Know the Basics of Federal Job Discrimination Law

It’s simple: Federal law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment. More specifically, the laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or genetic information.
There are specific federal laws that:
  • Protect men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment against sex-based wage discrimination.
  • Protect  individuals age 40 and older from broad discrimination.
  • Prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in federal, state, and local governments.
  • Prohibit employment discrimination based on genetic information.
These anti-discrimination laws apply to just about every aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, compensation, transfers, promotions, layoffs, job advertisements, recruitment, testing, training, retirement benefits, and more. The laws also address behaviors and activities such as harassment or retaliation against an individual for filing a discrimination claim.  For 2017, the EEOC found that retaliation was the most frequently filed charge, followed by race and disability.

Game Plan

  • Employers are required to post notices in the workplace, accessible to people with visual or other disabilities, advising employees of their rights under the EEOC enforced laws. You can request a free Equal Employment poster from the EEOC.
  • Federal laws, including hiring laws, generally trump state laws. But in some cases, state laws can expand on federal laws, so it’s a good idea to keep up on your state’s hiring rules. Check out this listing of contact information for every state labor office.
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