Federal Discrimination Law for Employers

In the United States, employers have to be very careful with employment practices because there are a wide variety of rules and regulations that must be followed if they do not want to open themselves up to a potential lawsuit. Some of the most important laws deal with discriminating against certain minority employees. Federal discrimination law is thus important for each business to understand and take measures to comply with.

Managers of government enterprises are limited by the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution from broadly using any bias in the way it treats one employee over another. These particular restrictions are not imposed on private employers; however, similar requirements are generally mirrored in federal statutes.

Many of these requirements are set forth in Section 1981 of the U.S. code and allow businesses to be prosecuted for workplace harassment and intentional discrimination against certain groups based on their race, sex, national origin, physical disability or age. More broadly speaking, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers with more than 15 employees who transaction businesses across state boundaries (which has been very broadly interpreted) from any discriminatory practices when hiring or firing employees. This act also prevents the business from giving preferential treatment to any group in terms of differences in compensation or other benefits of employment.

This act protects people of different colors, sexes, religions, and countries of origin. The act also applies to employment agencies and unions. In 1990 with the passage of the American with Disabilities Act, disabled individuals were added as a protected class. It has also forced many businesses to install handicap accessible entrances to their establishment to make sure that potential customers and employees are not denied access just because they are in a wheelchair. The act also covers those individuals who are mentally disabled.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) expanded discrimination protection to people who are over 40 years of age. These protections extend out from the workplace to also cover how various pension and benefit plans are managed.

Under federal discrimination law, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for overseeing that these laws a properly enforced. The commission publishes guidelines to help businesses comply with the law. They can also bring actions against employers that they believe have violated the law. Employees that feel that they have a valid discrimination claim can file a complaint with the EEOC. In most costs, a person must contact the EEOC within 45 days of the particular incident that motivated the complaint.

Businesses can take many steps to make sure that their employment practices do not run afoul of federal discrimination laws. Managers should keep a detailed record of each hiring and firing decisions, listing the reason behind each decision and making sure that any action can be explained outside of a discriminatory motive. Additionally, consultants or full time employees should be responsible for reviewing the latest federal discrimination rules and determinations and updating the company's policy to comply with them. By taking these precautionary steps businesses can lessen their chances of a very costly lawsuits or fines.

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