Discrimination occurs when an employee suffers from unfavorable or unfair treatment due to their race, religion, national origin, disabled or veteran status, or other legally protected characteristics. Employees who have suffered reprisals for opposing workplace discrimination or for reporting violations to the authorities are also considered to be discriminated against. Federal law prohibits discrimination in work-related areas, such as recruiting, hiring, job evaluations, promotion policies, training, compensation and disciplinary action. (employeeissues.com, 2006) Aside from the obvious, unfair treatment does not always equal unlawful discrimination. Treating a person differently from others violates Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws only when the treatment is based on the presence of a protected characteristic, rather than on job performance or even on something as arbitrary as an employee's personality. Discrimination claims can sometimes be highly subjective. (employeeissues.com, 2006) Discrimination accusations are best avoided by following the law which requires only that you extend the same employment opportunities and enforce the same policies for each employee.
Discrimination laws exist to prevent discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability, and age by employers. The main discriminatory practices identified today are bias in hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, compensation, and various types of harassment. The following paragraphs outline the most common anti-discrimination laws today. (allbusiness.com, 2006) The Equal Pay Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1963. The Equal Pay Act only prohibits paying wages based on sex by employers and unions. It states that when workers perform equal work in jobs requiring certain skills, effort, and responsibility performed under similar working conditions, they should be provided equal pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act applies to employees engaged in some aspect of interstate commerce. (eeoc.gov, 2006) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in many more aspects of the employment relationship. It applies to most employers engaged in interstate commerce with more than 15 employees, labor organizations, and employment agencies. The Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Sex includes pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. It makes it illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring, discharging, compensation, or terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Employment agencies may not discriminate when hiring or referring applicants. Labor Organizations are also prohibited from basing membership or union classifications on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. (law.cornell.edu, 2006) The Nineteenth Century Civil Rights Acts, amended in 1993, ensure all persons equal rights under the law and outline the damages available to complainants in actions brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (law.cornell.edu, 2006) The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of age. An employee is protected from discrimination based on age if he or she is over 40. The ADEA contains explicit guidelines for benefit, pension and retirement plans. (eeoc.gov, 2006) The Rehabilitation Act's purpose is to promote and make more readily available employment opportunities in the public and private sectors for handicapped individuals. This is done through the elimination of discrimination and affirmative action programs. Employers covered by the act include agencies of the federal government and employers receiving federal contracts over $2500 or federal financial assistance. The Department of Labor...