Federal law bans most employers from discriminating against their employees. The rules are intended to keep employers from discriminating against a worker on the basis of that worker’s membership or perceived membership in a protected class.

Discrimination can include failing to hire someone, terminating or demoting someone, failing to train an employee properly, reducing an employee’s pay, or any other action that may be deemed discriminatory. A West Palm Beach employment rights attorney should be contacted if you need a better understanding of how workplace discrimination works.

WHICH FEDERAL LAWS PROTECT WORKERS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION?

Employers violate the law when they discriminate on the basis of religion, race, gender, national origin, pregnancy, disability, or age (if you’re over 40). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the EEOC – enforces the following federal laws that identify protected classes:

  1. the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991
  2. the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  3. the Equal Pay Act of 1963
  4. the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  5. the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  6. the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

As well as prohibiting on-the-job discrimination, these laws also prohibit discrimination in employment advertising, compensation, benefits, and recruitment.

FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT LAWS DO NOT APPLY TO EVERY EMPLOYER

The Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act apply to private and public employers with fifteen or more employees. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act covers employers with twenty or more employees.

If you are a victim of employer harassment because you belong to a protected class, you must document the conduct that you believe constitutes discrimination or harassment. Keep copies of any documents, memos, or emails that may indicate discrimination or harassment.

Here are some important additional details about the most common types of employer discrimination reported in Florida.

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 forbids disability discrimination by employers. When a private employer has fifteen or more employees, the ADA applies.

The ADA also compels employers to offer reasonable accommodations to disabled employees and job applicants unless the accommodation puts an undue hardship on the employer. Illegal discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act includes:

  1. refusing or failing to hire a qualified applicant because of a disability
  2. refusing or failing to provide reasonable accommodations
  3. terminating an employee because of a disability

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment is illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a number of other statutes. Isolated incidents or words are not usually considered sexual harassment, but repeated incidents may create a hostile work environment and constitute harassment.

Sexual harassment includes leering, offensive jokes, and obscene emails, but it may also include assault, wrongful termination, and more. The specific behaviors vary, but sexual harassment is always intended to harass or humiliate someone because of that person’s gender.

Depending on the details of a sexual harassment claim, the cost for an employer found liable for sexual harassment can range from $100,000 to a million dollars or more, and that doesn’t include the loss of an employer’s reputation and ability to attract customers, employees, and investors.

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION

Employers cannot discriminate against employees or employment candidates because of pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical condition.

Employers also cannot discriminate in hiring, benefits, compensation, training, promotions, or any other employment-related opportunities because an employee might become pregnant in the future.

Under federal law, if an employer provides paid leave to workers with temporary disabilities, the employer must also offer paid leave to those employees who become pregnant.

WHAT IS THE RECOURSE FOR VICTIMS OF EMPLOYER DISCRIMINATION?

If you are the victim of employer discrimination in Florida, in most cases, the first step you must take is to file a formal discrimination claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Let a West Palm Beach employment rights attorney help you. You will not be allowed to sue for employer discrimination until the EEOC has investigated your claim and provided you with a “Notice of Right to Sue,” which allows you to sue an employer for discrimination in civil court.

The EEOC enforces federal employment laws, so it deals only with employers who have fifteen or more employees (and twenty or more employees for age discrimination claims). If you work for a smaller employer, have your attorney suggest the best way for you to move forward.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE EEOC INVESTIGATES A DISCRIMINATION CLAIM?

Before you can sue, you must file a claim of employer discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the discrimination incident. In some cases, that deadline may be extended to 300 days. When your claim has been processed, the EEOC may:

  1. request that both you and your employer take part in a mediation proceeding
  2. ask the employer for a response in writing, which is then forwarded to an investigator
  3. reject the claim if the EEOC has no jurisdiction or if you missed the filing deadline

When the EEOC has concluded the investigation of a claim, in most cases, it will issue a Notice of Right to Sue. When you receive a Notice of Right to Sue, you must act swiftly. A workplace discrimination lawsuit must be filed within ninety days of receiving the notice.

Workplace discrimination can trigger anxiety, depression, stress, sleeplessness, and reduced productivity. Do not try to deal with employer discrimination by yourself. Seek some counseling if you need help with the distress that workplace discrimination can cause.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF AN EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS ATTORNEY?

If you have suffered workplace discrimination, having the advice of the right employment attorney is a must. If you bring a legal action under federal anti-discrimination laws, and if you prevail, you may receive back pay, reinstatement, and/or reasonable accommodations.

You may win additional damages for quantifiable monetary losses including your court costs and lawyers’ fees. If the discrimination was intentional, malicious, or committed with reckless indifference, you may also receive punitive damages meant to deter discrimination in the future.

Don’t let embarrassment or anxiety keep you from taking action against employer discrimination. No worker in Florida should ever be an employment discrimination victim.

In south Florida, if you have been or if you are currently a victim of workplace discrimination, take your concerns to an attorney. Employment attorneys have several strategies for challenging workplace discrimination.

HOW WILL AN EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS LAWYER HANDLE YOUR CASE?

Usually, after you receive a Notice of Right to Sue, the first step is to try to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the employer. Settlements save time and money for everyone. When employer discrimination is provable, an out-of-court settlement usually resolves the matter.

But if an employer will not resolve your discrimination claim outside of the courtroom, your lawyer will probably recommend taking the case to court. The right lawyer will negotiate an acceptable settlement or provide aggressive representation in the courtroom on your behalf.

Workplace discrimination simply is not tolerated by the people of Florida. If you’ve been a victim, exercise your rights and speak to an attorney. You can be confident that the law is on your side.

Read one of our latest blogs here: Can Temporary Employees Sue For Work Injuries?