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Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws that Protect Employees


This article is meant to provide a basic outline of the federal anti-discrimination laws that protect employees from illegal discrimination while in the workplace. Claims brought under these laws can be complicated and challenging to prove. For that reason, it is always wise to consult with an experienced Birmingham Employment law firm to determine the nature of your potential claims. The lawyers at Michel | King Michel & Kinghave the knowledge and experience to assist you with these claims.

Federal and state laws can protect employees from discrimination

Most employees are afforded some type of protection under the various federal employment and anti-discrimination laws. Some states also have laws that provide these sorts of protections to employees, but those laws vary greatly. Some of those state laws also vary from federal laws. For this reason, consulting with an attorney who practices in the state where you work is important.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against “qualified” individuals with disabilities with regard to employment decisions. The ADA applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. The prohibition extends to job application procedures, hiring and firing practices and policies, promotions, discipline, compensation, job training and many other “terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

Along with prohibiting discrimination, the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to qualified employees whom they know have a disability. A reasonable accommodation is simply an adjustment or modification an employer provides to enable individuals with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

It is unlawful, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, to discriminate against an employee because of their age, specifically employees who are age 40 and older. It is also unlawful to retaliate against those employees when they complain about discrimination or participate in the investigation of a claim of age discrimination. The ADEA applies only to employers with 20 or more employees.

Equal Pay Act

The EPA requires employers to pay men and women equally for performing the same work— hence, the phrase “equal pay for equal work.” It applies equally to men and women, but the law was originally passed to help address the wage disparity experienced by female workers. It has almost always been applied to situations where women are paid less than men for doing the same work.

Family Medical Leave Act

A federal statute known as the FMLA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act, protects employees who need to take leave from work, either for their own medical condition or to care for others. The statute requires employers to keep the employee’s position (or a comparable one) available for them when they return. However, the FMLA does not protect every employee of every employer. It is crucial that employees understand the eligibility requirements.

The FMLA provides protection only to “covered” employees, working for “covered” employers. What does that mean? First, the employer must have 50 or more employees, working within a 75-mile radius. Employers with less than 50 employees are not required to comply with the statute.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act governs the minimum-wage requirements as well as overtime pay and child labor. Only employers who are engaged in interstate or foreign commerce and whose gross yearly sales total $500,000 or more are subject to the mandates of the FLSA.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees because of their race, gender, or sex. Discrimination can come in the form of hiring, firing, pay raises, job assignments, promotions, layoffs or reductions in force, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment, because of someone’s race or gender.

Title VII also makes it unlawful to harass someone because of their race, gender or sex. The harassment cannot be merely a few isolated comments. But if the harassment leads to an adverse employment action, such as termination or discipline, then it may be actionable.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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