Federal law forbids both government and private employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on certain “protected characteristics” such as race or gender. States also have employment discrimination laws. If you believe you are a victim of employment discrimination, you may be able to take your employer to court.
Employment Discrimination Is Unconstitutional
Federal employment discrimination law is based on the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. No federal or state law can overrule the Constitution. In addition, Congress passed a number of employment discrimination laws in the 1960s and 1970s.
The federal courts have upheld these laws in many case decisions.Employment discrimination law is firmly established and applies everywhere in the United States. Some state laws provide even stronger protections.
Employment Discrimination Law Protects You
Employment discrimination law protects you from discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, transfers, pay, and benefits. To be illegal, the discrimination must be based on at least one of your “protected characteristics.” Protected characteristics include race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability.
The law also protects you against facing retaliation or harassment on the basis of a protected characteristic. Some protections are limited. Protection against age discrimination, for example, applies only if you are 40 or older. If you are disabled, you are protected against discrimination only if your disability doesn’t prevent you from performing the basic tasks of your job.
Enforced by the EEOC
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing nearly all federal employment discrimination laws, although it does not enforce laws that apply only to federal government employees. You may file a claim with your local EEOC by mail or in person.
You can have someone else file a claim for you, if doing so would protect your identity.The EEOC will notify the employer of the claim. It may investigate, mediate the dispute, seek a settlement from your employer, or file a lawsuit on your behalf. You may be entitled to money damages. In extreme cases, you may be able to get punitive damages.
Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Is Not Always Illegal
Several states, such as Massachusetts and Minnesota, have enacted laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In these states, you cannot be discriminated against for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Federal law, however, does not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation unless you are a federal government employee.
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