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Complying with discrimination laws is not just the right thing to do; it is the law. Smart employers work hard to encourage diversity as well - along the way taking advantage of every employee's creativity, ideas, sense of teamwork and commitment to company success.
Employees are protected from discrimination by a number of laws including:
These laws protect employees from discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, color, sex, age, disability and pregnancy. In addition, almost half the states and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in private employment. Some of these states also specifically prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
What areas of employment are covered? Discrimination laws cover practices related to hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, and compensation, just to name a few.
A quick note: Discrimination laws are very specific but also let employers maintain some amount of latitude. As an example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to make "reasonable accommodations" for an employee with a protected disability. At the same time, it specifies that the accommodation cannot create a financial hardship to the employer. As you can guess, interpreting these two aspects of the ADA can leave a lot of room for confusion. If at any time you are unsure or unclear as to your responsibilities and your rights as an employer, consult with an experienced employment law attorney and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
So where are you, as an employer, most vulnerable to discrimination or harassment charges? Here are a few of the most common possibilities, and steps you can take to minimize the chance of a complaint or litigation:
So how can you avoid discrimination and promote diversity? Here are some simple techniques and practices:
If you do receive a complaint from an employee: