Understanding Employee Discrimination Laws in the US

Discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that is prohibited by law in the United States. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws that protect employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 years or older), disability, or genetic information. Employers must provide notices to all employees informing them of their rights under these laws and of their right not to suffer retaliation. The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also practices that have the effect of discriminating against people based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to ensure that hired employees are legally authorized to work in the US. Employers that impose citizenship requirements or give preferences to US citizens with hiring or employment opportunities can also violate the IRCA. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age when men and women perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions. Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. A person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more important life activities, has a history of such disability, or is considered to have a disability. Reasonable accommodations may be needed to apply for a job, perform job functions, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment enjoyed by people without disabilities.

Such accommodations may include making it easy for people with disabilities to access and use existing facilities used by employees; restructuring work; modifying work schedules; granting additional unpaid leave; reassigning to a vacant position; purchasing or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying exams, training materials, or policies; and providing readers or interpreters Qualified. Before making an offer of employment, an employer cannot ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants can be asked about their ability to perform work functions. A job offer may be conditional on the results of a medical exam, but only if the exam is mandatory for all employees who fall into the same job category. Employees and applicants who are currently engaged in illegal drug use are not protected by the ADA when an employer acts on the basis of that use. Testing for illegal drug use is not considered medical tests and, therefore, is not subject to ADA restrictions on medical testing. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 introduced important changes to the federal laws against employment discrimination enforced by the EEOC.

Enacted in part to overturn several Supreme Court decisions that limited the rights of people protected by these laws, the Act also provides additional protections. It authorizes compensation and punitive damages in cases of intentional discrimination and provides for obtaining attorneys' fees and the possibility of holding jury trials. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits discrimination against applicants, employees, and former employees on the basis of genetic information. This includes prohibiting employers from using genetic information in all employment decisions; restricting employers from requesting or acquiring genetic information; maintaining confidentiality of any acquired genetic information; and prohibiting employers from discriminating against individuals based on their genetic information.

Cornelius Maxon
Cornelius Maxon

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