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You are Here: Home > Laws > Federal Employment Discrimination Laws

Federal Employment Discrimination Laws

Specific acts that established Federal employment discrimination laws are linked below. Federal discrimination laws are also called anti-discrimination laws or equal employment opportunity laws.

Acts that are not Federal discrimination laws per se, but still have provisions that prohibit prejudice in employment, are also included, as are resources to learn about discrimination laws.

About Federal Discrimination Laws

As indicated above, Federal discrimination laws are established by acts of congress. Laws are also called statutes and are enforced by regulations.

Federal discrimination laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees and job applicants in any aspect of employment based on age, disability, national origin, race, religion, genetics or sex (gender).

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the most significant ("landmark") Federal discrimination laws related to employment. But states are permitted to enact and enforce their own employment discrimination laws that include or expand the minimum protections afforded by the Federal laws.

Some states refer to discrimination laws as fair employment practices (FEP) laws. To research either on the Web, start with the resources listed in State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or State Labor Laws.

Federal Discrimination Law Links

Affirmative Action under Title VII
Title 29, Chapter XIV, Part 1608 is a labor law enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that establishes guidelines for developing appropriate affirmative action programs under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (see below).

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
Considered to be among the landmark, Federal discrimination laws, it prohibits age discrimination in any aspect of employment against individuals who are 40 years old or older. Amended by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (below), which makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age against individuals who are 40 or older, for employment benefit programs.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
The ADA too is considered to be among the landmark, Federal employment discrimination laws. It prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment against qualified disabled individuals, because of their disabilities. Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled workers. Effective January 1, 2009, the ADA was strengthened by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA or ADA Amendments Act for short) to better protect disabled workers from employment discrimination.

Bankruptcy Act
Not a discrimination law per se, but it has provisions that make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against incumbent employees and public-sector job applicants because of bankruptcy or the bad debts they had before filing for bankruptcy. According to precedential court decisions, the wording does not specifically prohibit private-sector employers from discriminatorily refusing to hire job applicants based on bankruptcy or prior debt, but it does prohibit them from wrongfully terminating and otherwise discriminating against their current employees.

Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of this Act is the landmark, Federal employment discrimination law. It prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex (gender). (See also Sexual Harassment in the Workplace below.) This Act also established the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Civil Rights Act of 1991
Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to strengthen and improve Federal civil rights laws, provide for damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination, clarify provisions regarding disparate impact actions, and for other purposes.

Equal Pay Act of 1963
One of the landmark, Federal discrimination laws for employment, it disallows wage discrimination based on gender for all jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions at the same employer. Part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which also has provisions for overtime pay, minimum wage and child labor (see Federal Labor Laws).

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
GINA prohibits genetic discrimination in employment and health insurance. Title I, which applies to health insurers, took effect in phases up to May 21, 2010. Title II, which applies to employers, became effective on November 21, 2009. Title III amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to stiffen penalties for violating its child labor provisions.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Not a Federal employment discrimination law per se. Rather it amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit employment discrimination against individuals other than undocumented immigrants, based on citizenship status or national origin. Enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
Changed the statue of limitations for filing a wage discrimination charge with the EEOC, from 180 days after the first incident of wage discrimination to 180 days after each incident (or 300 days after each incident if a state law comes into play). Amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 listed elsewhere on this page. See the blog post Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for more information. For an example, see Compensation Discrimination published by the EEOC.

Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No Fear Act)
The No Fear Act makes Federal government employers more accountable than ever before, for violating antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws in the Federal government workplace. "No Fear" is not just a clever acronym, as it also means that Federal employees may report such violations without fearing retaliation.

Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990
OWBPA amended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (above), by clarifying protections for workers of age 40 and older regarding employee benefit plans.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
Another of the landmark, Federal discrimination laws protecting employment, it prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and childbirth, and related medical conditions. An amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 listed above.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 503 prohibits discrimination by Federal government employers and other employers that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency, against workers who have qualified disabilities. It also prohibits employment discrimination against workers who have qualified disabilities, by contractors and subcontractors working on contracts with the Federal government of over $10,000, including state and local governments. AIDS discrimination is prohibited under Section 504 of this Act. See also Sections 501 and 505 and Section 508.

Section 1981
Section 1981(a) was originally enacted as the first section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which protected the rights of freed slaves. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 amended it, by adding Section 1981(b). Since then, the Supreme Court has affirmed that employees may sue their employers under Section 1981 for employment discrimination on the basis of race and for race-based retaliation, which has several advantages verses suing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
There is no standalone, Federal employment discrimination law per se, that prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Rather sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 listed above. However, your state might have its own workplace sexual harassment law that includes or expands the minimum Federal protections.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
Not a Federal employment discrimination law per se. But among other provisions that protect the jobs and employer-provided benefits of service members returning to the civilian workforce, USERRA also has provisions that prohibit job discrimination against veterans on the basis of their military service. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (see TITLE II) amended USERRA to strengthen its discrimination provisions. See also Employment Discrimination for Military Service and Veterans' Preference.

Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974
Prohibits employment discrimination by employers with Federal contracts or subcontracts of $25,000 or more and provides affirmative-action programs for Vietnam-era veterans, special disabled veterans, and veterans who served on active duty during any war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge was authorized. See also Employment Discrimination for Military Service and Veterans' Preference.

Youth at Work
A special site by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that explains employment discrimination for young employees and supervisory personnel. Also provides examples and answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs).

Consult an attorney for legal advice regarding a Federal employment discrimination law or a related lawsuit.

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