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
A federal jury in New Hampshire has awarded more than $31 million in damages to a former Wal-Mart pharmacist who claims the nation's largest retailer fired her for raising safety concerns about how it filled prescriptions.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a notice in the Federal Register regarding a proposed revision of the Employer Information Report (EEO-1), furthering the Obama Administration's plans to advance equal pay protections for all workers.
A downward trend in the size of settlements reversed last year, as plaintiffs figure out ways to work around a Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult for plaintiffs to prove commonality to bring a class action.
Handbook statements in the New York handbook have been added and updated as a result of laws effective January 19, 2016.
New York employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
The EEOC recently released guidance on discrimination against Muslim individuals and individuals with HIV.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights recently released guidance on transgender discrimination. The New York City Human Rights law has been amended to prohibit caregiver discrimination.
Updated to reflect amended equal pay requirements and discrimination protections based on familial status, effective January 19, 2016. See New York Enacts Women's Equality Act.
HR guidance and support on how to develop and implement policies to prevent and respond to employee discrimination claims against protected classes.