To date, there have been several federal and state laws that have been enacted to protect employees against discrimination. But even these laws cannot be considered "encompassing" or applicable to all employees, there are still exceptions to employment discrimination laws.

Laws always have loopholes so it's not surprising to see employees or workers who fall within the exceptions to employment discrimination laws and therefore, cannot avail of such protections. To find out if you have the right to be protected against discrimination, here is a rundown of the most notable federal employment discrimination laws and their exceptions:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Under this law, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. However, not all employers are liable this law such as:
  • Federal government
  • Federally recognized Native American tribes
  • Religious groups performing work connected to the group's activities including associated education institutions
  • Bona fide non-profit private membership organizations

Further, another exception is that this is only applicable to employers who employ 15 or more employees for 20 or more weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – Under the ADEA, it is illegal to discriminate or treat an employee or applicant less favorably in any employment practices because of his age. However, this law notably only prohibits age discrimination against people who are 40 years old or older. Also, employers with 20 or more employees are the only ones covered under the ADEA.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Title I of the ADA provides that it is unlawful to treat a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably on the basis of his or her disability. But the protection is only applicable to employees who work under employers engaged in interstate commerce and having 15 or more workers.

Also, while the law mandates that employers also provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, they are not required to do so if it would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer or undue hardship.

Further, unless the law expressly prohibits a particular kind of discrimination, it is not considered unlawful. Currently, there is no law prohibiting discrimination against sexual orientation but some states, such as California have taken initiative in enforcing such laws against gender discrimination.

If you have questions about employment discrimination and you are not sure if you are covered under the mantle of these laws, you should consult an employment law attorney to find out your rights and remedies under the law.