3 Facts to Know About Discrimination Laws in the Workplace

Individuals who feel as if they have been treated differently at work because of their gender or religion could be victims of workplace discrimination. However, not all workers are actually covered by laws or other regulations that prohibit such behavior. Here are a few interesting facts that you should know when it comes to employers treating employees and others improperly on the job.

Only Employees Are Formally Protected From Discrimination 

If a person is labeled as an independent contractor, he or she is not protected by the same laws that an employee could be. For instance, there are no Title VII safeguards to rely on when a contractor is sexually harassed or treated poorly because of that person’s sexual orientation. As a general rule, an independent contractor’s only option in such a scenario is to ask for a release from any contract signed with a company. Alternatively, an individual could choose to break the terms of a contract by leaving a project early.

Not All Companies Are Covered by Anti-Discrimination Statutes 

Only companies that have more than 15 employees are covered by federal anti-discrimination statutes. This means that those who work for small businesses or who are employed as nannies or household laborers generally don’t have recourse if they are treated poorly on the job.

Only a handful of states and cities have laws of their own prohibiting workers from being sexually harassed or otherwise facing discrimination by an employer. An individual may make a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or take legal action as a private citizen. However, it can be difficult to win a case in court when no employment law was broken.

Companies May Require Workers to Settle Cases in Arbitration 

In some cases, employers will require employees to waive their right to sue if they are discriminated against. Instead, their employment contract requires them to resolve issues through arbitration. Generally speaking, employers prefer this method because they get to pick who the arbiter is.

Employers may also be able to pick the state in which the hearing takes place, which further increases their odds of obtaining a favorable outcome. Any ruling may be an arbiter is not subject to appeal and is binding on all parties. Furthermore, the decision is usually not made public, which can be a hindrance to future victims of workplace discrimination.

If you are the victim of workplace discrimination, it is important to understand your rights before pursuing legal action. Consulting with an attorney can be an effective way to learn more about what the law says about your case and develop a strategy to obtain a favorable outcome.