of discrimination.
They also cannot punish employees or applicants for testifying against them. For instance, in such a case involving another individual. And employers cannot punish an employee for refusing to follow orders that may result in their discrimination.
This protection also extends to individuals who request accommodation. This can cover a disability or a religious practice. Even when it creates an annoyance or problem for the company, you cannot punish the person for this reason.
Learn the letter of the law when it comes to workplace discrimination, to help you avoid lawsuits. Keep a clear, strict conduct policy for everybody in the workplace to follow. Remember, you are responsible for any discrimination that takes place within the company.
Sometimes though, even the best employers find themselves in the worst situations. If you find yourself in need of legal advice, please contact us.