How Well Do You Know the Laws for Discrimination in the Workplace
If you’re an employer, a discrimination lawsuit from one of your employees can be devastating to company morale, corporate reputation, and talent recruitment. To protect yourself from lawsuits, you need to follow and be cognizant of the laws concerning discrimination against employees, applicants and other parties, as set forth by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It’s not unusual for employers to react to a situation without full knowledge that they may be breaking the law. Don’t be one of them!
The short, true/false quiz below is meant to reacquaint you with the complexities of the law and help you make sure you are maintaining a discrimination-free, safe working environment. The results will undoubtedly start a conversation about how you can further protect yourself and your company.
Answer True or False.
1. I can fire my employee if he/she is planning a workers’ compensation claim.
Firing an employee if they are planning to file a claim can be seen as “retaliatory discharge,” which is unlawful. If there was a previously valid reason to fire the employee, you may proceed to do so but know that your motives may be questioned in a court of law.
2. If one of my employees has a problem with my firing them, I am in the clear after 180 days.
As of June 2018, the Illinois Human Rights Act was amended to extend the time that an employee can file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights to a period of 300 days from the date of the alleged civil rights violation. Previously, the time in which an employee had to file a charge of discrimination was limited to 180 days.
3. It’s ok to give my disabled worker an accommodation which is similar, but not identical to the one he requested.
The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. However, an employer does not have to provide the exact accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If more than one accommodation works, the employer may choose which one to provide. A reasonable accommodation might include, for example, making the workplace accessible for wheelchair users or providing a reader or interpreter for someone who is blind or hearing impaired.
4. I am bound by law not to discriminate against someone with a history of cancer.
All individuals who are fully qualified for their job with a history of a disability are protected from discrimination by the Rehabilitation Act. Having a history of a disability is one of the qualifying criteria to be considered protected under the law.
5. Telling Sally she looks really hot today is not sexual harrassment.
Unless you have a very close relationship with Sally and your comment is part of the usual interchange you have, the statement could certainly be claimed to be sexual harassment which includes offensive remarks, especially those that can be construed as a sexual overture. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). If you make similar comments to Sally daily, and she is thinking of quitting, she could make a case that you are making the work environment hostile and could bring a case against you. Verbal sexual harassment is taken as seriously as physical harassment when applied to the law.
6. Tom’s wife has cancer so it’s ok not to hire him because it will drain the company health plan.
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability (even if they do not themselves have a disability). It is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their relationship with someone who has a disability.
7. It’s ok that I cannot put in a ramp for my newly disabled employee because I am a home-based business with two employees.
The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause “undue hardship.” A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. Reasonable accommodation might include, for example, making the workplace accessible for wheelchair users or providing a reader or interpreter for someone who is blind or hearing impaired. Undue hardship means that the accommodation would be too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer’s size, financial resources, and the needs of the business. An employer does not have to provide the exact accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If more than one accommodation works, the employer may choose which one to provide.
8. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 50 or older.
Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age. The law protects all workers over the age of 40, although some states have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination.
9. I do not have to give Federal Medical Leave to my employee who just adopted a baby because he has a same-sex partner.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The Department of Labor issued a Final Rule on February 25, 2015 revising the regulatory definition of spouse under the FMLA and making qualified employees in legal same-sex marriages eligible to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live.
10. Discrimination laws only cover a few aspects of employment.
The law forbids discrimination when it comes to ALL aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
If you are an employer facing the possibility of a discrimination lawsuit, or an employee who feels they have been a victim of discrimination, contact us to discuss your case. We keep abreast of any changes in discrimination laws and have the experience and ability to represent you well in all employment matters. A free consultation is available at your convenience by clicking on our free case evaluation button below.