There are several legal measures in the United States aimed at promoting equal employment opportunity and workplace equality. At the federal level to be specific, there are employment discrimination laws that prohibit employers from refusing to hire individuals or denying employees certain benefits or privileges based on certain predispositions.
Note that laws against employment discrimination in the U.S. originated from decisions made in the courts or similar tribunals. These judicial precedents were codified into federal and state laws over the years. Nonetheless, the collective employment discrimination law represents an overlap between the concepts of civil rights and labor rights or labor laws.
Main Statues: The core of the federal employment discrimination law in the U.S.
Three federal statutes originally form the core of the collective employment discrimination law in the U.S. Take note of the following:
1. Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark law in the U.S. that defines and protects several civil and political rights of American citizens. Specific provisions against employment discrimination are detailed under Title VII of the Act, which prohibits discrimination by covered employers based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of his or her association with another individual of a particular race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Of course, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also provides employers with some scope and guarantees. For instance, covered employers include those that employ 15 or more individuals. In addition, an employer is permitted to discriminate on the basis of a protected trait in which such trait is a bona fide occupational qualification needed for the normal operation of the organization.
2. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1976
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 or ADEA is a federal labor law in the U.S. that prohibits employers from discriminating based on age. To be specific, ADEA protects an applicant or existing employee 40 years of age or above from discrimination or age-based restrictions, thus giving them equal opportunities in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensations, terms and conditions, and/or employment benefits and privileges.
Note that there are several exemptions or defenses to ADEA. Such include enforceable waivers made without government-mandated approvals, valid attribution agreements between employees and an employer, the right of an employer to discipline or discharge an employee for a good cause regardless of his or her age, bona fide occupational qualifications, well-placed seniority system, and voluntary early retirement plans and incentives.
3. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or ADA is a civil rights law that protects individuals with physical or mental disabilities from discrimination in employment and public or commercial accommodations, as well as by public or government entities. ADA also compels telecommunications companies to provide consumers with disabilities, notably those with hearing or speech impairments, a functional equivalent of their services.
As part of federal employment discrimination law and thus, as part of the collective U.S. labor law, ADA prohibits covered employers, or those with 15 or more employees, from refusing to hire an individual due to his or her disability, or refusing promotion, denying benefits or privileges, or terminating an existing employee with a disability. This law also prohibits covered employers from asking disability-related questions while also compelling them to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities.
Supplementary statues: Extending the federal employment discrimination law in the U.S.
Aside from the Civil Rights Act, ADEA, and ADA, six other federal statues supplements and extends the collective employment discrimination law in the U.S. Take note of the following:
1. The Equal Pay Act of 1963
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a labor law that promotes gender equality in the workplace, particularly by guaranteeing equal pay regardless of sex or gender orientation for similar jobs that require similar skills, efforts, and responsibilities, while being performed under similar working conditions. Exemptions to this law include seniority system, merit system, performance system based on quantity or quality of production, and differential based on any other factor other than sex.
2. The Civil Rights Act of 1866
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was primarily intended to protect the civil rights of individuals of African descent, particularly by defining American citizenship and promotion equal protection across the citizenry. Nonetheless, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 bars private employers, regardless of size, from discriminating based on race, color, and ethnicity, while also allowing individuals to pursue anti-discrimination claims against their employers in a federal court without the need to exhaust administrative remedies.
3. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 or IRCA, also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act or the Reagan Amnesty, is an immigration law that has specific provisions affect labor and employment. For instance, it prohibits employers from knowingly recruiting and hiring illegal immigrants while also requiring them to attest to the immigration status of their employees. While these mandates might increase the likelihood of recurring and hiring discrimination based on race, color, or ethnicity, it is important to note that IRCA also has anti-discrimination provisions.
4. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 or FMLA is another labor law that promotes the rights of qualified employees to up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for qualified medical and family reasons. These reasons include attendance to a serious health condition of the employee or his or her parent, spouse, or child; pregnancy and care for a newborn child; or for adoption or foster care placement of a child.
5. The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008
The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination At of 2008 or GINA is an extension of the anti-discrimination law of the U.S. that prohibits some type of genetic discrimination by healthcare insurance service providers and employers. As part of the U.S. federal employment discrimination law, GINA bars employers from using genetic information or certain genetic predisposition as a basis for recruiting and hiring, placement and promotion, and firing decisions.
6. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 or USERRA is a specific labor law that protects the civil employment of U.S. active and reserve military personnel. To be specific, this law ensures that those who serve the U.S. military are able to retain their civilian employment and benefits, or seek civilian employment free from discrimination due to their military service background.