There are various state and federal laws that protect workers from discrimination based on their race, religion, gender, age, and disability among others. Unfortunately, however, as in any law, there are exceptions and limitations in which the act is considered to be discrimination or it is permitted.
Here are some of the exceptions that workers must be aware of before filing a lawsuit:
- Unprotected classes. Workers are protected from discrimination based on religion, gender, age, national origin, race or color. This means that workers who are discriminated against based on other qualities (e.g. appearance, height) are not protected from maltreatment. However, there are state laws that protect other classes such as homosexuality.
- Bona Fide Occupational Qualities (BFOQ). An employer's preference over a certain class of employees may be allowed provided that his reason for such partiality has a reasonable basis. This reason must have a factual basis and that the job position would require certain characteristics and qualities that may not be found in applicants under protected class.
- Unreasonable accommodations. There are instances when accommodations are not provided to workers under the protected workers because it will cause undue burden to the employer or other workers in the company. Unreasonable accommodations are those that would result to expenses and disruptions that would affect the company's operation.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act. ADEA is a federal law that protects individuals from age discrimination in partnerships, employment agencies, labor organizations, and corporations that deals with interstate commerce. Provided that the employer employs 20 or more people or the labor union has at least 25 members.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The U.S. EEOC generally covers business/private employers, state and local governments, joint apprenticeship committees and labor unions that have at least 15 employees or members. The worker must have worked for at least 20 calendar weeks before being eligible to file a discrimination complaint.
These limitations cover workers nationwide. However, in some states, there are laws that widen the protection of a worker from discrimination. For example, in California, there is a Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that covers even employers who employ as few as five workers. Also, other state laws in California widen the qualification of a disabled worker and so more employees prefer to apply for protection under these state laws.
Workers who are still unsure of their eligibility to sue their employers are encouraged to seek the assistance of an employment law attorney.