Phoenix Arizona Discrimination Law Blog

What types of discrimination are banned under federal law?

Americans discriminate against one another left and right. They choose their friends based on skin color and national origin. They avoid speaking to people of different religious persuasions. And, they judge people because they have gray hair and a few wrinkles. On a personal level, in terms of forming friendships, federal law doesn't seek to interfere -- and it allows people to associate with whomever they choose. On an employment law level, however, discrimination is unlawful.

Here are the most common types of discrimination specifically banned under federal law:

Resolving an EEOC discrimination charge

Victims of employment discrimination can pursue legal claims against their employers by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces the anti-discrimination laws that protect employees.

After an employee submits a letter of complaint to the EEOC, the EEOC will review the merits of the case and move forward based on that review. Here are some outcomes that employees could encounter depending on the circumstances of their cases:

Pregnancy discrimination cases have reached record levels

For two decades, complaints filed by women alleging pregnancy discrimination at work have increased. Complaints have reached their highest level yet, which demonstrates the extent of the problem and growing awareness among women in Arizona about their legal rights. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 applies to employers who have at least 15 employees. The law prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The hiring process falls under the purview of these protections as well.

Despite the presence of the law, many employers routinely mistreat pregnant employees and mothers. Multiple studies have documented the pay losses experienced by women following the birth of children. Statistically, each additional birth reduces hourly wages for women by 4 percent. A law professor described it as the maternal wall, and it generally affects women's careers before the glass ceiling creates a barrier.

Will national origin discrimination ever go away?

Gone are the days of signs in front of businesses that say things like "Irish need not apply," but national origin discrimination continues to be a problem in Arizona and other areas of the United States. In Arizona, for example, Mexican nationals commonly face discrimination that translates into the loss of their jobs, loss of job opportunities and poor treatment at work.

If you're concerned that you or a family member is facing employment-related national origin discrimination, keep reading to learn more about this topic.

Transgender workers face discrimination on the job

While there has been an increasing amount of media attention and broader social acceptance for transgender people in Arizona and across the country, workplace discrimination continues to be a significant concern. A number of companies have announced initiatives that seek to improve trans inclusivity on the job, but only 9 percent of people over age 45 say that they know or have worked with a transgender person. The unemployment rate of transgender people is three times the overall unemployment rate across the country.

One Stanford University study inquired into the situation of trans people in the workplace to discover how workplace discrimination had affected their employment. The researchers closely investigated the experiences of 25 transgender participants; their results indicated that companies continue to push trans employees out of their jobs and dissuade many trans workers from coming out to their fellow employees. In addition, going through transition at work can be particularly stressful and emotionally draining.

Wal-Mart settles retaliation lawsuit by transgender worker

It is illegal for Arizona employers to retaliate against employees who report discrimination. However, many companies continue to be accused of engaging in such behavior. For example, on June 6, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that it had settled a lawsuit filed by a former transgender employee who worked at one of the company's Sam's Club stores. The employee claimed that she was wrongfully terminated after reporting incidents of harassment to her supervisors.

According to the lawsuit, the employee began working at a Kannapolis, North Carolina, Sam's Club store in March 2004. In 2008, she began presenting as a woman while at work. In March 2015, she was fired from her position. She claimed this action was in retaliation for her complaining to supervisors about harassment by her co-workers. Examples of this harassment included co-workers calling her "sir," "it" and "shim." She further alleged that she was fired because her managers believed she suffered from "gender dysphoria." The lawsuit accused Wal-Mart of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Do you know how to address discrimination in the workplace?

With the strong focus on discrimination that has dominated the news cycle for more than a year, one might think that workplace discrimination is rare at this point, if for no other reason than because both employees and employers are concerned about protecting themselves from the legal and social consequences of discrimination accusations. Unfortunately, workers throughout the country still face discrimination in the workplace every day. While discrimination may someday be a thing of the past, that day has not yet arrived.

When it happens to you, do you know how to deal with discrimination?

4 things to do if you experience sexual harassment at work

Even if you enjoy your job and have every intention of remaining an employee of the company for years to come, you never know when something might go wrong.

For example, you could become the victim of sexual harassment at some point in the future. If this happens, you need to learn more about your legal rights and ways to protect them. There is no reason that you should be chased away from your job due to a hostile work environment or sexual harassment.

Employers must tread carefully in FMLA cases

Employers in Arizona and throughout the country have the responsibility to properly communicate with employees who are on FMLA leave. If eligible, an employee can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every 12 months. Employers must generally let workers who are on leave know if they are close to using their allotted leave time for the year. Failing to do so could be interpreted as interfering with that worker's right to take leave.

This was the main takeaway in the case of Ashby v. Amscan, Inc as well as the case of Dusik v. Lutheran Child & Family Services of Illinois. In the first case, an employee returned to work four days after her leave period ended, at which time she was terminated. The court ruled that the company did not sufficiently inform the worker of her rights while on FMLA leave.

Were you wrongfully terminated because of harassment?

Imagine your boss is sexually harassing you, so you go to your boss's superior to complain. A week later, you get a termination notice. Apparently, your boss's superior would rather get rid of you than address the problem of your sexual harassment and discipline your boss.

Unfortunately, numerous employees lose their jobs after complaining about workplace harassment. Many of these situations are clear cases of wrongful termination, and the terminated employees have the ability to stand up for their civil rights in court.

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