Employee Rights: Employment Laws, Employment Discrimination and You

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Employee rights in the workplace is protected by numerous employment laws which are enforced by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is important to understand employment laws and employment discrimination to rule out your termination as being unlawful.

One thing we need to remember is because of this protection, we have some recourse if we believe we were discriminated.

Ending employment relationship, whether done as voluntary or involuntary as in the case of a reduction in force, brings about some difficult issues between the employee and the employer.

Involuntary termination initiated by your manager as agent of the company may pose a number of legal issues for you and your employer. It violates your employment rights.

You need to objectively understand your situation and the circumstances that led to your selection for the reduction in force or termination from your company.

Why do I stress objectively? By objectively assessing and understanding your situation, you take the emotions out of the equation so you can clearly understand what happened to you and the decisions that were made that impacted you. Then you can objectively formulate your next course of action.

I know this is not going to be easy but this is critical to ensure that you are not spending your time and energy pursuing unnecessary actions that you could use to find another employment.

Understand your company’s numerous Human Resources policies covering areas such as employment, performance reviews, discipline and termination, promotion, wages, working conditions and environment as it relates to you. This is to ensure that your employee rights were not violated or employment laws were not broken.

By doing so, you will be able to determine whether your company's practices abide with the Federal and State employment laws. Or did your company employed practices that you perceived as employment discrimination?

Ask yourself whether the company adhered to their policies, guidelines and practices as it relates to your selection for the reduction in force or your termination.

Were the company’s policies and guidelines fairly administered and applied to you?

Were you treated fairly?

Were you subjected to harassment by anyone in your company?

Were you subjected to a hostile work environment?

Were you paid appropriately?

Did the company replace you after you left?

Was there any State or Federal law prohibiting job discrimination that was violated?

Not sure what these are?

According to EEOC, the following are the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws prohibiting employment discrimination in the workplace.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first major piece of legislation that prohibits employment discrimination in the workplace. After this legislation, other Federal and State laws were passed to eliminate workplace discrimination.

The Federal laws that prohibit job discrimination are: - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Employers with 15 or more employees for at least 20 calendar weeks per year are covered. Title VII applies to any phase of employment relationship to include: compensation, hiring, promotion, transfers, discipline, termination, benefits and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

Discriminatory practices under these laws also include:
- Harassment (hostile environment) on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age; covers the following:

  • sexual harassment is also prohibited and consists of unwelcome conduct or communication of a sexual nature; harassment was based on person’s sex; requires an employee to submit to unwelcome sexual conduct as a condition of employment.
  • retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
  • employment decisions affecting you are based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities; and
  • denying employment opportunities to you because of your marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability.
  • Title VII also prohibits discrimination because you participated in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from pay differential based on sex. It prohibits the payment of a lower wage to employees of one sex compared to the rate paid to employees of the other sex for jobs requiring same skill, same effort, equal responsibility and similar working condition. Example is a woman who should be paid comparable wage for the same work requiring similar skill, effort, and responsibility in a similar working condition as men.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (Pub. L. 90-202) (ADEA), as amended, prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older.

Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government; and

The Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

For additional information on discriminatory practices and understanding your employee rights, go to EEOC website.

If you think you were not treated fairly and your selection for layoff was discriminatory, discuss your concerns with your Human Resources Department or your Employee Relations Department before you leave the company. It is always good to try to resolve your issues with your employer before you leave so you can focus on things you have to do to find your next job. You can still go to your Human Resources Department even after you have separated from your company to try to resolve any issues you had pertaining to the above employment laws.

If you cannot resolve your concerns with your company and believe you are a victim of discrimination, consult and get legal advice right away. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in your local area. EEOC is there to enforce employment laws and protect you from employment discrimination.

If you have any question or comments about your employee rights, employment discrimination or employment laws, please submit below.

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