Employment discrimination law refers to federal and state regulations that prohibit employers in the United States from treating their employees differently based on attributes unrelated to job performance, such as age, race, religion or gender. Workplace discrimination by government employers violates employees’ constitutional right to equal protection and due process, and discriminatory actions on the part of private employers may conflict with any number of constitutional protections, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Federal regulations that ensure non-discrimination in the workplace, and are typically enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Classifications Protected by Anti-Discrimination Laws

While not all classifications, or populations, are protected by laws against discrimination in the workplace, current federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their national origin, race or skin color, gender or pregnancy, age, religion, disability, or genetic information, such as family medical history. In some cases, it may also be against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on his or her sexual orientation, marital status, or political affiliation.

Types of Workplace Discrimination

There are various types of conduct that may be considered discriminatory in workplace situations that involve a protected classification, including decisions to promote, hire, transfer, or terminate an employee. By the same token, employers are not permitted to discriminate when determining pay, retirement plans, disability leave, time off or bonuses, or when they are instituting work conditions or privileges. Discrimination may also occur in the form of harassment, or retaliation for exercising a legal right or reporting workplace violations or improprieties. According to the EEOC website, lawsuits have been filed against employers in the United States for discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, female employees, disabled employees, and African-American and Latino employees, among others, and several of these lawsuits have resulted in settlements for the employees.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Perhaps the most well-known law against discriminatory conduct in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that, in its original form, prohibited discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Title VII applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, including federal, state and local government, and in the years since this law was passed, subsequent legislation has elevated several new classifications to protected status. In the 1960s, Congress passed both the Equal Pay Act, requiring gender equality in the workplace, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers aged 40 and older from unlawful discrimination in the workplace. In 1990, the American with Disabilities Act was passed, followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Filing a Claim for Workplace Discrimination

Despite Title VII’s passage more than 50 years ago, discrimination in the workplace continues to be a major problem in the United States, and is the basis for many employment law cases. Unfortunately, filing an employment discrimination claim can be a complicated process, especially for workers who don’t have a knowledgeable employment law attorney on their side. If you plan to pursue a workplace discrimination claim against your employer, it is recommended that you hire an experienced attorney to represent your case, as there are detailed steps and procedures that must be followed, such as obtaining a Right-to-Sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Consult a reputable workplace discrimination attorney today, if you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination by your employer.