Employment discrimination occurs when an employee’s job or job conditions are changed or terminated based on one or more impermissible factors. These factors include, but are not limited to: race, age, gender, and religious affiliation. The affected job conditions can include changes in: salary, work schedule or shift, work location, duties or responsibilities, and termination.
Employment harassment occurs when an individual is subjected to a demeaning or dangerous work environment based on the factors discussed above. Such an environment can include offensive jokes, unwanted touching or advances, or being placed in a situation by superiors or coworkers that is designed to make one quit or resign. Most often an affected employee has suffered numerous instances of adverse employment conditions over a long period of time.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the governmental agency responsible for investigating charges of employment discrimination or harassment in the workplace. The EEOC may bring a law suit on behalf of workers, or they may work with employers to correct any discriminatory practices that have been identified within the company. The reality is that the EEOC actually litigates only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of complaints that are filed each year. Most often, the EEOC will do a cursory review of the complaint and then issue the affected employee a “right to sue” letter which gives the employee the opportunity to file suit in federal court. Thousands of people with legitimate claims never pursue their case.
In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber, the United States Supreme Court tightened the time limits for filing suits based on job discrimination in terms of pay. One of the first pieces of legislation passed by Congress during President Obama’s first administration was the so-called Lilly Ledbetter Act, which was to address the issue of time constraints but there are still limitation periods to consider for this type of case and others. Accordingly, it is imperative that anyone who believes they are the victim of discrimination or harassment or other impermissible employer conduct contact the EEOC or an attorney for a consultation as soon as they suspect a problem.