Employment Discrimination Definition
Employment discrimination occurs when employers (or unions or employment agencies) illegally single out employees or job applicants on the basis of their characteristics. Anti-discrimination laws and related regulations that deal with employment are enforced at the Federal level by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC, employers cannot discriminate against employees or job applicants in any aspect of employment, including the following.
To be the "illegal" form of employment discrimination at the Federal level, employers must adversely single out employees on the basis of age, creed, disability, national origin, race, color, religion, military duty, genetics or sex (gender), in violation of Federal employment discrimination laws or other laws that have anti-discrimination provisions.
Illegal discrimination includes harassment that creates an intimidating, offensive, abusive or hostile work environment for employees, in violation of Federal employment discrimination laws.
If employers adversely single out employees for reasons that aren't specifically prohibited by discrimination laws or related regulations, then employees are not protected from those types of employment discrimination.
For example, if a boss fires an employee solely because of a general personality conflict that interferes with the working relationship, then it's not likely to be employment discrimination. That's because there is no specific "personality conflict" provision per se, that makes it illegal under Federal discrimination laws. Employers' rights under the Employment At Will Doctrine also come into play.
But, if a boss fires an employee solely because the employee turned 40 years old, then it's likely be employment discrimination under Federal law. Age discrimination against employees who are 40 years old or more is outlawed by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Your state might prohibit more types of employment discrimination than the Federal laws. Additionally, certain Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in the form of employer retaliation. More information is on the next page.
The EEOC reported that it received a total of 99,412 employment discrimination charges (including retaliation) in fiscal year 2012, down from 99,947 a year earlier.
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