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Frequently Asked Questions About Employment Discrimination
Q: My boss does not allow me to express my religious beliefs. Is this illegal discrimination?
A: It is possible. Discrimination and harassment on the basis of religion are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. So is retaliation against people who file or support complaints of religious discrimination or harassment. An employer with 15 or more employees must accommodate employees' religious beliefs unless this creates an undue hardship. An employer may not restrict religious expression more than it restricts other expressions that affect workplace efficiency in a similar manner.
Q: Who is protected from employment discrimination on the basis of disability?
A: Employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This restriction applies to both applicants for employment and employees. A person is considered disabled if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such disability; or is regarded as having such disability. Major life activities include seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself and working.
Q: Who is a qualified individual with a disability?
A: A qualified individual with a disability is a person who possesses the skills, experience, education or other requirements for a job and can perform the essential functions of that job with or without reasonable accommodation. If the individual is qualified to perform essential job functions except for limitations set forth by the disability, the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these job functions with a reasonable accommodation.
Q: When is an employer required to make a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee?
A: When an employee needs a reasonable accommodation for a disability, the employee should ask the employer for the accommodation. An employer is generally only required to make accommodations for disabilities it knows about. This is an informal and interactive process: the employee should tell the employer what barriers the current situation presents so that they can discuss reasonable accommodations. Accommodations must be made on an individual basis because the nature and extent of the disability will vary in each case.
Q: Does federal age discrimination law protect me if I'm less than 40 years of age?
A: No. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects only employees and job applicants who are 40 years of age or older. Your state's laws, however, may supplement federal law.
Q: As an employer, what laws must I follow when hiring new employees?
A: Federal, state and even local laws may apply to you as an employer. An attorney can give you the full picture for your particular needs. A prospective employer must be careful to avoid illegal discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, pregnancy, disability or religion during the hiring process. The employer should also make sure to protect the privacy rights of each applicant by guarding confidential or private information provided by the applicant and disclosing any background or credit checks to be performed.
Q: Is there a time limit on filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under Title VII?
A: Yes. Title VII imposes time limits for bringing a charge of discrimination. Usually a claim needs to be filed within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination; however, some states' laws set out a time limit of 300 days. Contact the EEOC or an attorney for further information.
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