Employment Discrimination: State and Local Laws

        Employment Discrimination


Employers must also be knowledgeable of their state and local discrimination laws. Many states have much broader discrimination laws and prohibit discrimination on the basis of creed, marital status, ancestry, arrest record, conviction record, military service, unfair honesty testing, sexual orientation, sexual harassment and unlawful use of products, in addition to the protections provided at the federal level.

Discrimination lawsuits can be time-consuming and expensive. It is imperative for employers to audit their practices so they can uncover problem situations and practices before they lead to expensive litigation. Employers can help avoid discrimination claims by offering compliance training, being direct and honest when implementing disciplinary procedures, contesting meritless charges, implementing user-friendly internal complaint procedures and seeking legal advice before little problems become big ones.

Check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor, which helps employers determine which federal nondiscrimination laws apply to their business: www.dol.gov/elaws/odep.htm.

Discrimination is treating similarly situated individuals unequally. Federal and state governments have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of protected classifications, such as sex, race, religion, disability and age. The purpose of these laws is to eliminate discrimination in the workplace based on prejudices that are unrelated to the ability to perform the job.

In general, an individual within a protected classification must not be treated less favorably than others outside of the protected classification in regard to hiring decisions or employment conditions. An employment decision made because of an employee’s protected classification may lead to a discrimination lawsuit where the employee is entitled to a jury trial and where both compensatory and punitive damages are available.