Employment Law

Employment Discrimination

The state of North Carolina has an Equal Employment Practices Act that bands much of the same discriminatory employment actions that are band by federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act and The Equal Pay Act of 1963. These laws prevents employers from taking adverse employment actions affecting employees on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, harassment, pregnancy, equal pay, and retaliation. Some towns have city ordinances that may address these concerns. A party can file under every applicable law, but may only obtain recovery from one. Typically, adverse employment actions include hiring, firing, pay, job assignment, promotion, non-promotion, layoff, training, lack of training when others similarly situated are being trained, fringe benefits, lack of fringe benefits when others similarly situated receive them, and any other term or condition of employment.

Race/Color

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination based on race or personal characteristics associated with race like facial features, hair texture, or skin color. Spouses treated unfavorably because of the race/color of their spouse are also protected.

Religion

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against treating an employee or applicant unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. As long as the belief is sincerely held by the individual the religious belief does not have to belong to a traditional, organized religion. Spouses married to a person associated with a particular religion are also protected from adverse employment actions because of their spouse's religion.

National Origin

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination based on national origin. An employer must not treat employees or applicants unfavorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, due to their ethnicity, due to their accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background. The act also protects an employee that has a spouse of a certain national origin.

Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prevents discrimination and harassment against people who are at least 40 years old. Harassment must be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or must result in an adverse employment decision. Favoring an older employer over a younger employee when both are over 40 is not illegal. A discriminatory act is illegal even if the employer is also over 40 year old.

Sex

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination where an employer treats an individual differently or unfavorably because of that person's gender or involvement in a group or organization associated with a particular gender. Genders protected under the act are male, female, or transgender.

Disability Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, protects against discrimination of a qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or an employee treated disparagingly due to a disability, history of a disability or a believed disability. The act also protects an employee that has a disabled family member. A disability is expected to last more than six months and substantially affects a major life activity.

The Act requires an employee to request a reasonable accommodation before discrimination occurs, and for an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation per the request, unless the accommodation causes an undue hardship. The reasonable accommodation does not need to be the exact accommodation the employee or applicant requested.

Harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against harassment. All harassment is not unlawful, harassment reaches unlawfulness when 1) enduring the offensive behavior becomes a condition of employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment. Harassment is any unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassers can be any agent of the employer, or a non-employee. The victim can be anyone affected by the harassment. The employer is not culpable of unlawful conduct unless the employer is informed of the harassment and does not take appropriate measures to stop the harassment. Employees should report the harassment to someone in management, human resource or their direct supervisor as soon as possible to put the employer on notice.

Pregnancy

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects against unfavorable treatment because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Equal Pay

The Equal Pay Act provides that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs must be substantially equal but need not be identical. Job content, not title, determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Under the statute, pay includes 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. Employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize an inequity in pay.

The Equal Pay Act does not require an employee to go through the EEOC before filing a complaint in court. The claimant must file a complaint in court of a charge with the EEOC within two (2) years, sometimes three (3) years, of the unequal compensation practice. Pursuant to the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the statute of limitations resets with every paycheck that reflects a discriminatory wage.

Retaliation

It is also illegal to retaliate against an employee or applicant because they filed a charge of discrimination, complained about discrimination on the job, or participated in an employment discrimination proceeding such as an investigation or lawsuit. Retaliation includes firing, demoting, harassing, or any other adverse employment action.

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