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Discrimination in the Workplace: What are your Rights?

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Under the civil rights laws given to all United States citizens with the Constitution and various other regulations, discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Discrimination here can be the result of a number of issues including, but not limited to, gender, race, religion, nationality, physical abilities, sexual preference, and marital status. However, with the help of civil rights laws like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees who feel like they are being discriminated against can take their case to court. If you plan to work in the United States, it is important to understand your civil rights for equality under the EEOC.

Every state has specific laws about discrimination in the workplace. At the bare minimum, however, states must uphold the following rules:

• It is illegal to hire, fire, promote, layoff, specially compensate, assign special jobs to, train, or deny benefits to an employee based on age. Specifically, this protects people over the age of 40 who may be pushed out of a job to make room for younger employees.

• Employees must consider all qualified candidates, even if they have a physical or mental disability. Employment facilities, if possible, must be altered to allow this to happen. An employer, does not, however, have to lower qualification standards.

• Wages earned must be based on skill, effort, responsibility, seniority, and working conditions, and must be equal within a single establishment, regardless of gender.

• Ethnicity must not play a role in firing or hiring. English fluency can only be required if the job demands it.

• It is illegal to consider pregnancy when hiring a new employee. Pregnancy must be considered a temporary disability, and time off must be treated in the same manner. After birth, the employer must hold the job open for the same amount of time it would have been held open for a sick or temporarily disabled employee. Pregnancy benefits must apply to everyone, regardless of marital status.

• Race, religion, and gender may not play a role in hiring, firing, promotions, salary desions, and so forth.

• Employers may not fire or demote employees due to that employee filing charges of discrimination.

• It is illegal to sexually harass someone in the workplace. Sexual harassment includes unwanted advances, sexually-natured contact, verbal conversation of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors in return for work-related perks, and so forth. This law pertains to victims of both genders. In many states, this is being expanded to include laws forbidding sexual preference to play a role in hiring, firing, and so forth.

If you believe that discrimination has played a role in your career, you can file a charge of employment discrimination. Someone else can also file on your behalf if you want to protect your identity. You’ll have to fill out a questionnaire about your experiences, which will include your contact information, a statement about the violation, the company committing the violation, and date or dates of the violation. This form must be filed within 180 days of the violation in order to be valid. Remember, it is your civil right to be treated fairly in the workplace. Protect it by filing a charge when an employer discriminates against you.

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