City employment discrimination is the unfair treatment of an employee of a municipality because he or she belongs to a disadvantaged group. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, disability, and age. States and municipalities often have additional anti-discrimination regulations and their own agencies to enforce them.

City employment discrimination and the law

Federal laws that protect city employees from discriminatory practices include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Equal Pay Act (EPA) prevents wage discrimination between men and women who do equal work at the same establishment. All federal laws cover both employees and applicants.

City governments with 15 or more employees must uphold Title VII and the ADA. City governments with 20 or more employees must uphold the ADEA. Virtually all employers must uphold the EPA.

Many states and municipalities prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status, and other characteristics. These laws are administered and enforced by state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies and must be upheld by all branches of city governments.

Protections from city employment discrimination

Federal laws make it illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:

  • hiring and firing

  • pay, retirement plans, disability leave, and fringe benefits

  • transfer, promotion, discipline, and layoff

  • assignment or classification

  • job advertising and recruitment

  • testing, training, and apprenticeship programs

  • use of city facilities

Other illegal discriminatory practices include harassment and retaliation against an employee for opposing discriminatory behavior. The laws also prohibit city governments from making decisions based on stereotypes or from discriminating against individuals married to or otherwise associated with people of certain group.

Employees must be able to perform a job's functions with or without reasonable accommodation (e.g., ramps for a disabled employee) to be eligible for employment discrimination protection.

Filing a charge of city employment discrimination

You may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC at no cost. Charges should be filed within 180 days of the incident or within 300 days if a state or local law applies. For charges involving EPA violations, there are no set time limits. For best results in all cases, charges should be filed as soon as possible.

You must file charges with the EEOC before you pursue a private lawsuit(except for EPA violations). Although you don't need a lawyer to file a charge with the EEOC, it's a good idea to seek legal council before going to court.

Remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory damages. You may not sue city governments for punitive damages.

Additional resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination-Questions and Answers

Workplace Fairness: Discrimination