Most workers in North and South Carolina are employed “at-will,” meaning they can be fired for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason. However, even if employed “at-will,” a worker cannot be fired or mistreated for an illegal reason. There are many federal and state laws in place that protect workers from being fired illegally. The discrimination laws are an example of laws that prevent illegal termination or workplace mistreatment.
Discrimination is still very common in the workplace. There are many forms of discrimination that are illegal under state and federal law.
- Race discrimination
- Color discrimination (typically a difference in skin shade within the same race)
- Religious discrimination
- Gender discrimination
- Pregnancy discrimination
- Disability discrimination
- National origin discrimination
- Discrimination against transgender persons
- Age discrimination
Discrimination occurs when individuals are treated differently from other groups in the workplace.
Example 1: A black employee is fired for a work rule violation and white employees violate the same rule but are not fired.
Example 2: A Muslim employee is mocked and attacked because of his religious faith, his co-workers call him a terrorist. This type of harassment because of his faith as a Muslim is illegal.
Example 3: Men working as heavy equipment operators are paid higher wages than a woman who works for the same Company and who also performs the same job as a heavy equipment operator. This is illegal gender pay discrimination.
Example 4: A woman six months pregnant applies for a job as a waitress and is not hired because the owner of the restaurant thinks it’s bad for a pregnant woman to stand on her feet for several hours waiting table. Therefore he hires another woman who is not pregnant to fill the waitress job. This is illegal gender or pregnancy discrimination.
Example 5: An employee 65 years old is selected for layoff despite the fact he has 30 years of experience and a spotless employment record. Five days later the employer fills his job with a 28-year-old employee who has inferior experience and a history of performance problems. The terminated older worker may have a claim for age discrimination.
Example 6: A person who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair applies for a job as an administrative assistant. The essential functions of the administrative assistant role do not require the ability to stand or walk; the job requires sitting at a desk 8 hours a day working on a computer. The employer does not hire the paralyzed applicant. Instead, the employer hires someone who is not disabled but who has far less experience and qualifications than the paralyzed applicant. The disabled person has been the victim of disability discrimination.
Discrimination Under the Family Medical Leave Act
One frequent form of discrimination is an employer’s failure to honor the rights of employees under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is a federal law mandating that qualified employees are able to take unpaid leave for certain family or medical reasons. (i.e. the birth or adoption of a child, medical leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition or medical leave for the employees own serious health condition.)
Employers frequently interfere with the rights of employees under the FMLA. Specifically employers pressure their employees into staying at work, illegally threatening to fire them if they try to exercise their right to leave under the FMLA.
If you face discrimination in the workplace, the Law Offices of Jason E Taylor can help you fight to protect your rights.
Report Discrimination Immediately to Your Boss and Human Resoures
If you feel you have been a victim of discrimination it is important to immediately report the discrimination to your supervisor and to Human Resources. In order to hold employers liable for discrimination, the organization must be aware of the discrimination; and the only way to make your employer aware of the discrimination is to report it to management.
Always label the motivation for the mistreatment. This is very important. When you complain, you must not only identify who mistreated you and what happened, you must also identify the motivation for the behavior. If you are black, and white employees harass you, tell your boss or Human Resources you are being discriminated against because of your “race.” If you are over 40, and younger employees are getting promotions, and you can’t even get an interview for a vacancy, tell your boss or Human Resources you believe you are the victim of “age discrimination.” By identifying the motivation, you specifically are requesting protection under the Company’s workplace discrimination policy. If you fail to include the motivation, the employer will simply try to claim the problem was due to a personality conflict or dumb it down in some other way. Don’t let your employer wiggle off the hook- make sure it knows you are complaining about age, gender, disability, pregnancy, religious, or race discrimination.
People Who Complain About Discrimination are Protected
Many workers are afraid to report discrimination claims. They don’t want to get in trouble. This is a mistake. Federal and state laws protect employees who complain about discrimination. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint.
Never Quit Your Job When You are Being Discriminated Against
Many employees quit their jobs over discrimination. This can be a mistake. Quitting can sometimes make the discrimination claim harder to prove in court. The law forbids discrimination and employees can be in a stronger position to fight the discrimination from within the organization while still employed.
If You are the Victim of Discrimination-Consult an Attorney Immediately
The deadlines for filing discrimination claims are much shorter than the typical legal claim. People who have been the victim of discrimination must also file charges with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or similar state agencies before they can file a lawsuit. The deadline for filing a discrimination charge can be as short as 180 days from when the discriminatory act occurred-180 days from the termination, or 180 days from the first act of harassment.