Employer Law Newsletter
Federal Antidiscrimination Laws
Under federal law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against certain classes of employees in hiring, firing and other employment decisions. Below is a list of some of the federal antidiscrimination statutes that employers are required to comply with. Not all employers are covered under these laws, but most are bound by them.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA bars employers from discriminating in employment decisions against qualified employees who have a disability, including decisions regarding hiring, promotions, raises, training and firing. If the employee is otherwise qualified and can complete the functions of his or her job with a reasonable accommodation, the employer is required by the ADA to provide the accommodation. Reasonable accommodations may include making facilities more accessible, modifying the equipment the employee uses to complete the job or changing work schedules. Employers are not required to provide personal use items as reasonable accommodations (hearing aids, glasses) nor are they required to provide the most expensive accommodation available.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA applies to both private and public employers as well as labor organizations and employment agencies. For a private employer to be bound by the ADEA, it must have at least 20 employees. The ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are 40 years or older in employment decisions. It also prevents employers from forcing older employees into retirement or attempting to do so by threatening or actually cutting their benefits, such as retirement accounts. Employees who have been forced into retirement may be able to bring constructive discharge claims against their employers.
Equal Pay Act (EPA)
The EPA requires employers to pay men and women equally for the same or similar work. The work must require equal skill, effort and responsibility and the employees must have similar working conditions and work for a single establishment to qualify for the Act's protections. Not all pay differentials will be actionable under the EPA. Employers still are permitted to pay men and women employees different wages based on merit, seniority and the quality and quantity of their work.
Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex or religion in employment decisions, such as hiring, retention, layoffs, training, transfers, promotions, raises, performance reviews, access to facilities and benefits. Some examples of discriminatory practices include harassment based on one of the protected classes by supervisors, co-workers and in some instances, even those who do not work for the employer; and retaliation against employees who file a discrimination complaint, act as a witness or otherwise participate in a legal or internal discrimination investigation. Employers also may not make assumptions or use stereotypes in making employment decisions nor can they discriminate against individuals because of their perceived or actual association with a person in a protected class.
To learn more about developing antidiscrimination policies for the workplace or about employer's obligations under these federal laws, contact an experienced employment law attorney. Employers may have additional obligations and duties under state and local laws.
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