As an employer you need to be continually attentive that you are not running afoul of discrimination laws. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. The federal laws apply holistically in your employment practices, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages and benefits.
The number of employees you have determines whether or not your business falls under the laws prohibiting such discrimination. If you have fewer than 15 employees then you are not limited by the EEOC’s rules and limitations.
In the event that you have enough employees to be covered by the federal laws, you need to be aware that you can be subject to attack from the EEOC itself as well as any employee (or former employee) who may allege violations of the law. The EEOC can seek fines and penalties against your business. An employee can sue your business and obtain, among other things, back pay, damages for the distress caused, attorney’s fees and punitive damages.
So how can you protect yourself? According to the EEOC, you should follow the following guidelines:
- Look at the facts, not the faces.
Race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 or older) or genetic information (including family medical history) should not be a factor when you hire, fire, promote, pay, train, discipline or make other work-related decisions.
- Providereasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work) to applicants or employees who need them for medical or religious reasons, if required by law.
- Develop a strong anti-discrimination policybefore discrimination becomes a problem.
- Ensure that employees understandtheir rights and responsibilities at work.
- Be alert to potential harassment or discrimination.Stop, address and prevent harassment and discrimination.
- Ensure that employees are not punishedfor reporting discrimination, participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit, or opposing discrimination.
- Post an EEO posterat your business.
- Keep employment recordsas required by law.
- File an EEO-1 Reportif you have 100 or more employees. Some federal contractors with at least 50 employees must also file this report.
- Contact the EEOCto request assistance, information or training.
Additionally, you should contact Gordon Law to assist you with the implementation of any employment practices as well as any concerns you have with current employees or claims raised by former employees.