Protections Against Workplace Discrimination

As we discussed in the previous article, workplace discrimination is a pervasive problem in the United States. In the fiscal year 2006, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported more than 75,700 total charges of workplace discrimination.  This number does not include discrimination that goes unreported. 

Due to the soaring numbers of workplace discrimination allegations in the United States, the government has enacted laws and created agencies to ensure that every worker, regardless of religious, race, or lifestyle differences, has a fair chance to be employed and receive promotions in a comfortable work environment.

InjuryBoard has gathered information on government laws and enforcement agencies that are in place to prevent and eradicate workplace discrimination.  By reading this article, you can learn about your rights as an employee and discover valuable resources available to assist in protecting your rights.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- Title VII

The purpose of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is to prohibit discrimination by covered employers on the basis of religion, sex, race, color, or national origin.  The Act also forbids discrimination against a person based on her association with another person of a different religion, sex, race, color, or national origin (such as a marriage).  Moreover, Title VII prohibits retribution against employees opposed to unlawful discrimination. 

One caveat to these rules is that employers are permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion, sex, or national origin (but not race or color) where the characteristic is genuinely necessary to the normal operation of that business.  This is known as the Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications defense.  In order for this defense to be available, the employer must prove that there is a direct relationship between a person’s sex and the ability to perform job duties, the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification is integral to the job, and there is no less restrictive reasonable alternative to achieving the business purpose.  In other words, discrimination based on religion, sex, or national origin must be crucial to the operation of the business.  This exception is extremely narrow and rarely applies. 

CLICK HERE and HERE - for a complete look at Title VII

KEY STRATEGY – In some cases, some forms of employment discrimination may be permissible.  However, discrimination based on race or color is never permitted.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

What is the EEOC?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency whose goal is to eradicate employment discrimination in the United States.  This agency has the authority to bring suit against private employers on behalf of alleged victims.  Additionally, the EEOC may act as an adjudicatory when someone brings a discrimination claim against a federal agency. 


CLICK HERE - for more information about the EEOC

How Does the EEOC Operate to Protect Rights?

The EEOC interprets the Federal Laws currently in place to prohibit workplace discrimination.  These bodies of law include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.  Detailed discussion of these laws is beyond the scope of this article, but please refer to the link below for more information on these laws.

CLICK HERE - for more information on the laws prohibiting job discrimination

In addition to enforcing the laws, the EEOC coordinates and oversees all equal employment opportunity regulations, policies, and practices.  Due to soaring numbers of complaints, the EEOC backlog is projected to reach 47,500 complaints in the fiscal year 2007.

When a person believes she has been the victim of discrimination, she may file administrative charges with the EEOC against her employer.  The EEOC then investigates the claim to determine whether there is “reasonable cause” to believe that discrimination has occurred. 

The EEOC discourages unnecessary agency intervention.  If the EEOC finds reasonable cause, the agency encourages the parties to the dispute to engage in “conciliation,” a process of negotiation.  Only when the conciliation is unsuccessful does the EEOC, on behalf of the individual alleging discrimination, file suit in federal court.  Upon conclusion of the EEOC’s investigation, it issues a “notice of right to sue.”  This notice allows the filing party to bring suit in court within ninety days of the notice. 

CLICK HERE - for more information on conciliation

There are several advantages in getting the EEOC involved in a claimant’s complaint.  The EEOC is a part of the Federal government and as a result, the agency’s statements are given tremendous weight in court decisions.  Second, many individuals do not have the time, money, and other resources to necessary to file a law suit.  The EEOC, which is financed by tax revenue, can help indigent claimants get their day in court. 

Who is Covered by EEO Laws? 

All private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ more than fifteen individuals are subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the ADA.  Meanwhile, the ADEA applies to all private employers who employ more than twenty people, state and local governments (including school districts), labor organizations, and employment agencies.  The EPA is widely applicable, as it covers all employers who are subject to the Federal Wage and Hour Law (Fair Labor Standards Act).  Most employers are subject to this Act.

Generally speaking, American companies that employ citizens from other countries are still subject to EEO laws.  There are, however, exceptions to this rule and employers and employees should seek out additional information about how EEO laws apply to multi-national employers and multi-national employees.

The federal government must also abide by EEO laws, including Title VII, ADA, ADEA, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  It is important to remember that the procedures for processing complaints of discrimination by federal agencies.  To learn how to file such a complaint, you should contact the EEO office of the federal agency where the alleged bias occurred.

CLICK HERE - for more information on the coverage of EEO laws

KEY STRATEGY – The EEOC provides help and assistance for individuals who allege employment discrimination against their employers.

Read the next article:  Protections Against Workplace Discrimination 

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