Written by Avvo Staff

Types of Employment Discrimination

Employment discrimination takes many and varied forms. The most common types are briefly addressed here. If you feel any of these apply to you, it may be helpful to get legal counsel regarding appropriate action.

Age Discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals 40 years of age or older from age-based employment discrimination. This applies to employers with 20 or more employees, state governments, local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government. The ADEA covers all aspects of employment, including recruiting, hiring, promotions, compensation, benefits, and termination. The law covers both applicants and employees.

Disability Discrimination. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees with disabilities. Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for anyone with a documented disability, and may not ask job applicants about the existence or extent of any disabilities. Medical screenings are allowed only if they are required of all applicants.

National Origin Discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee or applicant because he or she comes from a different place, has a different accent, has a different ethnicity, or is believed to have a particular ethnic background. An English-only or other language or accent requirement may be used only if it is needed to ensure the business's efficient or safe operation.

Pregnancy Discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Pregnancy discrimination is an unlawful form of sex discrimination. Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they can do their jobs. If a woman's pregnancy hinders her ability to do her job, an employer must afford that woman the same opportunities and benefits he or she would afford any other employee with a temporary physical condition

Race or Color Discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants on the basis of race or color. This includes any perceived notion of race based on physical appearance, interracial relationships, or any race-linked characteristics. Title VII prohibits neutral business practices not directly related to the needs of the business which affect people of different races disproportionately.

Religious Discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act states that an employer cannot treat employees or applicants more or less favorably based on their religious beliefs. Also, an employer cannot force an employee to participate or not participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees' religious practices.

Sex-Based Discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee or applicant due to their sex in the same manner that it protects people of different races or religions. In addition, the Equal Pay Act requires that a man and a woman be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment.

Retaliation. It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an individual for opposing practices which they believe promote any of the above-mentioned forms of discrimination. This includes filing a charge, testifying, or otherwise participating in a discrimination investigation or proceeding.

Other types of employment discrimination

Though not covered by federal legislation, local or state ordinances may prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, parental status, marital status, political affiliation, height or weight, and other factors that do not adversely affect an employee's performance.

Additional resources:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission home page

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division FAQs

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