Overview: To prevent and respond to employee discrimination based on protected class status, an employer must have zero-tolerance policy against this discrimination and communicate to their workforce that discrimination against any individual based on protected class status will not be tolerated.
Employers should understand that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion and national origin. Among the other federal laws that prohibit discrimination are the Americans with Disabilities Act (disability), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (genetic information) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (age). State laws generally prohibit employee discrimination against the same classes protected by federal law. However, some state laws go further and consider gender identity/sexual orientation, unemployment status, and marital status to be protected classes.
An employer should implement a policy against discrimination and make sure that all employees and supervisors receive training on the policy An employer should develop and implement policies and practices that are facially neutral and do not discriminate. Further, employers should establish a multi-channeled complaint system and promptly respond to all discrimination complaints by immediately investigating and if necessary, take corrective measures and impose discipline.
Trends: There is a great deal of movement on the federal and state level to expand the protected classes under equal employment opportunity laws. Those protected under discrimination laws have advanced well beyond the traditional protected classes of race, sex, age, and disability to include genetic information, military status, transgender status, individuals with caregiving responsibilities and even unemployment status. As a result, employers can reasonably anticipate a greater number of lawsuits. Further, employers should know that there is also a trend towards class actions and allegations of widespread bias and discrimination by multiple plaintiffs. Employers need to know how to prevent and effectively respond to such claims.
Additionally, the EEOC has identified the following as priorities in its Strategic Enforcement Plan: targeting recruiting and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and individuals with disabilities; protecting immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers from discrimination; addressing emerging issues in equal employment law based on societal legal, judicial and demographic changes (discrimination based on disabilities, pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity); enforcing equal pay laws; and enabling individuals to exercise their rights under employment discrimination laws.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
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Illinois employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
A federal jury in Denver has awarded nearly $15 million to 11 warehouse workers who claimed their employer, Matheson Trucking, segregated workers by race and punished them when they complained. The lawsuit also accused white supervisors of using racial epithets and targeting black employees for downsizing.
Minnesota employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Rhode Island employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Rhode Island employers with 50 or more employees should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook
Connecticut employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Oregon employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released detailed information regarding private sector enforcement data statistics for fiscal year 2014. The statistics show that retaliation claims represented the highest percentage of the total amount of workplace discrimination charges received.
District of Columbia employers with one or more employees within the District of Columbia should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
HR guidance and support on how to develop and implement policies to prevent and respond to employee discrimination claims against protected classes.