Civil Rights Act
Prior to 1964, many employers discriminated in hiring based on race and gender. However, in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law Public Law 88-352. This bill prohibited discrimination in most workplaces on the basis of race and gender.
The original bill was limited to discrimination in hiring, firing and promoting. Subsequent bills, which were passed much later included language that stated certain practices were illegal including “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age in hiring, promoting, firing, setting wages, testing, training, apprenticeship, and all other terms and conditions of employment”. Since 1964, all of these rules have been enforced by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).
Some Employers Remain Exempt
For those who believe they have suffered work-related discrimination, it is important to note that some employers remain exempt from these rules. Private sector employers with fewer than 15 employees who work fewer than 20 weeks per year need no comply with the civil rights act pertaining to workplace discrimination. While this can be frustrating, it is perfectly legal.
Protections in Place Today
Employees may not be subjected to any form of harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace based on the civil rights act. In addition, hiring decisions cannot be based on age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion or whether or not a woman is or may become pregnant. Prior to the civil rights act, all of these were valid reasons for an employer to not hire a person. Today, hiring and firing practices must be the same for every person who comes through the door.
Age Discrimination: Still Alive and Well
Many people over 40 will still point to instances where they felt they were passed over for hiring or promotion based solely on their age. While this type of discrimination was strictly prohibited by the civil rights act, the fact is that it is difficult to prove. Many employers prefer a “younger” workforce and many of them do not understand the portion of the law that applies to age discrimination.
The civil rights act was clear; an employer is not allowed to make a hiring decision, a decision about promotions or a decision about firing based solely on the age of the employee. The law is very specific and applies only to employees who are age 40 or over.
Pay Gaps: They Exist Today
The equal pay bill was passed prior to the civil rights bill and specifically stated that most employees were entitled to a minimum wage. These rules were very specific and stated without equivocation that employers must pay both men and women with equal skill sets the same amount of money on an hourly basis. Today, we still have a gap of twenty-three cents per hour in many industries between what men make and what women with equal training are making.
Other Forms of Discrimination
For as much good as the civil rights act has done for employees, many people still face discrimination in the workplace. Harassment and sexual harassment occur in the workplace at alarming rates. Today, LGBT employees often face various forms of harassment in spite of these protections. Women are often hired at different rates of pay then their male counterparts. In some cases, employees report discrimination and face retaliation as a result of those reports. These are all illegal forms of discrimination.
Employees Have Right to Redress
Most employers and employees have what is considered “at will” employment. This means that employment may be terminated at any time for any reason. However, some employees are terminated based solely on discriminatory measures such as their age, gender or sexual orientation. In these cases, an employee has every right to work with an employment discrimination attorney to help them address their concerns and issues and hold the employer accountable.
Workplace discrimination rules have been in place for more than five decades. However, this has not stopped all forms of discrimination. Hiring decisions, firing and promotions which are made legally, based on an employee’s skills and abilities occur regularly in most businesses. However, there are still businesses that when faced with the potential of promoting a white man under the age of 40 will do so rather than promote a woman over the age of 40 with similar skills. These practices still remain illegal.
Contact an Employment Lawyer
If you believe you have been discriminated in the workplace it is important to know what your rights are and what redress you have. Contact The Wood Law Office, LLC at (866) 629-4679 to set up a free consultation. We can help protect your rights and help you understand what options are available to you under the law.