Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, transgender status, and sexual orientation), pregnancy, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information
Discrimination or harassment by managers, co-workers, or others in your workplace because of your race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, transgender status, and sexual orientation), pregnancy, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information
Denial of a reasonable workplace accommodation that you need because of your religious beliefs or disability
Retaliation because you complained about job discrimination, or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit
Some of the most popular laws dealing with employment discrimination include:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), preventing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and gender identity including transgender status, sexual orientation or national origin
Find out more about protections for workers against harassment and discrimination because of national origin.
Equal Pay/Compensation Discrimination
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job title) determines whether jobs are substantially equal.
All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.
If there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.
Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA prohibit compensation discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or transgender status, national origin, age, or disability.
An individual alleging a violation of the EPA may go directly to court and is not required to file an EEOC charge beforehand.
The time limit for filing an EPA charge with the EEOC and the time limit for going to court are the same: within two years of the alleged unlawful compensation practice or, in the case of a willful violation, within three years.
The filing of an EEOC charge under the EPA does not extend the time frame for going to court.
Someone who has an Equal Pay Act claim may also have a claim under Title VII.
Harassment is a form of employment discrimination consisting of unwelcome or offensive conduct toward a worker that is based on that worker’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, pregnancy, disability, or genetic (personal or family medical history) information.
Harassment becomes illegal when enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment.
The harassment is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality.
To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.
Offensive, harassing conduct may include, but is not limited to:
Offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, or name calling
Physical assaults, threats, or intimidation
Verbal or written ridicule, mockery, insults, or put-downs
Display or use of offensive objects or pictures
Malicious interference with work performance
Sexual harassment is illegal and may include:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature
Harassment that is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment
Harassment that results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted)
Points to remember:
Both the victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.
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.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.
If you believe that the harassment you are experiencing or witnessing is of a specifically sexual nature, you may want to see EEOC's information on sexual harassment.
Filing a Complaint
An employer must have a certain number of employees to be covered by EEOC laws. This number varies depending on the type of employer (for example, whether the employer is a private company, a state or local government agency, a federal agency, an employment agency, or a labor union) and the kind of discrimination alleged (for example, discrimination based on a person's race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, and sexual orientation), pregnancy, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information).
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws prohibit retaliation including punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination and/or harassment. Asserting these EEO rights is called "protected activity," and it can take many forms. For example, it is unlawful to retaliate against applicants or employees for:
Filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
Answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
Asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages
Participating in a complaint process is protected from retaliation under all circumstances. Other acts to oppose discrimination are protected as long as the employee was acting on a reasonable belief that something in the workplace may violate EEO laws, even if he or she did not use legal terminology to describe it.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal labor law that allows an eligible employee to take an extended leave of absence from work due to illness or to care for a sick family member. The leave, guaranteed by the FMLA, is unpaid and is available to those working for employers with 50 or more employees.
Questions or Reporting a Violation of the FMLA
If you have unanswered questions about the FMLA or you believe someone has violated your rights under FMLA, visit the Wage and Hour Division website or contact them for assistance. Have this information available when filing a complaint.
If you are an employer with concerns about false FMLA leave, contact the Wages and Hours Division with any questions about FMLA compliance and seek the advice of your company's legal and human resources departments.
A labor union or trade union is an organization of workers which bargains with employers on behalf of union members and negotiates labor contracts. Elected union leaders negotiate specific items of employment including:
Pay and benefits
Hiring and firing guidelines
Help with unfair labor practices
Agreements union leaders negotiate are binding on the union members, the employer, and in some cases, on other non-union workers. Labor unions can be found in the private sector, federal agencies or at a state or local government place of employment.
Private Sector Employees
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency which has oversight to protect the rights of most private-sector employees to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative.
If you and your co-workers want to start a union, or join or end your representation in an existing one, file a petition form. Your petition must show the support of at least 30 percent of your fellow employees.
The NLRB does not handle complaints or inquiries about certain forms of employment discrimination such as race, sex, issues regarding workplace safety, entitlement to overtime pay, or family and medical leave. Federal and state laws and agencies regulate those forms of employment discrimination. Visit the related agencies section of NLRB website to see which agency can help with your specific complaint.
Federal and State Government Employees
If you are a federal employee, and have a question or complaint about federal unions, contact the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), an independent federal agency responsible for the labor-management relations program. It establishes policies and resolves disputes for most federal employees and their managers.
If you and your fellow employees want to be represented by a union, contact a FLRA regional office to see if one already exists at your agency. If one does not exist and you are interested in representation, file a petition form with your closest FLRA regional office.
If you are a state or local government employee and have a question about unions, contact the information officer of the NLRB regional office closest to your job.
Misclassification is when an employer declares that a worker is an independent contractor instead of an employee, even if that worker should be classified as an employee under the law. This can affect a worker’s pay, protections, and benefits as well as cause tax problems for both businesses and workers.
For complaints about safety issues on the road, such as being forced to drive in unsafe conditions, fill out the online complaint form or call 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238).
If you have a complaint about safety issues occurring inside a trucking building or facility, there are a variety of ways for workers to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
As of January 1, 2017, certain employers are required to electronically submit injury or illness data. Doing this allows OSHA to improve enforcement of workplace safety requirements and provide valuable information online for workers, job seekers, customers, and the general public. The new rule also prohibits employers from discouraging their workers from reporting an injury or illness.
ensure that employees who are injured or disabled on the job receive fixed payments.
provide benefits for dependents of workers who died due to work-related accidents or illnesses.
protect employers and fellow workers by limiting the amount an injured employee can recover from an employer and by removing the co-workers' liability in most accidents.
Private Sector and State/Local Government Employees
Individuals injured on the job while employed by private companies or state and local government agencies should contact their state workers' compensation program for eligibility, assistance, and filing procedures for workers' compensation benefits.
Federal Employees, Longshoremen, Harbor Workers, and Coal Miners
The appeals process for workers' compensation varies from state to state. If you received a denial of benefits and you wish to file an appeal, contact your state workers' compensation office for information on how to file.
Wrongful termination or wrongful discharge laws vary from state to state. Some states are "employment-at-will" states, which means that if there is no employment contract (or collective bargaining agreement) which provides otherwise, an employer can let an employee go for any reason, or no reason, with or without notice, as long as the discharge does not violate a law.
If you feel you have been wrongfully discharged or terminated from employment, you may:
Contact your State Labor Office for more information on wrongful termination laws in your state.
Seek legal counsel if your employer terminated you for any reason not covered under state or federal law.
You may also be eligible for unemployment compensation.
If you are under 18 and want to get a job it is important to know what rights and restrictions you have as a worker. Youth labor laws are designed to protect you from unsafe and inappropriate work experiences and to ensure that your job doesn’t interfere with your schooling. These laws establish:
What types of work you’re allowed to do
When you’re allowed to work
How many hours per week you’re allowed to work
How much you should be paid
The Department of Labor’s Youth Rules website helps you:
Know the Rules: Select your age and learn what work you’re allowed to do and when you’re allowed to work.
Find Support: Learn about other agencies that can help you and learn how to file a complaint.
Youth Rules also has a Law Library, which includes both federal and state laws. Rules vary depending on your age and the state you live in. When federal and state rules are different, the rules that provide the most protection apply.