Federal employment discrimination is a heavily regulated subject, and when hiring an employee, there are a host of rules and regulations that an employer can run afoul of. Many of these laws only apply to certain employers, and many of these laws have exceptions. Here is an overview of the regulatory framework regarding federal employment discrimination.
Overview of Applicable Federal Laws Prohibiting Employer Discrimination
Although this list is not exhaustive, these are the most commonly litigated areas of employment discrimination law:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the primary federal agency for enforcing most of these laws.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants based on their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII also protects individuals against being discriminated against based on association with any of the above protected categories. For example, firing someone because they associate with a religious group you don't approve of would violate Title VII. Finally, Title VII protects against harassment as well as retaliation based on the protected categories listed above.
Title VII only applies to the following employers:
The Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the payment of wages for equal work. To be equal work, the work must "require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and be performed under similar working conditions." In other words, the general rule is that if a man and a woman perform the same job, they should be paid the same. The exceptions to this general rule are when difference is pay is based on "a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production or a differential based on any other factor other than sex."
Unlike other acts, the Equal Pay Act applies to practically every employer, including private employers regardless of how many employees they have.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The ADEA protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA also prohibits against harassment and retaliation based on a protected employee's age. However, the ADEA does permit employers to favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or older.
The ADEA applies to the following employers :
The Immigration and Reform and Control Act
Note that this overlaps with Title VII, but applies to employers that Title VII may not cover. This is because IRCA applies to all employers who have more than four employees and is not nearly as limited as the list of employers covered by Title VII.
The Americans with Disability Act
The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA also prohibits employment discrimination against individuals who associate with or are related to individuals with disabilities. For example, this means that you cannot refuse to hire someone because their child is disabled.
What qualifies as discrimination under the ADA can be fairly complex but there are a few simple rules to keep in mind in order to comply with the ADA:
The ADA applies to the following employers:
Get Legal Help Now
Federal employment laws can be confusing, but employers must do everything they can to ensure compliance. If your business is defending against a federal employment discrimination claim, speak to an employment law attorney right away.