The Basics You Need To Know About Major Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination
No one wants to be treated unfairly at work, especially if they are hard-working employees giving their best every day. Sometimes people are mistreated because of personality conflicts or incompetent supervisors—unfair but legal. However, other times people are not hired, are paid less, or do not get a promotion they are entitled to due to factors like the color of their skin, their gender, or their age. Fortunately, federal and California laws prohibit these types of employment discrimination. If you suspect you are the victim of discrimination, you have could have rights under one or more of these anti-discrimination laws to compensation for your lost wages, emotional distress damages, attorney fees, and more.
Is Your Employer Covered Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is a major employment discrimination law protecting employees. Like other anti-discrimination laws, it covers a wide range of areas of employment including:
- Job Duties
- Work assignments
- Job Performance
Title VII prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, and religion and can include sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining of discrimination. Some keys points about the law include:
- It applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
- It applies to private and public employers and includes federal, state, and local governments, employment agencies, and labor organizations.
- The two main types of claims under Title VII are disparate treatment and disparate impact claims. Disparate treatment claims are the most common and involve intentionally discriminating against a person or group of people. Disparate impact claims refer to employer policies or practices that unintentionally result in discrimination.
- Compensation can include back pay, front pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
- There is a cap on the total amount of compensatory and punitive damages depending on the number of employees the employer has, ranging from $50,000 to $300,000.
Your Rights Under the Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees due to a disability. Here are some important tips on the law:
- The employer must employ 15 or more employees to be covered under the Act.
- Public and private employers are covered.
- The ADA protects an employee who has a disability, has a history of having a disability, or whom the employer perceives to be disabled. Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity of the person.
- Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees that do not place an undue hardship on the employer.
- Victims are entitled to similar compensation as those discriminated against under Title VII with the same caps. Limited exceptions could apply.
What the Age Discrimination in Employment Act Covers
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), an employer is prohibited from discriminating against employees and applicants due to their age. While providing remedies similar to those under Title VII and the ADA, there are differences in the compensation a victim is entitled to. Some basic points about this law include:
- The law applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
- The law applies to public and private employers.
- The ADEA prohibits discrimination against employees 40 years old or older.
- The three main claims under ADEA are for disparate treatment, disparate impact, or harassment based on age when it is frequent enough or severe enough to create a hostile work environment or causes an adverse employment decision against the worker.
- Victims of age discrimination may be entitled to back pay, future pay, reinstatement, and attorney’s fees. However, unlike under Title VII, they are not entitled to compensatory or punitive damages. They may be able to recover liquidated damages in the amount of their back pay if the employer’s violations were willful.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act Provides Greater Compensation Than Federal Laws
The main law in California that protects employees from discrimination in the workplace is California’s Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA). Besides protecting against the types of discrimination covered by Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA, this law protects against discrimination based on the following:
- Violation of Family and Medical Leave Care rights
- Medical condition—like cancer or genetics
- Marital status
- Genetic information
- Veteran and military status
- Gender identity, expression and sexual orientation
The FEHA provides California residents with greater protections by defining what is discrimination more broadly in some situations and awarding more compensation than under federal laws. The following exemplifies some of the greater protections under FEHA:
- FEHA covers employers with five or more employees for general discrimination claims. If the claim is for harassment, it would apply to any employer regardless of the number of employees.
- A victim could be entitled to compensation for his back pay, future pay, out-of-pocket expenses, actual damages—including for pain and suffering—punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Unlike federal laws, there is no cap on the amount of pain and suffering damages.
- FEHA was recently amended as of April 1, 2016, with new regulations, such as requiring employers to have a written harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policy, implement new sexual harassment prevention training programs, and create internal complaint processes where employees can make complaints.
If you believe you were discriminated against at work, you need to contact an experienced employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible to not miss the many deadlines in the federal and California laws that could protect you. Start an online chat today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.