Federal Employment Discrimination Laws


The Equal Pay Act; 29 U.S.C. §§ 206(d)

This law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to require equal pay for equal work regardless of whether the worker is a man or a woman. The job functions and duties must be essentially the same. It does not prohibit pay differential based on seniority, merit or other business related criteria. Violations of the Equal Pay Act should be reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et. seq.

This law says it is wrong for an employer to treat one employee different from another employee simply because of the persons color, sex, race, religion, or national origin. This law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The law does not make other reasons for discrimination unlawful. Therefore, an employer may be able to discriminate against you because of height, weight, education, criminal history, work history or a multitude of other reasons. The law only applies if the employer has more than 15 employees. It does not apply to federal workers or members of the military. Federal workers and military members are protected against discrimination because of color, sex, race, religion and national origin by a different law providing a different administrative remedy from the remedy provided by the EEOC.

The employer violates this law by treating one person different from another person because of color, sex, race, religion or national origin. This is called Disparate Treatment. The employee must show that the employer intentionally discriminated AND that color, sex, race, religion or national origin was the reason for the discrimination. Once sufficient evidence is put forth that the employer intentionally discriminated because of color, sex, race, religion or national origin, the employer must state a legitimate business reason for the difference in treatment. The employee must then produce evidence that the employer's reason is simply an excuse to discriminate.

Sometimes an employer will take an action that has an unintended adverse impact on a group of people. An example would be an employer who requires a college degree for a job that has little or no relationship to a college education. If this job qualification has the effect of discriminating against people because of their color, sex, race, religion or national origin, then the employer's action has an unlawful Disparate Impact upon people who are protected by the law.

If you think you have been the victim of discrimination by an employer, ask yourself these questions:

How has my employment been adversely affected? You should be able to identify what was done wrong to you. Were you wronged in hiring, firing, pay, promotion, demotion, work hours, job assignment, transfer, training or some other term or condition of employment.

Was the decision to affect my employment based upon color, sex, race, religion or national origin? Does the employer's decision affect people of the same color, sex, race, religion or national origin more harshly than people of a different color, sex, race, religion or national origin? What facts make you think the decision was based on color, sex, race, religion or national origin? Are there any witnesses? Are there any documents created by the employer that tend to show discrimination? How has this action by the employer harmed you? If you can answer these questions, you should immediately contact the EEOC and request that a charge of discrimination be filed.

As a general rule, a charge of employment discrimination must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the date that the employment discrimination happened. The EEOC maintains a staff of employees trained to put your allegations on a formal charge sheet. You must affirm that the allegations are true in order to complete the charging process. Alist of EEOC addresses in major Texas cities may be found at: http://www.eeoc.gov/teledir.html. Once the EEOC has investigated your claim, they will do one of three things. They can try to reach a compromise settlement between you and the employer. They can file suit against the employer for violation of the law. They can issue you a "Right to Sue" letter. If you receive a "Right to Sue" letter, you will have 90 days to file a lawsuit. If you do not file suit within 90 days, you will lose your claims under Title VII. You should not wait until you receive a "Right to Sue" letter before consulting with a lawyer knowledgeable in employment law. A lawyer should review your formal EEOC charge before a "Right to Sue" letter is issued by EEOC. If it has been more than 180 days since the employer discriminated against you, you may still have the right to file a formal discrimination charge. .

The state of Texas has created a state agency responsible for investigating employment discrimination. It is called the Texas Commission on Human Rights. This state agency has a working relationship with the EEOC. They are given 120 days to investigate allegations of employment discrimination. Therefore, if it has been more than 6 months since you feel you were discriminated against, you have an additional 120 days in which to complete the formal EEOC charge. This means that if the discrimination happened less than 300 days ago, you can still complete a formal EEOC charge.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act; 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et. seq.

This law was created by the U.S. Congress in 1967 to protect workers over the age of 40 from employment discrimination unless age is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Age has been found to be a BFOQ as it relates to Airline Pilots. Age may also be relevant in other safety related jobs such as some police and fire fighter duties. Claims of age discrimination should be made to the EEOC. Any age discrimination claim must establish that the person over 40 was treated different from a younger worker. The younger worker need not be under age 40, they simply must be younger than the person discriminated against. An older worker who is asked to waive their rights under the ADEA has the right to seek consultation with a lawyer before agreeing to waive their rights. They also have the right to revoke the waiver within 7 days. The employer must give something of value that the employee is not otherwise entitled to for the waiver to be valid and enforceable.

The Americans With Disabilities Act; 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et. seq.

This federal law prohibits employment decisions that discriminate against qualified individuals with a disability. First, does your employer believe you have a disability? A disability is a mental or physical impairment that substantially affects a major life activity like, for example, walking, eating, seeing, hearing, breathing, sleeping. If your condition affects a major life activity, your second question is: am I qualified to perform the essential job functions. List the job duties. Can you perform them? If yes, this law provides you with some protection. If not, ask yourself a third question: could you perform them with some reasonable accommodation by the employer? What is a "reasonable accommodation" must be decided on a case by case basis. The law does not define "reasonable accommodation" Any accommodation that creates an "undue hardship" on the employer is not reasonable. Defining what is and is not an "undue hardship" requires a cost/benefit analysis. If a "reasonable accommodation" would allow a qualified person with a disability to perform the essential job functions, that person needs to work with the employer to define what that accommodation should be. The employer has the burden to show that no reasonable accommodation is available.

It is not a reasonable accommodation for the employer to create a job that does not already exist. It is not a reasonable accommodation to give preferential treatment in hiring or job assignment. Indefinite leave of absence is not a reasonable accommodation. Accommodations the increase the employer's health and safety risks are not reasonable.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has primary responsibility for receiving and investigating a claim of disability discrimination. The administrative process is similar to claims made under Title VII. For more information visit the EEOC's website at: http://www.eeoc.gov.

Last Review and Update: Feb 28, 2003