Examples Of Federal Law

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
What type of discrimination is outlawed?
Title VII makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee or job applicant on the basis of his or her race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (including pregnancy).  

It is unlawful for an employer to fire or refuse to hire an employee because of his or her  race, color, religion, national origin or sex. An employer cannot segregate, classify, fail to promote, or deprive an employee of opportunities or training because of a protected category. It is illegal to discriminate in compensation, employment terms, conditions or privileges, or unfairly discipline an employee because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin or sex.  

Job advertisements cannot show preference for or discourage someone from applying for a job because of race, color, religion, national origin or sex.

An employment agency cannot fail or refuse to refer an individual, or discriminate against that person on the basis on his or her race, color, religion, national origin or sex. A labor union may not exclude or expel a member, or otherwise discriminate against an individual based on the same protected categories.

Harassment
It is illegal to harass an employee because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Harassment can include offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct. Sexual harassment (including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other conduct of a sexual nature) is also unlawful. Harassment must be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee, such as a client or customer.

Retaliation
Title VII makes it illegal to retaliate against someone because he or she made a complaint, opposed an illegal employment practice, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an investigation or lawsuit.

Religious Accommodations
Under the law, employers must make reasonable accommodations for a person’s religious practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

Who must comply with Title VII?
Title VII makes it illegal for private and government employers, employment agencies, and labor unions to discriminate.

Title VII applies to private employers, and state and local governments with 15 or more employees (for at least five months this year or last year). The law applies to federal government employers regardless of the number of employees. An employment agency is covered regardless of how many employees it  has as long as it regularly refers employees to employers. Labor unions are included if they have at least 15 employees or operate a hiring hall.

Can employers ever legally discriminate?
It is not unlawful for an employer to hire an individual on the basis of religion, sex or national origin in certain instances where religion, sex or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that business. The exception is very limited. Alleged customer preference for a certain type of person (female as compared to male flight attendants, for example) is not sufficient to justify a bona fide occupational qualification.   

Additionally, religious schools may hire and employ individuals of a particular religion if the educational institution is owned, controlled or managed by a particular religious association, or if the school curriculum is directed towards the propagation of a particular religion.

Seniority or merit systems are not unlawful as long as the differences in compensation or privileges among employees are not the result of intentional discrimination based on the protected categories. Nor are professionally developed ability tests illegal provided they  were not intended or used to discriminate against an individual. Further, political party membership or affiliation is not a protected category under Title VII.

Time Limits for Filing a Federal Complaint
To sue under Title VII, you must first file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the most recent discriminatory act. If you work for the federal government, you need to contact the EEO Counselor at the federal agency within 45 days. Weekends and holidays are included in the time calculation.

The 300-day time limit is NOT extended while you attempt to resolve the dispute through your company’s EEO Office, union grievance or other forum. You can contact the EEOC at the same time that you contact your local office.

If more than one discriminatory act took place, the deadline applies to each specific act. Only charges made within 300 days of an incident will be investigated by the EEOC. For example, if you were denied a raise because of your sex, and then fired a year later, you can only file a charge for the discriminatory firing because a year elapsed since you were denied the raise. Regardless, the EEOC will consider all incidents to determine if there was ongoing harassment.

Process to File a Charge
Title VII requires you to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before suing your employer in court. An organization or agency may file a charge on your behalf. Once you file, the EEOC may try to settle the dispute with your employer through mediation, an informal and confidential resolution.

The EEOC will then investigate the charge. If the EEOC finds a violation, it will try to reach a settlement with the employer. It may also decide to file a lawsuit on your behalf. If it does not file a lawsuit, or does not find a violation of law, it will issue you Right to Sue notice. A Right to Sue notice allows you to file a lawsuit in court.

For more information, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
The ADEA protects people who are 40 years or older from age discrimination. The ADEA forbids discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

It is unlawful for employers to post job notices and advertisements that include age preferences, limitations or specifications.

Retaliation
The law makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an investigation or lawsuit.

Harassment
It is unlawful to harass someone on the basis of age. Harassment can include making offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct. Harassment must be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or results in an adverse employment decision (such as being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee, such as a client or customer.

Who Must Comply with the ADEA?
Private employers who have 20 or more employees who have worked for at least five months (in this year or last) must comply with the ADEA. All government employers at the federal, state and local levels must comply with the ADEA regardless of the amount of employees.  

It is unlawful for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer an individual for employment based on his or her age. It is illegal for a labor organization to exclude or expel an individual from its membership on the basis of age.

Lawful Discrimination
It is not unlawfulfor an employer to discriminate based on age in the rare circumstance where age is shown to be a “bona fide occupational qualification” reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business. An example of a bona fide occupational qualification is mandatory retirement ages for bus drivers or airline pilots for safety reasons. A seniority system not intended to discriminate based on age is lawful, as long as it doesn’t require or permit involuntary retirement of a person based on age.

Benefits
Employers are prohibited from denying benefits to older employees.  In limited circumstances, because it may be more costly for an employer to provide benefits to an older worker, an employer may be permitted to reduce benefits based on age, as long as the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is no less than the cost of providing benefits to younger workers.

Time Limits for Filing a Federal Complaint
To sue under the ADEA, you must first file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the most recent discriminatory act. If you work for the federal government, you need to contact the EEO Counselor at the agency within 45 days. Weekends and holidays are included in the calculation.

The 300-day time limit is NOT extended while you attempt to resolve the dispute through your company’s EEO Office, union grievance or other forum. You can contact the EEOC at the same time that you contact your local office.

