The U.S. has a number of anti-discrimination and harassment laws that prohibit businesses from discriminating against employees based on a number of factors including age, disability, race, sex, pregnancy, and citizenship.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Amended in 1991 to allow victims to recover damages, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.” This includes when a person in authority is demanding sexual favors from a subordinate and when sexual comments or jokes create a hostile environment that interferes with an employee’s performance or creates a threatening or offensive work environment. Employers are required to take reasonable care to prevent harassment and take action to promptly correct harassment once it has occurred.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): A business cannot refuse to hire a women because of her pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. Pregnant women must be treated in the same manner as other employees who have the same ability or inability to work. Discrimination in this context also includes choosing not to hire a women if she has, or an employer believes she has, the intention to become pregnant.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): This law protects workers over 40 who are discriminated against on the basis of age when businesses are hiring, promoting, choosing who to discharge, and calculating compensation.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Discrimination against disabled people not only in employment, but also in schools, transportation, and other public places is illegal. The purpose is to guarantee the disabled have equal opportunities in life. For businesses, this means not asking about someone’s physical capabilities beyond those required to perform the job. Further, employers must make reasonable accommodation to allow an employee with disability to perform their work.
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA): This law was passed in 2008 and prevents workplaces from screening applicants or treating them unfairly based on genetic differences that may affect their health. In addition to preventing discrimination by employers, it also prevents discrimination by health insurance companies.
- Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009: This law applies to all protected categories under Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. This law allows individuals who are subject to pay discrimination to file a complaint within 180 days of when the discriminatory compensation practice is adopted, when they become subject to a discriminatory practice, or anytime they receive compensation that is based on this discriminatory compensation decision.
- California Anti-Discrimination Laws: The state of California also has broad protections in place that prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, skin color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, or sexual orientation.
With all the different laws on harassment and discrimination, setting up policies in your business to prevent problems is important. This should include training on what conduct is and is not allowed, training on how to handle situations when they arise, and a clear commitment on the part of your business to punish any inappropriate behavior. The experienced business attorneys at Chase Law Group, P.C. can help you put together a policy for your business, set up the necessary training, and work with business owners and human resources staff to appropriately address any issues that occur. Call (310) 545-7700 to get started today.