Federal and State Regulations
Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination
Questions And Answers
Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws
What Are the Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination?
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;
- Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government; and
- The Civil Rights Act of 1991, which provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces all of these laws. EEOC also provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies.
What Discriminatory Practices Are Prohibited by These Laws?
Under Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA, it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:
- hiring and firing;
- compensation, assignment, or classification of employees;
- transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall;
- job advertisements;
- use of company facilities;
- training and apprenticeship programs;
- fringe benefits;
- pay, retirement plans, and disability leave; or
- other terms and conditions of employment.
Discriminatory practices under these laws also include:
- harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age;
- retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
- employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities; and
- denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.
Employers are required to post notices to all employees advising them of their rights under the laws EEOC enforces and their right to be free from retaliation. Such notices must be accessible, as needed, to persons with visual or other disabilities that affect reading.
What Other Practices Are Discriminatory Under These Laws?
- Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also practices that have the effect of discriminating against individuals because of their race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.
National Origin Discrimination
- It is illegal to discriminate against an individual because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group.
- A rule requiring that employees speak only English on the job may violate Title VII unless an employer shows that the requirement is necessary for conducting the business. If the employer believes such a rule is necessary, employees must be informed when English is required and the consequences for violating the rule.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to assure that employees hired are legally authorized to work in the U.S. However, an employer who requests employment verification only for individuals of a particular national origin, or individuals who appear to be or sound foreign, may violate both Title VII and IRCA; verification must be obtained from all applicants and employees. Employers who impose citizenship requirements or give preferences to U.S. citizens in hiring or employment opportunities also may violate IRCA.
Additional information about IRCA may be obtained from the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices at 1-800-255-7688 (voice), 1-800-237-2515 (TTY for employees/applicants) or 1-800-362-2735 (TTY for employers).
- An employer is required to reasonably accommodate the religious belief of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.
Title VII's broad prohibitions against sex discrimination specifically cover:
- Sexual Harassment - This includes practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender. (The "hostile environment" standard also applies to harassment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, age, and disability.)
- Pregnancy Based Discrimination - Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated in the same way as other temporary illnesses or conditions.
Additional rights are available to parents and others under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. For information on the FMLA, or to file an FMLA complaint, individuals should contact the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division, Employment Standards Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. The Wage and Hour Division is listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA's broad ban against age discrimination also specifically prohibits:
- statements or specifications in job notices or advertisements of age preference and limitations. An age limit may only be specified in the rare circumstance where age has been proven to be a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ);
- discrimination on the basis of age by apprenticeship programs, including joint labor-management apprenticeship programs; and
- denial of benefits to older employees. An employer may reduce benefits based on age only if the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing benefits to younger workers.
Equal Pay Act (EPA)
The EPA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits, where men and women perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions.
- Employers may not reduce wages of either sex to equalize pay between men and women.
- A violation of the EPA may occur where a different wage was/is paid to a person who worked in the same job before or after an employee of the opposite sex.
- A violation may also occur where a labor union causes the employer to violate the law.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all employment practices. It is necessary to understand several important ADA definitions to know who is protected by the law and what constitutes illegal discrimination:
Individual with a Disability
An individual with a disability under the ADA is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities are activities that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty such as walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, and working.
Qualified Individual with a Disability
A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is someone who satisfies skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position held or desired, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of that position.
Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to, making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; job restructuring; modification of work schedules; providing additional unpaid leave; reassignment to a vacant position; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters. Reasonable accommodation may be necessary to apply for a job, to perform job functions, or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment that are enjoyed by people without disabilities. An employer is not required to lower production standards to make an accommodation. An employer generally is not obligated to provide personal use items such as eyeglasses or hearing aids.
An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business. Undue hardship means an action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to factors such as a business' size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.
Prohibited Inquiries and Examinations
Before making an offer of employment, an employer may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform job functions. A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering employees in the same job category. Medical examinations of employees must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Employees and applicants currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs are not protected by the ADA, when an employer acts on the basis of such use. Tests for illegal use of drugs are not considered medical examinations and, therefore, are not subject to the ADA's restrictions on medical examinations. Employers may hold individuals who are illegally using drugs and individuals with alcoholism to the same standards of performance as other employees.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 made major changes in the federal laws against employment discrimination enforced by EEOC. Enacted in part to reverse several Supreme Court decisions that limited the rights of persons protected by these laws, the Act also provides additional protections. The Act authorizes compensatory and punitive damages in cases of intentional discrimination, and provides for obtaining attorneys' fees and the possibility of jury trials. It also directs the EEOC to expand its technical assistance and outreach activities.
FLORIDA CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1992
760.10 Unlawful employment practices.--
(1) It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer:
(a) To discharge or to fail or refuse to hire any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
(b) To limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or adversely affect any individual's status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
(2) It is an unlawful employment practice for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
(3) It is an unlawful employment practice for a labor organization:
(a) To exclude or to expel from its membership, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
(b) To limit, segregate, or classify its membership or applicants for membership, or to classify or fail or refuse to refer for employment any individual, in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or adversely affect any individual's status as an employee or as an applicant for employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
(c) To cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section.
