The Civil Rights Act of 1964 could easily be considered the most significant piece of legislation in the history of the United States. It sought to transform American society by outlawing discrimination in multiple contexts on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin.
This Act also broadly prohibits discrimination in employment. If you are an employee and a member of a protected class, you might find yourself someday wondering, “Did I experience workplace discrimination?”
The answer can be challenging to determine. Actions in the workplace can have numerous interpretations, some of which require statistical analysis to uncover discriminatory patterns. Here’s what you need to know about experiencing workplace discrimination in Illinois and how the attorneys at Alvarez Law can help right the wrongs you may have experienced. If you have any questions, give us a call at (219) 401-5380 today!
What is Workplace Discrimination?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for employers to treat an applicant or worker differently explicitly based on race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. A 2020 Supreme Court decision interpreted the law’s prohibitions to extend to sexual orientation and gender identity. Other laws forbid discrimination based on age, disability, or status as a veteran. Title VII has a broad scope and includes a range of employment decision-making, such as hiring and firing, setting terms and conditions of employment, and setting compensation. The law also covers employment agencies recruiting and recommending workers for jobs.
Forms of Discriminatory Behavior
Assessing workplace discrimination requires the ability to interpret and understand the intent of a person’s actions in the workplace. Over the years, the law has developed specific categories of behaviors that can qualify as discrimination if shown to be based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), situations that can involve discrimination include:
- Unfair/differential treatment on work assignments, hiring or firing, or compensation.
- Harassment involving managers, co-workers, or others in your workplace.
- Retaliation to your complaints about job discrimination or involvement in a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
- Denial of a workplace change or accommodation because of your religious beliefs or disability.
- Improper questions regarding genetic or medical information.
Proving discrimination in proceedings or filings to a government body, such as the EEOC or the Illinois Department of Human Rights, or in a lawsuit can be a significant challenge. It requires experienced counsel who will work with you to collect the facts, guide you in collecting evidence, and evaluate your case against the law and legal precedent. The team of workplace discrimination attorneys at Alvarez Law is ready to work on your behalf.
Examples of Workplace Discrimination
One way to determine if you have experienced workplace discrimination is to compare your case against previous examples. Remember that every case is different, and an experienced workplace discrimination attorney is best situated to evaluate the circumstances and the law to help you decide. Also, remember that victims of discrimination can be both individuals and groups of workers. Here are a few examples of situations that can indicate discrimination:
- Giving only employees of a certain race or gender a specific work assignment.
- Paying women less than men for the same work.
- Telling inappropriate or off-color jokes that repeatedly make fun of women, members of a certain race, homosexuals, or others.
- Increasing the pay of and promoting only certain employees based on race, age, or sexual orientation.
- Requiring tests, such as math tests or lifting requirements, that have nothing to do with the actual job requirements.
- Dismissing women on maternity leave simply because of their pregnancies.
The EEOC publishes summaries of recent settlements and court decisions on its website to help provide additional context for individuals to judge workplace discrimination. For instance, according to the agency, a payroll and human resources firm in Illinois agreed to a $1.4 million settlement of charges that the company discriminated against Black and Hispanic job applicants and employees.
Cases of discrimination can arise in any state. For example, the EEOC highlights a recent decision involving a vending and coffee service provider in Indiana. The company paid $22,000 to settle allegations that it discriminated against a Black applicant when hiring vending service representatives.
Discrimination does not need to be systemic. In 2005, the EEOC says it obtained $34,000 in damages for a Black former employee of an Illinois manufacturing plant. The employee had been subject to repeated racial epithets from co-workers, creating what the law describes as a “hostile workplace.”
Filing an Employment Discrimination Claim
If you feel you have been subject to workplace discrimination, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer. However, there are certain procedures you must follow before resolving your case. The most important point to remember is that under state and federal law, you have between 180 days and 300 calendar days to take action.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights investigates and enforces Illinois laws against discrimination in employment, housing, financial services, public accommodations, and sexual harassment in education. The EEOC enforces federal discrimination laws.
To file in Illinois, you must navigate a five-step process that includes case intake, mediation, investigation, findings/results, and potentially a public hearing or request for review. If the Department of Human Rights decides not to pursue the case, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit in federal court to seek damages on your own.
Courts or agencies can order the defendants to pay damages and change their discriminatory practices so they do not occur to anyone else.
Understand Your Rights With Alvarez Law
Workplace discrimination is a horrible experience that no one should have to endure. The attorneys at Alvarez Law, who have more than 200 years of combined experience in personal injury law, will stand by you. If you feel you’ve experienced workplace discrimination, Alvarez Law will provide aggressive representation to seek damages and other types of recourse. We’ll guide you through the legal processes under state and federal laws and seek maximum compensation. Don’t settle for anything less. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about the Alvarez Difference.