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Employment Discrimination and Harassment

Employment discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because he/she is a member of a protected class, which includes age (if over 40), disability, national origin and ancestry, race and color, religion, and sex and pregnancy, or because of an actual or perceived disability.

Employment discrimination also can involve treating someone unfavorably because the person is married to (or associated with) a person of a certain age (if over 40), disability, national origin and ancestry, race and color, religion, and sex and pregnancy.

Discrimination can even occur when the victim and the person who inflicted the discrimination are members of the same protected class.

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person's membership in a protected class. Harassment can include, for example, religious slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person's gender, or the display of racially-offensive symbols. Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone can be illegal if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a particular protected class and is not job-related or necessary to the operation of the business.

More Employment Law Topics

Employment at Will and Wrongful Termination

Employment Discrimination and Harassment

Employment Retaliation

Disability Discrimination

Sex Harassment

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Whistleblower Retaliation


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