According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "to 'discriminate' against someone means to treat that person differently, or less favorably, for some reason." If the discrimination is linked to workplace-related situations, then it is considered employment discrimination, which is illegal.
The EEOC is the primary government agency that is responsible for enforcing and monitoring federal employment discrimination laws. These laws are in place to protect job applicants, employees and former employees alike from employment discrimination by placing them in certain groups that are known as protected classes.
Here are some details that, by law, employers cannot discriminate against you on the basis of:
Race discrimination involves treating applicants or employees unfavorably based on their race or personal characteristics associated with their race, including skin color, hair texture and facial features. Race discrimination also refers to treating someone unfavorably or unfairly because they are associated with someone of a certain race — discrimination by association.
Religious discrimination happens when an employer treats an applicant or employee unfavorably as a direct result of their religious beliefs. Discrimination laws cover people who are part of traditional, organized religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, as well as individuals who hold ethical, moral or religious beliefs.
Sex-based discrimination refers to situations in which an employer mistreats an applicant or employee due to his or her sex, including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy matters.
Discriminating against someone on the grounds of their nationality means you are treating them unfavorably simply because of where they come from, whether it be a certain country or a specific part of the world. For example, it is illegal to treat an applicant or employee unfavorably just because they have a certain accent, they are rooted in a particular ethnicity or they come from a certain ethnic background.
Age discrimination is when an employer treats an applicant or employee less favorably because of their age. According to federal law, age discrimination against individuals who are 40 years old or older is prohibited.
Disability discrimination happens when an employer treats a qualified applicant or employee unfavorably because of their disability. However, it is important to note that people with disabilities who want to make sure they are covered under the law must have been declared as having a disability according to the legal definition of disability.
Genetic information discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of information stemming from their genetic tests, family members' genetic tests or family medical history.
Both state and local laws could include additional groups of people that they categorize as protected classes. For instance, New York's protected classes include people of military status, those with prior arrest or conviction records, and individuals with certain marital statuses. As always, look at the precise details of the laws in your area and make sure you operate accordingly.
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