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Discrimination: Federal

Discrimination requirements by state

Authors: James Anelli and Michael Gardner


  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces numerous federal laws that prohibit various forms of discrimination in the workplace. Covered employers must comply with the EEOC's reporting and recordkeeping requirements. See Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Employers can be liable for disparate treatment or intentionally discriminating against employees or applicants in a protected class. Employers can also be liable for enacting policies and practices that have a discriminatory effect, or disparate impact, on employees or applicants in a protected class, even if the employer had no intent to discriminate. See Legal Issues and Theories of Discrimination.
  • Under the federal antidiscrimination laws, applicants, employees and former employees are protected from employment discrimination if they are a member of a protected class. Those classes are: race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability and genetic information. There are also additional protected classes pursuant to other federal laws such as military status and citizenship status. See Protected Classes.
  • Managing discrimination means that employers must adequately train employees and supervisors, as employers can be liable for the discriminatory actions of employees and supervisors. Employers should institute policies, practices and procedures that protect employers from discrimination claims, ideally by preventing them in the first place. See Managing Discrimination and Equal Opportunity.
  • Employees seeking to file discrimination lawsuits or claims must allege certain elements to maintain a claim. While employees may assert various causes of action, employers may pursue a wide variety of defenses against discrimination claims. See Litigating an Employment Discrimination Claim.