Video 5 – Civil Rights; Discrimination; Disabilities & Employment American law strongly protects certain categories of persons from discriminatory treatment in employment and as guests. These laws apply to virtually all hospitality businesses. The laws derive from different origins, but the basic issue is that discrimination is prohibited on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender and disability. For employment only, there may not be discrimination based upon age for persons over 40 years old. For persons with disabilities, not only must there not be discrimination, but there is an affirmative duty to provide accommodations to assist employees or guests. The requirements are very specific as to the definitions of a disability and the accommodations which are required. See the Americas with Disabilities Act (ADA) website for good information. Disabled persons who use service animals to assist them are protected by allowing the service animal to accompany the disabled person anywhere except for clearly dangerous situations. That means that service animals may go into restaurants, hotels, airplanes, theaters and all places where the person may go. There may be no extra cost for the service animal in a hotel or vehicle. Certain animals are termed “companion” or “comfort” animals, which are prescribed by a medical doctor for persons with anxiety or mental disorders. These are not service animals, so they are not allowed in restaurants and are not required to be admitted into other businesses, but in many states a companion animal must be allowed into residential homes which otherwise prohibit pets. There are two types of approved service animals, as established by ADA rules which took effect in 2012: dogs and miniature horses. Certain other animals do legitimately assist disabled persons, including birds, monkeys and pigs, but only dogs and miniature horses now enjoy the privileges as service animals. A hospitality business may ask only two questions to determine whether it is a service animal: 1) Do you have a disability? (You may not ask what kind of disability or request proof of the disability.; and 2) Is this a service animal which assists with your disability? (You may not ask for any proof that it is a service animal.) Even disabled persons, or their service animals, are required to comply with reasonable rules of the business. If the persons or animals are noisy, dangerous or otherwise create a nuisance, then they may be denied service or removed from the establishment. There is a burden on the business, however, to show that the removal was done for a legitimate reason and not as a matter of discrimination. If the disabled person or their dog causes damages, these may assessed against the guest, but no damage deposit may be required as a prerequisite to service. Employees must be treated without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, gender and disability. Claims of discrimination and harassment by employers are a major source of litigation. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission assists in investigation, settlement and litigation of employee claims. A business should set forth its non-discriminatory policies in an employee handbook, then provide supervision to avoid discrimination or harassment. There should be a reporting and investigative procedure within the company to check on employee claims. It is very important that discrimination or harassment claims be properly investigated and acted upon to prevent discrimination. There are many lawsuits in courts about discrimination and harassment claims. American law, in addition to anti-discrimination laws and disability access regulations, has strict regulations about employee safety, minimum wages and overtime requirements for hourly wage workers. In most states, however, the laws are not protective of workers as to job terminations. The concept of “at will” employment means that employees are free to quit when they want and employers are free to terminate employees when they want, with or without good cause. There are some restrictions on this for large companies, and there are unemployment benefits which may be due for laid-off workers, but in general there is no protection for job security. Remember, however, that termination is not allowed for reasons of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability or age. The laws in many other countries provide greater protection for employees’ rights. Some foreign laws make it extremely difficult to terminate an employee, even for unsatisfactory work or failure to comply with work rules. There are often requirements for severance pay. European employment laws often provide generous benefits for vacations, maternity leave and pensions. A U.S. based company must comply with American anti-discrimination laws everywhere in the world, but wage and working conditions are governed by the local laws. The importance of this is that a global company must be aware of the laws in the country where it is doing business, as well as U.S. laws which prohibit specified discrimination. American and European companies are also required to comply with laws that prohibit corrupt activities while doing business in foreign countries. The U.S. law is called the Foreign Corruption Practices Act. Essentially it says that it is illegal to provide any benefit to a foreign government official for the purposes of gaining favorable treatment. In many countries, including the U.S., it may be difficult to get results through government bureaucracies, such as licensing agencies and transport of goods through Customs, without paying a fee to “expedite” the procedures. The penalties for making payment to a corrupt government official are severe, including fines and imprisonment. The United States Department of Justice is warning that companies must take these laws seriously. There is currently a case involving Wal-Mart’s activities in Mexico in which payments were allegedly made to government officials to expedite Wal-Mart’s required business licenses while its competitors’ licenses were not so fortunate. The lesson here is that companies should behave ethically when operating in foreign countries and must be in compliance with laws of that country and its home country.