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
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reached a novel settlement with Bon-Ton Stores in a discrimination case brought by a domestic violence victim, which he calls a "model for other employers." Under New York state law, domestic violence victims are a protected class.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an employer using the services of a staffing agency may be held liable under federal and state civil rights laws for racial discrimination claims made by temporary employees.
The EEOC has proposed changes to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) that will impact employer-sponsored wellness programs. The proposed rule would allow employers that offer wellness programs to offer incentives in exchange for an employee's spouse providing information about his or her health status.
A number of new laws passed as part of the Women's Equality Act will take effect in New York in 2016.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Pennsylvania employment law requirements HR must follow in respect to FMLA.
New York employers with four or more employees should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
California employers with five or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more consecutive calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year are covered under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for discrimination and harassment purposes and 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.