Have you ever been sued for discrimination? Employers need to make sure to not commit illegal discrimination against their employees. Knowing the basics of discrimination, and the laws against it, will help prevent lawsuits in the future.

What's Employment Discrimination?

Employers commit discrimination when they make a decision based on a protected category instead of individual merit. This applies throughout the entire employment relationship. Examples when employers can't discriminate include:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Recruiting
  • Promoting
  • Pay raises
  • Training

Not all discrimination is illegal. The category must be protected under the law to be illegal. Examples of protected categories include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Union activity
  • Pregnancy

Laws Against Discrimination

There are many federal laws against discrimination. Some examples of federal laws include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act - prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act - prohibits employment discrimination based on age (40 or older)
  • Americans With Disabilities Act - prohibits employment discrimination based on a disability
  • National Labor Relations Act - prohibits employment discrimination based on union activities

State laws usually protect the same categories as federal laws. They sometimes go beyond federal laws and protect other categories, such as marital status or sexual orientation.

Filing an Employment Discrimination Claim

Employees have a number of options if they believe their employers are committing discrimination. In most cases, they can file a discrimination claim with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This can be in person, by mail or by telephone.

Almost all discrimination laws have time limits for when an employee can file a claim. The most common time limit is 180 days from the date of the discrimination. Some states allow claims up to 300 days. An employee might not be able to obtain a remedy if he misses the time limit.

The EEOC will investigate unlawful discrimination and file a lawsuit if necessary. It'll usually give the employer an opportunity to correct any discrimination before a lawsuit is filed. This may involve informal mediation between the employee and the employer.

Private Lawsuits

An employee can file a lawsuit on his own for discrimination. He usually has to wait until the EEOC sends him a "right to sue" notice. The employee will have 90 days to bring the lawsuit after receiving the notice.

There are many ways to prove discrimination in court. Statements, e-mails and company memos can be used to show unlawful discrimination. Indirect evidence can also be used. This may include proof that people outside the protected categories were receiving better treatment.

Various remedies are available to employees who have suffered from discrimination. Examples include:

  • Back pay
  • Reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Reasonable accommodations

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Is it okay to save company e-mails and memos to my private computer to prove discrimination?
  • Do I have to file a claim with the EEOC before I can file a private lawsuit?
  • My employer discriminated against me about nine months ago. Is it too late to do anything?

Tagged as: Labor and Employment, Employment Discrimination, discrimination lawsuit