Each year, thousands of employees report workplace discrimination. They either bring their claims through management-approved processes or take their claims to court. However, thousands more never say a word about the harassment they endure. Often, they’re afraid of what will happen if they report workplace discrimination. Some just don’t know what to do and are left wondering, Who do you report workplace discrimination to at my worksite?
With federal and state laws in place prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, and many more categories, employees should feel safe going to work. They should also feel safe reporting workplace discrimination.
Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Today, we here at the Smithey Law Group LLC will discuss what protections are in place for employees who report workplace discrimination. We’ll cover common types of discrimination claims, the current state of federal and state law protections, and what to do if you find yourself experiencing discrimination.
What Are Common Types of Discrimination Claims?
The most common types of discrimination claims filed by employees against employers are cases regarding the following:
- Racial discrimination;
- Sex discrimination;
- Age discrimination;
- Religious discrimination;
- Color discrimination; and
- Disability discrimination.
Remember, these are only the claims that get filed. It is highly likely that thousands more employees may suffer in silence. Employees who are part of a minority group (like LGBTQ or Black employees) and fear their workplace has no employee protection for reporting workplace discrimination are unlikely to report discrimination, either internally or externally.
How Are Employees Who Report Workplace Discrimination Protected?
Employees who report workplace discrimination are usually protected under federal and state law. Sometimes, they’re even protected by their employer’s own policies! Since the mid-1960s, the U.S. has enacted many civil rights laws to try to protect workers and minority groups. States have followed, enacting their own laws to provide workers with additional rights.
Since the enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), employees have been protected from discrimination in the workplace. Title VII is the primary federal law protecting employees from workplace discrimination. But it’s not the only employee protection from workplace discrimination. Some of the other key federal protections for employees include:
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963: guarantees equal pay for both men and women performing the same work;
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: protects those 40 and older from age discrimination in employment;
- Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: prohibit discrimination against qualified people with disabilities who work in the federal government;
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: prohibits discrimination against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions relating to pregnancy or childbirth;
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in both the public and private sector (Title I and Title V of the act);
- The Civil Rights Act of 1991: allows for monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination;
- Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008: prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee.
Each of these federal laws protects employees who report workplace discrimination in a different way. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against at work, check with an experienced employment legal matters lawyer to see if any of these laws might apply to your case.
State and Local Laws
Fair employment practices
In Maryland, the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) prohibits workplace discrimination. Employers who employ more than 15 people are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of the following:
- Race, including hair texture and hairstyles typically associated with a particular race;
- Sex, including both sexual orientation and gender identity;
- National origin;
- Marital status; and
- Disability, unrelated to job performance as well as genetic information.
Any kind of harassment is also considered a form of discrimination under FEPA. Maryland also has several strong state laws to protect and support employees who report workplace discrimination.
Maryland has a robust pregnancy discrimination law. Similar to FEPA, Maryland’s Accommodations for Disabilities Due to Pregnancy Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees. This law may require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. If you’re pregnant and think you have been discriminated against at work, you are likely protected under this law. Contact a knowledgeable pregnancy discrimination attorney right away.
Maryland’s Equal Pay for Equal Work law prohibits employers from paying different wages to employees of different genders for the same work. Similarly, employers cannot provide different genders with different opportunities simply because of their sex or gender. However, the law does permit some wage differentials. These are typically based on objective measures like merit, training, shift time, and other factors. Be sure to check with an employment legal matters attorneys if you think you’ve been a victim of unfair or discriminatory pay practices.
How Do You Report Discrimination in the Workplace?
Reporting discrimination in the workplace is a touchy subject. If your employer has an employee handbook, check the policies. Who do you report discrimination to according to your employer’s stated policy? Start there. But remember, your HR department works for your employer–not for you!
So if you don’t get any resolution, or your complaints are ignored, speak with an experienced employment law lawyer. Employees who report discrimination need to be supported and protected, and knowledgeable counsel can do just that. A good lawyer can also walk you through the next steps in getting justice.
How Smithey Law Group LLC Can Help
At Smithey Law Group LLC, our attorneys focus on labor and employment law. We give individualized attention to each client and each case, setting us apart from other law firms. We’re tenacious negotiators and ferocious litigators with a track record of helping our clients recover after experiencing workplace discrimination. We’d love to see how we can help you with your case. Contact us today for a case evaluation.