The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission aims to protect employees from discrimination, but that has not stopped discrimination from being a perennial problem in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of age, color, disability, equal pay, genetics, national origin, race, or religion. Women should be aware of the protections provided and what practices are considered discriminatory.
Publishing a job advertisement that shows preference for a certain demographic, for example “Catholics only” or “male,” would be considered a violation of EEOC laws as it excludes anyone not of a certain religious orientation or sex. State and federal equal opportunity laws forbid employers from making pre-employment inquiries related to race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, unless the job clearly justifies it. Employers may not discriminate when making redundancies nor can they discriminate when recalling employees after a layoff. Discriminatory practices also include forcing an employee to resign by making the work environment intolerable.
Harassment is repetitive behavior intended to disturb or upset. In the workplace it can be an unwanted sexual advance in which the consequences of refusing are disadvantageous to the victim. It is illegal to harass an employee because of race, color, religion, sex, including pregnancy; national origin, age, disability or genetics. It is also illegal to harass someone because they have complained about discrimination or taken action connected to it. Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal if it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or if it results in the victim being fired or demoted.
The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. For example, providing a ramp for a wheelchair user or providing a reader or interpreter for a blind or deaf employee or applicant would be considered reasonable accommodations.
Salaries and Benefits
Salary and benefits must be paid fairly including sick and vacation leave, insurance, access to overtime as well as overtime pay, and retirement programs. Men and women in the same workplace must be given equal pay for equal work. That means an employer may not discriminate when it comes to such things as hiring, firing and promotions. It also means an employer may not discriminate when granting breaks, approving leave, assigning work stations, or setting any other term or condition of employment.
Caroline Banton has more than 14 years of experience in the communications and publishing fields, working in global development and finance. Her articles have covered business, economics and recruitment, among other topics. Banton holds an M.B.A. in marketing management.