Labor and Employment

Laws Against Employment Discrimination in Hawaii

By Lisa Guerin, ​J.D., Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley
Hawaii's employment discrimination law applies to employers of all sizes.

Employees in Hawaii are protected from workplace discrimination based on certain traits, such as gender or race. Congress and the Hawaii legislature have decided that these traits, called protected characteristics, are not a fair and legal basis for employment decisions—including who to hire, who to fire, and how much to pay employees.

Below, we explain your rights under the state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including which employers must comply with the laws and which employees are protected. (For more on this topic, see our employment discrimination and harassment page.)

Federal Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination

Federal laws—including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act—protect employees in all 50 states against discrimination based on:

  • race
  • color
  • religion
  • sex
  • pregnancy
  • national origin
  • age (applies only to employees who are 40 years of age or older)
  • genetic information, or
  • physical or mental disability.

These federal laws make it illegal for employers of a certain size to discriminate in all aspects of employment, including hiring, benefits, promotions, pay, discipline, and termination. You are protected from discrimination if you work for a private employer with at least 15 employees (or 20 employees, for age discrimination).

Government employees are protected from discrimination, too. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to all federal, state, and local government employers. For other types of discrimination, all federal government employers are covered, and state and local government employers are covered if they have at least 15 employees.

Hawaii Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination

Hawaii’s Employment Practices Act bans discrimination by all employers, private and public, no matter how small. The following characteristics or activities are protected:

  • race or color
  • ethnicity or national origin
  • sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • religion
  • age
  • disability (including AIDS/HIV status)
  • genetic testing information
  • marital status
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity and gender expression
  • arrest and court record (except convictions directly related to the job)
  • credit history or credit report (unless the information directly relates to a bona fide occupational qualification)
  • status as a victim of sexual or domestic violence (only if the employer is notified or otherwise knows)
  • being subject to a wage assignment for child support, or
  • absence from work for participation in the National Guard.

Agencies That Enforce Discrimination Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination. The EEOC website provides details on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the primary federal law that prohibits employment discrimination, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other federal laws. See Laws Enforced by EEOC for details. See our article on how to file an EEOC claim or visit the EEOC’s website for more information.

In Hawaii, the Civil Rights Commission enforces Hawaii’s Employment Practices Law. You can find more information on these laws, including information on how to file a complaint, at the Commission’s website.

Finding an Employment Law Attorney in Hawaii

If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, you should talk to an experienced Hawaii employment lawyer. A lawyer can assess your situation, explain the laws that might apply, and evaluate the strength of your claims. A lawyer can also advise you on how to proceed, including filing a complaint or lawsuit, and what damages might be available if you win.

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