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Employment Discrimination Blog

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Employment Law, Workplace Discrimination and Related Issues and Developments

In many instances, employment laws address the needs and rights of both employers and employees. Employment anti-discrimination laws, however, focus largely on the protection of employees’ right to a workplace that is free of harassment, retaliation and hostility, and of discrimination based on:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • A past bankruptcy


In many locales and in numerous situations (including employment by the federal government), employees are also legally protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status and political affiliation.

Two recent lawsuits can help employers understand their obligations and help employees understand their rights regarding employment discrimination. The first was covered in February 2013 by a Nevada newspaper and involved both discrimination and retaliation. (To read the article, click here).

The article notes that a school district’s female employee had successfully sued the district following workplace sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is illegal and the school district and the employee ended up settling the harassment case in 2003.

In 2006 the employee again sued the district, this time claiming that the district had failed to promote her because of her harassment claim of three years earlier. The employee is quoted as saying that the district “has made it clear that they are not going to promote me…I am being retaliated against." Retaliation following a discrimination lawsuit is illegal and, in this instance, too, the case settled out of court (for $300,000).

The “lesson” from this dual case? Employers who ignore anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination laws face the risk of costly litigation, verdicts and settlements. And employees can often successfully pursue the protection of their rights when they familiarize themselves with laws, regulations and acts such as:

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1991
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • The Bankruptcy Act
  • The Civil Service Reform Act
  • The Whistleblower Protection Act

 

In another case, occurring in 2010, a 54 year-old Radio Shack store manager was fired not long after a visiting company vice president had told him, after learning his age, that he might “have a year left” with the company.  The employee’s successor, who was 23 years old, mentioned that he’d been told that the company wanted “some younger ideas” at the store.

Not surprisingly, Radio Shack denied the discrimination charge and instead cited an instance in which a sum of money had been placed in a desk instead of a safe. Nonetheless, a jury found Radio Shack guilty of age discrimination and awarded the former store manager more than $1 million in lost wages, emotional distress and punitive damages. The lesson here? Employers must think twice before firing an employee due to notions that another employee will perform better simply because he or she is a different age, gender, race, etc. than another. Likewise, employees who know their rights can win significant compensation if they can prove they were the victim of an employment law violation. 


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