(4) It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining, including on-the-job training programs, to discriminate against any individual because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status in admission to, or employment in, any program established to provide apprenticeship or other training.
(5) Whenever, in order to engage in a profession, occupation, or trade, it is required that a person receive a license, certification, or other credential, become a member or an associate of any club, association, or other organization, or pass any examination, it is an unlawful employment practice for any person to discriminate against any other person seeking such license, certification, or other credential, seeking to become a member or associate of such club, association, or other organization, or seeking to take or pass such examination, because of such other person's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
(6) It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, or joint labor-management committee to print, or cause to be printed or published, any notice or advertisement relating to employment, membership, classification, referral for employment, or apprenticeship or other training, indicating any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination, based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, absence of handicap, or marital status.
(7) It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer, an employment agency, a joint labor-management committee, or a labor organization to discriminate against any person because that person has opposed any practice which is an unlawful employment practice under this section, or because that person has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this section.
(8) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, it is not an unlawful employment practice under ss. 760.01-760.10 for an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee to:
(a) Take or fail to take any action on the basis of religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status in those certain instances in which religion, sex, national origin, age, absence of a particular handicap, or marital status is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary for the performance of the particular employment to which such action or inaction is related.
(b) Observe the terms of a bona fide seniority system, a bona fide employee benefit plan such as a retirement, pension, or insurance plan, or a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, which is not designed, intended, or used to evade the purposes of ss. 760.01-760.10. However, no such employee benefit plan or system which measures earnings shall excuse the failure to hire, and no such seniority system, employee benefit plan, or system which measures earnings shall excuse the involuntary retirement of, any individual on the basis of any factor not related to the ability of such individual to perform the particular employment for which such individual has applied or in which such individual is engaged. This subsection shall not be construed to make unlawful the rejection or termination of employment when the individual applicant or employee has failed to meet bona fide requirements for the job or position sought or held or to require any changes in any bona fide retirement or pension programs or existing collective bargaining agreements during the life of the contract, or for 2 years after October 1, 1981, whichever occurs first, nor shall this act preclude such physical and medical examinations of applicants and employees as an employer may require of applicants and employees to determine fitness for the job or position sought or held.
(c) Take or fail to take any action on the basis of age, pursuant to law or regulation governing any employment or training program designed to benefit persons of a particular age group.
(d) Take or fail to take any action on the basis of marital status if that status is prohibited under its antinepotism policy.
(9) This section shall not apply to any religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society which conditions opportunities in the area of employment or public accommodation to members of that religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society or to persons who subscribe to its tenets or beliefs. This section shall not prohibit a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society from giving preference in employment to individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies of its various activities.
(10) Each employer, employment agency, and labor organization shall post and keep posted in conspicuous places upon its premises a notice provided by the commission setting forth such information as the commission deems appropriate to effectuate the purposes of ss. 760.01-760.10.
History.--s. 6, ch. 77-341; s. 2, ch. 78-49; s. 5, ch. 79-400; s. 1, ch. 81-109; s. 7, ch. 92-177; ss. 2, 4, ch. 92-282.
Note.--Former ss. 13.261, 23.167.
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 29, Volume 4, Parts 900 to 1899]
[Revised as of July 1, 1998]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
A. Procedure having adverse impact constitutes discrimination unless justified. The use of any selection procedure which has an adverse impact on the hiring, promotion, or other employment or membership opportunities of members of any race, sex, or ethnic group will be considered to be discriminatory and inconsistent with these guidelines, unless the procedure has been validated in accordance with these guidelines, or the provisions of section 6 below are satisfied.
B. Consideration of suitable alternative selection procedures. Where two or more selection procedures are available which serve the user's legitimate interest in efficient and trustworthy workmanship, and which are substantially equally valid for a given purpose, the user should use the procedure which has been demonstrated to have the lesser adverse impact. Accordingly, whenever a validity study is called for by these guidelines, the user should include, as a part of the validity study, an investigation of suitable alternative selection procedures and suitable alternative methods of using the selection procedure which have as little adverse impact as possible, to determine the appropriateness of using or validating them in accord with these guidelines. If a user has made a reasonable effort to become aware of such alternative procedures and validity has been demonstrated in accord with these guidelines, the use of the test or other selection procedure may continue until such time as it should reasonably be reviewed for currency. Whenever the user is shown an alternative selection procedure with evidence of less adverse impact and substantial evidence of validity for the same job in similar circumstances, the user should investigate it to determine the appropriateness of using or validating it in accord with these guidelines. This subsection is not intended to preclude the combination of procedures into a significantly more valid procedure, if the use of such a combination has been shown to be in compliance with the guidelines.
