The Complete Guide to Employment Discrimination in 2020

The Complete Guide to Employment Discrimination in 2020
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Satisfactory salary and numerous other financial benefits are undoubtedly the ultimate motivational factor to employees. However, working in a pleasant and affirmative environment filled with respect and appreciation is among the top five determining motivators among workers. For this reason, employers need to secure a supportive, encouraging, and discrimination-free working environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For this reason, this article will present to you the different types of employment discrimination. It will also clarify the role of the federal legislative body, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in offering protection against discrimination at the workplace. 

What is the EEOC and How Does it Function?

When workers feel they have experienced discrimination or harassment at work, they address their complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC is a federal body responsible for taking action upon various discrimination complaints to secure equal treatment for all in a work environment. Once it gets the discrimination complaint, this legislative body conducts a comprehensive investigation, in an attempt to make a settlement between the employer and the discrimination victim. However, if this settlement cannot be reached, the EEOC is responsible for pressing charges against employment discrimination.

This Washington DC-based federal commission also puts considerable effort into preventing future cases of work discrimination by devising various discrimination-free programs and policies.

This federal commission that battles unfair treatment at the workplace was established by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, whose title VII strictly prohibits employment discrimination. According to this ground-breaking anti-discrimination legislative act, “Federal contractors and subcontractors must take affirmative actions to ensure equal access to employment without considering race, color, sex, national origin.”

Therefore, If you had been treated differently at work because of your age, religion, origin, race, gender, disability, or sexual identity, you had been a victim of employment discrimination. This article will offer explanations of different kinds of workplace discrimination and show you how to fight for equal rights and treatment at work. Providing a tolerant and embracing work environment is a two-way process that requires a significant effort of the human resources department and senior management. This ultimate guide to employment discrimination will show some useful trends in securing an appreciative and encouraging work environment in 2020. 

Different Types of Discrimination You Can Encounter

Employment discrimination may take many forms, and sometimes it is not a single event. It is a long-lasting process that may not be recognized as unequal treatment at first. However, certain situations that may occur at work are perfect examples of various discriminating behaviors.

  • When a company seeking an employee specifies the desired age or gender for a position. This is usually related to the age range, and it goes in favor of the younger population.
  • When a company deprives workers of specific benefits and compensations, like paid overtime.
  • When an equally qualified person of a specific gender is paid less or more than another worker in the same position.
  • When senior management makes discriminatory choices in assigning maternity or disability leaves.
  • When a company denies employees access to certain facilities.

1.   Age Discrimination

Every employer that specifies the desired age range in the job advertisement has already discriminated against possible employees. The fact is that some industries consider workers over thirty as being old and already burnt out. Furthermore, people over 45 seeking jobs will face more difficulties than younger applicants. However, the number of workers older than 55 is expected to increase to 41 million by 2024, compared to 28 million in 2008. The tendency of older workers to keep their jobs and postpone retirement is also on the rise.

Simultaneously, there is no evidence that experienced workers have underperformed compared to their younger colleagues. Besides, federal law on age discrimination strictly forbids payment discrepancies based on workers’ age. Apart from being called or considered too old for a position, there may be some discriminatory notions regarding financial compensation that workers of a certain age have to face. Namely, numerous employees think that “older” workers will present a more significant expense in salary, pension, benefits costs, and for this reason, they opt for younger employees.

These are all common excuses for age discrimination policies in companies that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act from 1967 aimed to curb. This act protects people of 40 and older, providing them equal treatment in every employment aspect, including hiring, promotion, firing, and compensation. Bear in mind that this age discrimination act refers to employers with over 20 workers and labor organizations that provide work for over 25 people. The ADEA also applies to employment agencies and governing bodies on federal, state, and local levels. Military personnel and independent contractors are exempted from this rule.

2.   Wage Discrimination

This type of employment discrimination refers to all unequally distributed wages among equally- qualified workers of a different gender. This means that male employees may expect higher wages than females working in the same positions and sharing the same qualifications. It may also refer to unfairly distributed benefits and compensations, like overtime.

The passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1968 provided much-needed protection from sex-based discrimination related to wage distribution. This legislature strictly prohibits a company’s management from offering a higher salary to any person for specific work if another person is doing the same job for a lower salary. In addition, the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act introduced into law the EEOC’s amendment that each unfair paycheck should be regarded as a separate case of wage discrimination. In this way, this anti-discriminatory act extended the statute of limitations for submitting complaints related to wage discrimination.

Another legislation that ensures fair wage distribution is the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), which is responsible for determining the minimum wage and securing overtime payment. It explains in detail what is considered overtime work (more than 40 hours a week), and what amount of financial compensation workers should get for it. This essential fair labor act also included significant amendments aimed at prohibiting child labor. As you can see, a number of federal acts protect workers’ rights to equal pay. However, when you experience wage discrimination, make sure to consult your state laws on this issue. New York state labor laws are in accordance with the FLSA regulations for overtime pay.