If more than one discriminatory act took place, the deadline applies to each specific act. Only charges made within 300 days of an incident will be investigated by the EEOC. For example, if you were denied a raise because of your age, and then demoted a year later, you can only file a charge for the demotion because a year elapsed since you were denied the raise. Regardless, the EEOC will consider all incidents to determine if there was ongoing harassment.

Process to File a Charge
Title VII requires individuals to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit in court against the employer. An organization or agency may file a charge on your behalf. Once you file, the EEOC may try to settle the dispute through mediation, an informal and confidential resolution process.

The EEOC will then investigate the charge. If the EEOC finds a violation, it will try to reach a settlement with the employer. It may also decide to file a lawsuit on your behalf. If it does not file a lawsuit, or does not find a violation of law, it will issue you Right to Sue notice. A Right to Sue notice allows you to file a lawsuit in court.

For more information, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she made a complaint or filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

What type of discrimination is outlawed?
The ADA outlaws discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Harassment of an employee or applicant based on his or her current or past disability is unlawful. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as being fired or demoted).

It is unlawful to treat an employee or applicant less favorably because he or she has a history of a disability (for example, cancer in remission) or because the employer believes he or she has a disability. The law protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability. For example, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because his wife has a disability.

No employer or employment agency may print or circulate job advertisements that express any limitation, specification or discrimination based on disability.

Employers Must Make Reasonable Accommodations
The law requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations for an employee or applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer. A reasonable accommodation is a change to a work environment that would assist a person with a disability perform job duties, apply for a job or enjoy the benefits of employment. An employer is required to do or provide certain things (for example, a wheelchair accessible workplace, or a reader or interpreter for someone who is blind or hearing impaired) unless it would cause an undue hardship.

What is an undue hardship?
An undue hardship occurs when the accommodation is too difficult or too expensive based on the employer’s size, financial resources and the needs of the business. An employer cannot refuse an accommodation just because it carries some cost. If more than one accommodation is appropriate, the employer chooses which one to provide.

Who must comply with the law?
The ADA is enforced against private employers, and state and local governments that have 15 or more employees (for at least five months this year or last year). The law is enforced against federal government employers regardless of the number of employees. (Federal employees and applicants are covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, not the ADA, but the protections are mostly the same).

An employment agency, such as a temporary staffing agency or recruitment company, is covered regardless of how many employees it has as long as it regularly refers employees to employers. Labor unions are included if they have at least 15 employees or operate a hiring hall.

The ADA permits an employer to refuse to hire an individual if she poses a direct threat to the health or safety of herself or others. A direct threat means a significant risk of substantial harm.

What is considered a Disability?
A person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:

  • A person has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (walking, talking, seeing, hearing or learning).
  • A person has a history of a disability (i.e. cancer in remission)
  • An employer believes that a person has a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor, even if he or she  doesn’t have that disability (a transitory impairment is expected to last six months or less).

If you have a disability, you must be qualified to perform the essential functions or duties of a job. Thus, you must satisfy the job requirements (have necessary employment experience, education, skills or licenses), and you must be able to perform the fundamental job duties of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

What can an employer ask a job applicant or employee?
An employer may not ask a job applicant if he or she has a disability or ask about the nature of an obvious disability. An employer cannot ask medical questions or require an applicant to take a medical exam before extending a job offer. An employer can inquire if a person can perform a specific job, how he or she would perform the job and whether he or she needs reasonable accommodations.

Once the job is offered, the employment can be conditioned on an applicant answering some medical questions or taking a medical exam, as long as all employees, regardless of disability, have to answer the same questions and take the same exam.

Once a person is hired, an employer can only ask medical questions or require a medical exam if medical documentation is needed to support an employee’s request for reasonable accommodations, or if an employer believes the employee cannot safely perform a job because of a medical condition.

You do not have to tell the employer of your disability, but an employer is only required to provide reasonable accommodations for a qualified individual with a disability if he or she is aware of the disability.

Time Limits for Filing a Federal Complaint
To sue under the ADA, you must first file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the most recent discriminatory act. If you work for the federal government, you need to contact the EEO Counselor at the agency within 45 days. Weekends and holidays are included in the calculation.

The 300-day time limit is NOT extended while you attempt to resolve the dispute through your company’s EEO Office, union grievance or other forum. You can contact the EEOC at the same time that you contact your local office.

If more than one discriminatory act took place, the deadline applies to each specific act. Only charges made within 300 days of each incident will be investigated by the EEOC, but the EEOC will consider all incidents to determine if there was “ongoing harassment.”

Process to File a Charge
The ADA requires individuals to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit against the employer in court. An organization or agency may file a charge on your behalf. Once you file, the EEOC may try to settle the dispute through mediation, an informal and confidential resolution process.

The EEOC will then investigate the charge. If the EEOC finds a violation, it will try to reach a settlement with the employer. It may decide to file a lawsuit on your behalf. If it does not file a lawsuit, or does not find a violation of law, it will issue you Right to Sue notice. After you receive the notice, you can file a lawsuit in court.   

For more information, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/

sitemap Intergov foil PressOffice RegionalOffices SolicitorGeneral AppealsandOpinions ConvictionBureau CrimPros OCTF MFCU PublicIntegrityInvestigations TaxpayerProtection Antitrust ConsumerFrauds Internet InvestorProtectionRealEstateFinance CharitiesCivilRightsEnvironmentHealthCareLaborTobaccoCivilRecoveriesClaims Litigation RealPropertySOMB BudgetLegalRecruitmentHuman Resources Bureau