The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), it
is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:
- hiring and firing;
- compensation, assignment, or classification of
- transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall;
- job advertisements;
- use of company facilities;
- training and apprenticeship programs;
- fringe benefits;
- pay, retirement plans, and disability leave; or
- other terms and conditions of employment.
Discriminatory practices under these laws also include:
- harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex,
national origin, disability, or age;
- retaliation against an individual for filing a charge
of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing
- employment decisions based on stereotypes or
assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a
certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with
- denying employment opportunities to a person because of
marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race,
religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII
also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places
of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.
Employers are required to post notices to all employees advising them of their rights under the laws EEOC enforces and
their right to be free from retaliation. Such notices must be accessible, as
needed, to persons with visual or other disabilities that affect reading.
Note: Many states and municipalities also have enacted
protections against discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation,
status as a parent, marital status and political affiliation. For information,
please contact the EEOC District
Office nearest you.
Other Discriminatory Practices Under Federal EEO Laws
Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination,
but also practices that have the effect of discriminating against individuals
because of their race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.
National Origin Discrimination
- It is illegal to discriminate against an individual
because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics
common to a specific ethnic group.
- A rule requiring that employees speak only English on
the job may violate Title VII unless an employer shows that the requirement
is necessary for conducting business. If the employer believes such a rule
is necessary, employees must be informed when English is required and the
consequences for violating the rule.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986
requires employers to assure that employees hired are legally authorized to work
in the U.S. However, an employer who requests employment verification only for
individuals of a particular national origin, or individuals who appear to be or
sound foreign, may violate both Title VII and IRCA; verification must be
obtained from all applicants and employees. Employers who impose citizenship
requirements or give preferences to U.S. citizens in hiring or employment
opportunities also may violate IRCA.
Additional information about IRCA may be obtained from
the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment
Practices at 1-800-255-7688 (voice), 1-800-237-2515 (TTY for
employees/applicants) or 1-800-362-2735 (TTY for employers) or at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/osc.
- An employer is required to reasonably accommodate the
religious belief of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so
would impose an undue hardship.
Title VII's broad prohibitions against sex discrimination
- Sexual Harassment - This includes practices ranging
from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a
hostile environment for persons of either gender, including same sex
harassment. (The "hostile environment" standard also applies to
harassment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, age, and
- Pregnancy Based Discrimination - Pregnancy, childbirth,
and related medical conditions must be treated in the same way as other
temporary illnesses or conditions.
Additional rights are available to parents and others
under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is enforced by the U.S.
Department of Labor. For information on the FMLA, or to file an FMLA complaint,
individuals should contact the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division,
Employment Standards Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. The Wage and Hour
Division is listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government,
Department of Labor or at http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd_org.htm.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The ADEA's broad ban against age discrimination also
- statements or specifications in job notices or
advertisements of age preference and limitations. An age limit may only be
specified in the rare circumstance where age has been proven to be a bona
fide occupational qualification (BFOQ);
- discrimination on the basis of age by apprenticeship
programs, including joint labor-management apprenticeship programs; and
- denial of benefits to older employees. An employer may
reduce benefits based on age only if the cost of providing the reduced
benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing benefits to
Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) prohibits
discrimination on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits, where
men and women perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the
same employer under similar working conditions.
- Employers may not reduce wages of either sex to
equalize pay between men and women.
- A violation of the EPA may occur where a different wage
was/is paid to a person who worked in the same job before or after an
employee of the opposite sex.
- A violation may also occur where a labor union causes
the employer to violate the law.
Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of
disability in all employment practices. It is necessary to understand several
important ADA definitions to know who is protected by the law and what
constitutes illegal discrimination:
- Individual with a Disability
- An individual with a disability under the ADA is a
person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one
or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is
regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities are activities
that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty such as
walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, and working.
- Qualified Individual with a Disability
- A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is
someone who satisfies skill, experience, education, and other job-related
requirements of the position held or desired, and who, with or without
reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of that
- Reasonable Accommodation
- Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not
limited to, making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible
to and usable by persons with disabilities; job restructuring; modification
of work schedules; providing additional unpaid leave; reassignment to a
vacant position; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or
modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; and providing
qualified readers or interpreters. Reasonable accommodation may be necessary
to apply for a job, to perform job functions, or to enjoy the benefits and
privileges of employment that are enjoyed by people without disabilities. An
employer is not required to lower production standards to make an
accommodation. An employer generally is not obligated to provide personal
use items such as eyeglasses or hearing aids.
- Undue Hardship
- An employer is required to make a reasonable
accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability unless doing so
would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.
Undue hardship means an action that requires significant difficulty or
expense when considered in relation to factors such as a business' size,
financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.
- Prohibited Inquiries and Examinations
- Before making an offer of employment, an employer may
not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a
disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform job
functions. A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical
examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering
employees in the same job category. Medical examinations of employees must
be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
- Drug and Alcohol Use
- Employees and applicants currently engaging in the
illegal use of drugs are not protected by the ADA when an employer acts on
the basis of such use. Tests for illegal use of drugs are not considered
medical examinations and, therefore, are not subject to the ADA's
restrictions on medical examinations. Employers may hold individuals who are
illegally using drugs and individuals with alcoholism to the same standards
of performance as other employees.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991
The Civil Rights Act of 1991
made major changes in the federal laws against employment discrimination
enforced by EEOC. Enacted in part to reverse several Supreme Court decisions
that limited the rights of persons protected by these laws, the Act also
provides additional protections. The Act authorizes compensatory and punitive
damages in cases of intentional discrimination, and provides for obtaining
attorneys' fees and the possibility of jury trials. It also directs the EEOC to
expand its technical assistance and outreach activities.