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 29, Volume 4, Parts 900 to 1899]
[Revised as of July 1, 1998]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
CHAPTER XIV--EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION
PART 1607--UNIFORM GUIDELINES ON EMPLOYEE SELECTION PROCEDURES (1978)--Table of Contents
Sec. 1607.5 General standards for validity studies.
A. Acceptable types of validity studies. For the purposes of satisfying these guidelines, users may rely upon criterion-related validity studies, content validity studies or construct validity studies, in accordance with the standards set forth in the technical standards of these guidelines, section 14 below. New strategies for showing the validity of selection procedures will be evaluated as they become accepted by the psychological profession.
B. Criterion-related, content, and construct validity. Evidence of the validity of a test or other selection procedure by a criterion- related validity study should consist of empirical data demonstrating that the selection procedure is predictive of or significantly correlated with important elements of job performance. See section 14B below. Evidence of the validity of a test or other selection procedure by a content validity study should consist of data showing that the content of the selection procedure is representative of important aspects of performance on the job for which the candidates are to be evaluated. See 14C below. Evidence of the validity of a test or other selection procedure through a construct validity study should consist of data showing that the procedure measures the degree to which candidates have identifiable characteristics which have been determined to be important in successful performance in the job for which the candidates are to be evaluated. See section 14D below.
C. Guidelines are consistent with professional standards. The provisions of these guidelines relating to validation of selection procedures are intended to be consistent with generally accepted professional standards for evaluating standardized tests and other selection procedures, such as those described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Tests prepared by a joint committee of the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education (American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, 1974) (hereinafter ''A.P.A. Standards'') and standard textbooks and journals in the field of personnel selection.
D. Need for documentation of validity. For any selection procedure which is part of a selection process which has an adverse impact and which selection procedure has an adverse impact, each user should maintain and have available such documentation as is described in section 15 below.
E. Accuracy and standardization. Validity studies should be carried out under conditions which assure insofar as possible the adequacy and accuracy of the research and the report. Selection procedures should be administered and scored under standardized conditions.
F. Caution against selection on basis of knowledges, skills, or ability learned in brief orientation period. In general, users should avoid making employment decisions on the basis of measures of knowledges, skills, or abilities which are normally learned in a brief orientation period, and which have an adverse impact.
G. Method of use of selection procedures. The evidence of both the validity and utility of a selection procedure should support the method the user chooses for operational use of the procedure, if that method of use has a greater adverse impact than another method of use. Evidence which may be sufficient to support the use of a selection procedure on a pass/fail (screening) basis may be insufficient to support the use of the same procedure on a ranking basis under these guidelines. Thus, if a user decides to use a selection procedure on a ranking basis, and that method of use has a greater adverse impact than use on an appropriate pass/fail basis (see section 5H below), the user should have sufficient evidence of validity and utility to support the use on a ranking basis. See sections 3B, 14B (5) and (6), and 14C (8) and (9).
H. Cutoff scores. Where cutoff scores are used, they should normally be set so as to be reasonable and consistent with normal expectations of acceptable proficiency within the work force. Where applicants are ranked on the basis of properly validated selection procedures and those applicants scoring below a higher cutoff score than appropriate in light of such expectations have little or no chance of being selected for employment, the higher cutoff score may be appropriate, but the degree of adverse impact should be considered.
I. Use of selection procedures for higher level jobs. If job progression structures are so established that employees will probably, within a reasonable period of time and in a majority of cases, progress to a higher level, it may be considered that the applicants are being evaluated for a job or jobs at the higher level. However, where job progression is not so nearly automatic, or the time span is such that higher level jobs or employees' potential may be expected to change in significant ways, it should be considered that applicants are being evaluated for a job at or near the entry level. A ''reasonable period of time'' will vary for different jobs and employment situations but will seldom be more than 5 years. Use of selection procedures to evaluate applicants for a higher level job would not be appropriate:
- If the majority of those remaining employed do not progress to the higher level job;
- If there is a reason to doubt that the higher level job will continue to require essentially similar skills during the progression period; or
- If the selection procedures measure knowledges, skills, or abilities required for advancement which would be expected to develop principally from the training or experience on the job.
J. Interim use of selection procedures. Users may continue the use of a selection procedure which is not at the moment fully supported by the required evidence of validity, provided: (1) The user has available substantial evidence of validity, and (2) the user has in progress, when technically feasible, a study which is designed to produce the additional evidence required by these guidelines within a reasonable time. If such a study is not technically feasible, see section 6B. If the study does not demonstrate validity, this provision of these guidelines for interim use shall not constitute a defense in any action, nor shall it relieve the user of any obligations arising under Federal law.
K. Review of validity studies for currency. Whenever validity has been shown in accord with these guidelines for the use of a particular selection procedure for a job or group of jobs, additional studies need not be performed until such time as the validity study is subject to review as provided in section 3B above. There are no absolutes in the area of determining the currency of a validity study. All circumstances concerning the study, including the validation strategy used, and changes in the relevant labor market and the job should be considered in the determination of when a validity study is outdated.