Fair and equal treatment isn’t just the right thing to do… it’s often the law.
Whether you’re hiring for a new position, planning a promotion or letting an employee go, it’s important to be aware of anti-discrimination laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Why? Because if you’re accused of discrimination or harassment, you could potentially face a long and costly legal battle to resolve it.
These laws also protect your employees from any retaliation if they report a situation where they experienced or witnessed discrimination.
As a business owner, it’s important to understand the laws that could lead to a discrimination claim. Need a refresher? Here’s a quick overview of protected classifications at the federal level. (Note: This is not legal advice – for specific guidance pertaining to your business, always consult a licensed lawyer with small business expertise.)
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII): This established that employers can’t discriminate against people because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The law also requires employers to reasonably accommodate applicants’ and employees’ sincerely held religious practices.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: This law amended Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA): This law prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex and makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): This law protects people who are 40 or older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): This law makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in the private sector and in state and local governments. The law also requires that employers reasonably accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.
- Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991: Among other things, this law amends Title VII and the ADA to permit jury trials and compensatory and punitive damage awards in intentional discrimination cases.
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA): This law makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information. Genetic information includes information about an individual's genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual's family members, as well as information about any disease, disorder or condition of an individual's family members (i.e. an individual's family medical history).
These laws also make it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Remember: Local or state laws might get more specific than these federal laws. Be sure to familiarize yourself with any laws unique to your area, and consult a lawyer for specific legal advice pertaining to your business.
Employment Practices Liability Coverage Can Help
Even if you do everything you can to be proactive and fair in your business, you still could be faced with a lawsuit accusing you of discrimination. Even if the accusations aren’t true, a lawsuit could leave you stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills.
Good news: There’s time to think ahead and protect yourself.
Talk to your local ERIE agent about adding Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage* to your business insurance policy. This coverage may help you in the instance someone brings a lawsuit against your business for wrongful acts, such as discrimination.
*Coverages, benefits, limits and deductibles will vary. Terms, conditions, exclusions and limitations will apply. Refer to our disclaimer for more information. Talk to an ERIE agent for state specific policy information.