Cases of employment discrimination occur on a regular basis. Employers illegally discriminate in hiring, firing, compensation or conditions of employment. Discrimination may be based on race, religion, national original, age, color, sex, handicap or perceived disability.
Strong federal and state anti-discrimination laws make it unlawful to discriminate against individuals with respect to their hiring, firing, compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. The following are some of the anti-discrimination laws in effect:
The Equal Employment Practices Act provides that employers may not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap. Unfortunately, race discrimination and other types of discrimination are still found in the workplace. The Department of Administration’s Human Relations Commission is given the power to investigate charges of discrimination brought to their attention by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Equal Employment Opportunities Act prohibits private employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating against an individual on the basis of his race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, prohibits employers with 15 or more employees, unions, and employment agencies from discriminating against an employee based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex or physical disability. These laws make it unlawful to discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her hiring, firing, compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. When an employee wins a claim for discrimination under Title VII, he or she may be entitled to lost wages and benefits, including back pay, front pay, and other compensatory damages for emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life, interest, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees, and also possible punitive damages. Equitable relief is also potentially available, including injunctive relief, reinstatement, hiring or promotion.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits state entities and private employers with over 20 employees from discriminating against an employee based on his age and like Title VII applies to the terms, conditions or privileges of employment. This law applies to workers over the age of forty (40). When an employee makes a charge of age discrimination the employer must demonstrate a legitimate business reason for its actions. The employee must then prove that the real reason for the adverse action was age. Damages available under the law are lost wages and benefits including back pay, front pay, other out of pocket losses, interest, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. If the actions were intentional, the back pay can be doubled as “liquidated damages.” The ADEA also provides for various types of equitable relief including hiring, transfer, reinstatement, promotion and injunctive relief.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits employers with over 15 employees from discriminating against individuals who have a “disability,” as defined by the ADA. The employee must be able to demonstrate that with a “reasonable accommodation” for a mental or physical impairment one can perform the essential functions of a job. Lawsuits under the ADA are difficult, but not impossible to win.
In Tennessee, The Tennessee Human Rights Act establishes the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, sex, age, or national origin. It also prohibits discrimination based on handicap. A person who claims to have been the victim of a discriminatory practice prohibited by the Human Rights Act may file a sworn complaint with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission within 180 days of the date the discriminatory act occurred or file a complaint directly with the chancery court within one year of the last discriminatory act.
Filing deadlines under the discrimination statutes are short and strictly enforced. A complainant can file a complaint with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and may also file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the discriminatory act. Upon receipt of a charge, the employer must file a response and justify its actions. The Commission will conduct an investigation to determine if there is good cause to believe an act of discrimination took place. The Commission will also make efforts to get the parties to resolve their dispute through mediation. If the matter is not resolved, the agency will issue a “Right to Sue” letter after a complete investigation. In most cases, the employee must file a law suit within 90 days after the “Right to Sue” letter is received or his rights are forever lost.
If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, you may wish to consult an employment law attorney to see if you have a case. Call Merritt Webb at 1.800.556.8404.
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