Know Your Rights: Workplace Discrimination is Illegal
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Federal laws that protect you from discrimination in employment. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against at work or in applying for a job, the EEOC may be able to help.
Who is Protected?
- Employees (current and former), including managers and temporary employees
- Job applicants
- Union members and Applicants for membership in a union
What Organizations are Covered?
- Most private employers
- State and local governments (as employers)
- Educational institutions (as employers)
- Staffing agencies
What Types of Employment Discrimination are Illegal?
Under EEOC’s laws, an employer may not discriminate against you, regardless of your immigration status, on the bases of:
- National origin
- Sex (including pregnancy and related conditions, sexual orientation, or gender identity)
- Age (40 and older)
- Genetic information (including employer requests for, or purchase, use, or disclosure of genetic tests, genetic services, or family medical history)
- Retaliation for filing a charge, reasonably opposing discrimination, or participating in a discrimination lawsuit, investigation, or proceeding.
What Employment Practices can be Challenged as Discriminatory?
All aspects of employment, including:
- Discharge, firing, or lay-off
- Harassment (including unwelcome verbal or physical conduct)
- Hiring or promotion
- Pay (unequal wages or compensation)
- Failure to provide reasonable accommodation for a disability or a sincerely-held religious belief, observance or practice
- Job training
- Obtaining or disclosing genetic information of employees
- Requesting or disclosing medical information of employees
- Conduct that might reasonably discourage someone from opposing discrimination, filing a charge, or participating in an investigation or proceeding.
What can You do if You Believe Discrimination has Occurred?
Contact the EEOC promptly if you suspect discrimination. Do not delay, because there are strict time limits for filing a charge of discrimination (180 or 300 days, depending on where you live/work). You can reach the EEOC in any of the following ways:
Additional information about the EEOC, including information about filing a charge of discrimination, is available at https://www.eeoc.gov.
Employers Holding Federal Contracts or Subcontracts
The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces the nondiscrimination and affirmative action commitments of companies doing business with the Federal Government. If you are applying for a job with, or are an employee of, a company with a Federal contract or subcontract, you are protected under Federal law from discrimination on the following bases:
Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, National Origin
Executive Order 11246, as amended, prohibits employment discrimination by Federal contractors based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin, and requires affirmative action to ensure equality of opportunity in all aspects of employment.
Asking About, Disclosing, or Discussing Pay
Executive Order 11246, as amended, protects applicants and employees of Federal contractors from discrimination based on inquiring about, disclosing, or discussing their compensation or the compensation of other applicants or employees.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment by Federal contractors. Disability discrimination includes not making reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, barring undue hardship to the employer. Section 503 also requires that Federal contractors take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities at all levels of employment, including the executive level.
Protected Veteran Status
The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended, 38 U.S.C. 4212, prohibits employment discrimination against, and requires affirmative action to recruit, employ, and advance in employment, disabled veterans, recently separated veterans (i.e., within three years of discharge or release from active duty), active duty wartime or campaign badge veterans, or Armed Forces service medal veterans.
Retaliation is prohibited against a person who files a complaint of discrimination, participates in an OFCCP proceeding, or otherwise opposes discrimination by Federal contractors under these Federal laws.
Any person who believes a contractor has violated its nondiscrimination or affirmative action obligations under OFCCP’s authorities should contact immediately:
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 2021
If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services. OFCCP may also be contacted by submitting a question online to OFCCP’s Help Desk at https://ofccphelpdesk.dol.gov/s/, or by calling an OFCCP regional or district office, listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor and on OFCCP’s “Contact Us” webpage at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/contact.
Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance
Race, Color, National Origin, Sex
In addition to the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance. Employment discrimination is covered by Title VI if the primary objective of the financial assistance is provision of employment, or where employment discrimination causes or may cause discrimination in providing services under such programs. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs or activities which receive Federal financial assistance.
Individuals with Disabilities
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity which receives Federal financial assistance. Discrimination is prohibited in all aspects of employment against persons with disabilities who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job.
If you believe you have been discriminated against in a program of any institution which receives Federal financial assistance, you should immediately contact the Federal agency providing such assistance.