Anti-Discrimination Laws

In Chicago and throughout Illinois, the state’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination across a variety of areas, including employment law. The Illinois Department of Human Rights is the state agency charged with enforcing the law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, military status, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities and other factors.

The following federal laws also describe employer responsibilities and protect workers from discrimination. 

Title VII, Civil Rights Act Of 1964

Title VII provides that employers with 15 or more workers may not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion or gender regarding any aspect of terms of conditions of employment.

Equal Pay Act

Under the Equal Pay Act, employers must pay men and women the same for performing substantially the same jobs. The act requires “equal pay for equal work” but doesn’t address differences in pay regarding religion, race and other differentiating characteristics between workers.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers cannot discriminate based on pregnancy and must offer accommodations to pregnant employees in certain situations.

Family And Medical Leave Act

The FMLA requires employers to provide workers with the equivalent of 12 weeks of unpaid family leave annually to be used for the adoption or birth of a child, dealing with the serious health problem of a close family member or coping with their own serious health problem.

The law, which covers employers with 50 or more workers, defines a serious health problem as an impairment, injury, illness or condition that requires at least an overnight stay in a hospital or similar facility. It requires that employees must be allowed to return to the same job or an equivalent job after the 12 weeks of leave.

Americans With Disabilities Act

The ADA requires employers with more than 15 employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for individuals suffering from physical or mental disabilities that significantly limit life activities. Disabilities as defined by the ADA can include being confined to a wheelchair, muscular system disorders, vision or hearing difficulties, some mental illnesses and the need for use of a cane or walker.

The act prohibits employers from:

  • Making employment decisions based on general information about a disability
  • Negotiating or entering contracts with other companies that would lead to discrimination against disabled individuals
  • Discriminating against a worker due to a family member or friend’s protected status under the ADA
  • Discriminating by using medical exams or inquiries about physical abilities prior to employment
  • Using discriminatory pay scales, opportunities for promotions or benefits programs

Continue learning more on our Disability Discrimination page.

Age Discrimination In Employment Act

The ADEA protects individuals ages 40 and older from age-based discrimination in decisions regarding hiring, firing and promotions in companies with more than 20 workers. However, the ADEA doesn’t stop an employer from following a genuine system of seniority that may unintentionally favor specific employees. It also does allow age to be considered in certain occupations.

Gender Discrimination Act

Gender discrimination, which may also be referred to as “sex discrimination,” occurs when a person or organization fails to treat people of different sexes, gender identities, transgender statuses or sexual orientations equally, and is prohibited under federal law.

Defining Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination, which may also be referred to as “sex discrimination,” occurs when a person or organization fails to treat people of different sexes, gender identities, transgender statuses or sexual orientations equally

Fair Labor Standards Act

Under the FLSA, employers must pay a minimum wage, along with overtime pay. The law also regulates child labor. It applies to employers who take part in interstate commerce or foreign commerce and have yearly sales of $500,000 or more.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act

ERISA includes specific requirements for employers offering workers a retirement plan or welfare benefit plan, such as health insurance. Many employers work with outside plan administrators to ensure that the law’s payment, disclosure and reporting requirements are met. Treating an employee differently because they are about to become entitled to benefits under one of these plans or have exercised rights under them is illegal.

Work With An Experienced Employment Attorney

The many state and federal anti-discrimination laws have created a complex environment in which businesses must strive to ensure that workers’ civil rights are protected. If you are an employer or employee with questions about anti-discrimination laws, consult with the experienced employment attorneys at The Wood Law Office, LLC, by calling 312-554-8600 or using the online form.