[ Discrimination ] Title VII ] Sexual Orientation Discrimination ] Harassment ] Age Discrimination ] Disability Discrimination ] Wrongful Termination ] The E.E.O.C. and State Agencies ]

Discrimination

You can be discriminated against for a lot of reasons, however, only the reasons which are specified in the law will allow you to sue your employer.  The "sue-able" reasons, which are called "protected classes," are:

Color,  Race,  Religion,  National Origin,  Gender, Age and Disability

So far, the courts have allowed employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of long hair and facial hair (except when worn for religious reasons), because the employer wants to hire or promote a family member, or because the employee and the supervisor are having a personality conflict.  However, an employer may NOT discriminate based on your affiliation in a particular political party (he's a Republican, so he only gives jobs to Republicans, for example).  That is not a violation of the anti-discrimination laws - it IS a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, assuring freedom of assembly and association.

The law is a constantly changing organism, and we are talking about several laws, because there are federal laws which cover discrimination/harassment, and apply to everyone in the United States, and most states have their own state discrimination and harassment laws.  In Pennsylvania, the state law is called the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). In New Jersey, it is the Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

Some state laws, like the LAD, are more powerful, and grant more relief than the federal laws, while some, like the PHRA, have been rendered close to useless by the State Supreme Court, or the State Legislature.

In 1998, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on a case that eliminated punitive damages from the remedies available under the PHRA.  It is currently deliberating on a case which may deprive Pennsylvania employees of a right to a jury trial under the PHRA. Sadly, most Pennsylvania employees don't even know the PA. Supreme Court has taken away rights they had until 1998.  Most people don't know what the law says, until they need to use the law.

Some types of discrimination are actionable in some states, while not in others, under the different state laws.  There are differing decisions as to whether an employee can sue an employer on the basis of "overweight" discrimination or gender preference, for example.  The United States Supreme Court just decided in 1998 that same-sex sexual harassment is actionable, which settled a difference of opinion and holdings between federal courts in different parts of the country.

However, regardless of the specific category of discrimination or harassment you may suspect, the important consideration is WHY was the negative employment action taken. It is not enough that you are a member of a racial minority; that you are a woman; that you are over 40.  The action must have been taken BECAUSE you are one -- or more -- of those things.

[ Discrimination ] Title VII ] Sexual Orientation Discrimination ] Harassment ] Age Discrimination ] Disability Discrimination ] Wrongful Termination ] The E.E.O.C. and State Agencies ]

DISCLAIMER: This website is intended to give general information on a very complicated area of the law.  None of the information in this website is to be construed as legal advice; it is for informational purposes only.  No information provided in this website, or communications made over its affiliated e-mail address, is to be considered as having created an attorney-client relationship. The materials provided in this website provide summaries only.  Employment law cases are very fact-intensive and fact-sensitive.  An evaluation of an actual case requires an extensive discussion of the specific facts and a thorough evaluation based on those facts and the applicable law.