Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the best known of the various federal anti-discrimination statutes.  It governs the employment practices of most public and private employers, prohibiting employment discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The principal legislation covering employment discrimination in Florida is the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, Florida Statutes, Section 760.10.  Although this statute borrows heavily from Title VII language, there are nevertheless some differences between the two pieces of legislation.  Thus, while both the Florida and federal statutes prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, only the Florida statute proscribes discrimination on the basis of marital status. Further, the Florida statute contains no cap or limitation on the amount of compensatory damages awardable.

 

Commonly Asked Questions

What is protected conduct under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also practices that have a discriminatory impact 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 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.

Religious Accommodation

An employer is required to reasonably accommodate the religious belief of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.

Sex Discrimination

  • Title VII's broad prohibitions against sex discrimination, specifically cover:
  • Gender discrimination in hiring,compensation, promotion or termination.
  • 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, including same sex harassment. (The "hostile environment" standard also applies to harassment on the basis 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.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Age discrimination is prohibited in hiring as well as compensation, benefit, and promotional issues. Furthermore, age bias in termination and reduction in force situations is unlawful.

Equal Pay Act

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.

Note that:

  • 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.
To Whom Do Anti-Discrimination Laws Apply?

“Generally, federal and state discrimination statutes apply to Employers who have 15 or more employees within the past two years. Local city and county ordinances may apply to Employers with a lesser number of employees(as few as 5).

Labor Unions and Joint Apprenticeship Committees are different in that they  must have 15 or more members for Title VII to apply and prohibit race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability discrimination.

Some people such as independent contractors are not  covered by the anti-discrimination laws as they are not deemed “employees”. Figuring out whether or not a person is an employee and or independent contractor or whether an Employer has the requisite number of employees is somewhat complicated. If you aren't sure whether you are covered, you should contact an attorney  as soon as possible so that they may advise you as per your specific situation.

 

What happens when I file charges against an employer for discrimination?

Discrimination complaints must be made within 180 days of the date of the infringement, and must be submitted in writing to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If your state has a civil rights/discrimination statute of its own, the filing period for the EEOC charge may be extended to 300 days and you may have a longer period of time to file under the state’s discrimination statute.

The EEOC will then investigate the complaint, and will respond in writing stating whether or not an infringement has been committed. From the receipt of that letter, the victim of discrimination has ninety days to file a lawsuit against the offending party. This is called a "right to sue" letter. As charges must be filed within six months, it is important that if you believe you are being discriminated against,  that you  seek advice from a qualified Employment Attorney.