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How Do I Know if My Employer is Subject to Employment Discrimination Laws?


There are several federal laws that protect employees from different types of discrimination. Federal anti-discrimination laws generally prohibit covered employers from acting in a discriminatory manner toward their employees because of an individual’s age, disability, gender, race, and religion. However, these laws do not necessarily apply to every employer. Whether your employer is subject to the prohibitions of the various federal anti-discrimination laws will depend on several factors, including the type of employer, the number of employees, and the type of discrimination at issue. Here are a few factors that need to be considered.

Is Your Employer a Private Business or a Governmental Agency?

Title VII, which protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, disability, and genetic information, applies to private employers who have employed fifteen (15) or more employees for at least twenty (20) calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to all private employers who have twenty (20) or more employees. On the other hand, if you work for a state or local government, that employer will be covered by the statute regardless of how many employees it may have. Likewise, federal employers are all covered by all anti-discrimination laws regardless of the number of employees. However, federal agencies have a very different administrative complaint process that must be followed so you should speak to an employment discrimination attorney if you have questions about that process.

Employment Agencies and Labor Unions

Staffing and recruitment agencies, like federal agencies, are prohibited from discriminating in violation of the various anti-discrimination laws. This includes making discriminatory decisions with regard to referrals. Unions are handled more like private businesses in that they are only covered if they employ fifteen (15) or more people with regard to most discrimination statutes. In age discrimination cases, unions must have twenty-five (25) or more members to be covered. Under the Equal Pay Act, employers are covered regardless of the number of employees.

Determining How Many Employees Your Employer Has

When it comes to actually determining how many employees a given employer has, it is not as simple as it may seem. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided some guidance on this issue. First, to be counted as an employee, you must have worked for that employer for at least twenty (20) calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Part-time employees are typically included if they have worked the requisite amount of time. Independent contractors are not considered employees.

Another common issue is when a business or agency has more than one (1) worksite. For example, a restaurant chain might have locations across the country. Whether the employees at all of those locations can be added together to determine the number of employees depends on the statute and how close the worksites are to one another. Let our employment discrimination attorneys help you figure out whether your employer is covered.

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 Birmingham 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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