3.   Discrimination Due to Pregnancy or Disability

We will tackle the sensitive issue of discrimination based on the employees’ need for a disability or maternity leave. Pregnancy should be amazing news for future parents. However, many managers will take discriminatory actions against women who announce it. Even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from treating pregnant women differently than any other worker or job applicant, the EEOC received over 2000 complaints related to pregnancy discrimination in 2019. These women were either fired or deprived of promotion once they revealed their good news. Apart from learning the laws that protect you from pregnancy discrimination, you should also learn everything you need to know about maternity leave. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees are eligible to take a 12-week unpaid leave within a year in case of:

  • Giving birth and caring for a newborn child
  • Caring for an adopted child
  • Caring for a close family member suffering from serious illness or health condition
  • Taking medical leave to deal with harmful health conditions

Some states went further in providing additional benefits to workers. For example, California employment laws have included Paid Family Leave health insurance that provides 6-week paid leave. New York state also offers 10-week paid medical leave at 55% of the weekly state average. This should extend to 12-week paid leave at 65% of the state’s weekly average wage by 2021.

Before you tell your employer that you are pregnant, make sure you are eligible for family medical leave and that your company supports this act.

If you are a qualified worker with a disability, you may have experienced some type of discrimination at work. If this is the case, you should refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect your rights. This protective act, devised to curb this type of employment discrimination, prohibits unequal treatment of qualified workers with disabilities during the hiring or any other employment process.

4.   Sex Discrimination

According to EEOC statistics, more than 23,000 complaints of sex-related employment discrimination were filed in 2019, which makes for about 34% of overall discrimination claims, to be precise. This percentage places sex discrimination right behind retaliation, which is the primary reason for discrimination at work in the USA.

Here are some of the common discriminatory situations LGBTQ working population face at work:

  • A company refuses to hire a transgender woman.
  • A company fires an employee planning to undergo a gender reassignment procedure.
  • A transgender employee is deprived of using the restroom that corresponds to their gender.
  • A company refuses to promote or give raises to workers of a specific sexual orientation.
  • An organization fails to provide health insurance benefits to a female employee whose spouse is also a woman. In contrast to this, a male employee in the same position is entitled to these benefits.
  • An employee is a victim of verbal abuse and harassment because of their sexual orientation.

Despite all these horrific examples of discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is some good news. Namely, the Supreme Court ruled on June 15th, 2020 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects the LGBTQ population from discrimination at the workplace. This rule also stated  that a business that fires a gay or transgender person because of their sexual orientation “defies the law.” This is an unexpected but encouraging decision for all LGBTQ employees.

Other types of employment discrimination imply any unfair treatment of employees of a different race, skin color, or religion. Unfortunately, racial discrimination complaints made up 33% of all employment discrimination complaints in 2019, while religious discrimination complaints made up for 3.7% of the overall number.

What to Do When You Feel Discriminated at Work?

If you found yourself in any of the situations described, here are steps to prove this unequal treatment you have suffered at work. It is not sufficient just to say that you were discriminated against because you are female, an older worker, or gay. You have to compile a list of firm evidence that clearly shows that you were the victim of racial, religious, sex, age, or gender discrimination compared to other employees. When you prepare to submit the discrimination complaint to the EEOC, make sure that you provide the following evidence:

  1. That you were treated differently than other employees because of your race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, or age. The EEOC will ask for detailed information about the person you think was discriminating against you, so be sure you are well-informed.
  2. That someone else working in the same position as you had a more favorable treatment because of their race, religion, age, and so on. Provide relevant evidence that this person worked at the exact position, carrying the same responsibilities as you at the time discrimination happened.
  3. There was no other non-discriminatory reason for the company’s management to mistreat you in this specific situation. You have to be sure that the other employee was treated favorably because of age, race, sex, or gender discrimination, and not because this person has more skills or job qualifications than you.

Once you are sure you have obtained all the relevant evidence to prove your employment discrimination case, you have to submit in forms of testimony, documents, or statistics.  As you can see, this may be a time-consuming and exhausting process that requires legal help. For this reason, you should seek the advice of experienced professionals at Cilenti and Cooper.

Human resources management plays a significant role in providing a supportive and appreciative working environment where all workers will be treated equally. However, there are many HR issues these professionals need to tackle to prevent employment discrimination and turn the hostile working environment into an encouraging one. For this reason, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) has prepared the SHRM Essentials of Human Resources program that tackles essential human resource issues. It also offers practical knowledge and strategies needed for HR managers to face various challenges daily.

Tips on Tackling Employment Discrimination in 2020

The new decade has brought new challenges in preventing workplace discrimination. One of the first things that are expected to happen in 2020 is the rise of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This means creating a work environment that allows employees to thrive and improve their abilities. Hopefully, business owners and managers will embrace these principles and include them in hiring processes. Learning to accept different people with different qualities may be a difficult step to take, but this can be a step towards a more productive and less discriminating work environment.

It appears that resumes will no longer play a crucial role in the recruitment process, since many companies have turned to gamification instead. These organizations use artificial intelligence tools to create games that test the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral features of possible employees. Applying gamification in the hiring process may be the end of discriminatory policies, since this process will be based on someone’s performance and not their personal features.

We live in turbulent times when various discrimination issues need to be addressed more than ever. Hopefully, the introduction of workplace policies based on diversity and inclusion will help to curb employment discrimination. The Supreme Court’s rule on LGBTQ sex discrimination is one step in the right direction.

Final Words

This complete guide on employment discrimination presented you with various types of discrimination employees can face at work. It has also introduced you to the EEOC, the legislative body in charge of supporting federal discrimination laws and tackling various discrimination complaints. You will also find steps you need to take to file such a claim in case you have experienced unfair treatment at work  You can always seek the help of professionals at the Cilenti & Cooper wage and hour law firm to file the discrimination complaint and protect yourself from employment discrimination.

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