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What should I know about discrimination at work?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Laws about discrimination at work in Georgia Types of discrimination

Laws about discrimination at work in Georgia

What should I know? +

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What are my rights if I am discriminated against at work?

Federal law makes it illegal for most employers to discriminate against an employee or job applicant for certain reasons. These reasons are:

 

Age. An employer with 20 or more employees cannot discriminate against workers 40-years-old or older. 

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits..

  • Harass you because you are 40 or older.

  • Discriminate in making or enforcing policies. The employer cannot make policies based solely on age. Even if they are not based on age, the employer’s policies or practices cannot negatively affect older employees more than younger employees. 

 

Disability. An employer with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against you because of your:

  • disability, 

  • history of disability, or 

  • relationship with someone with a disability.

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits.

  • Harass you because of your disability.

  • Refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to you unless it would cause an undue hardship to the employer. A reasonable accommodation is anything that would help you apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits of a job.

 

Genetic Information. An employer with 15 or more employees can’t discriminate against you because of information from your genetic test or family medical history. This most often comes up when an employer won’t hire someone who has a higher risk of a certain disease because they will be more expensive to insure. 

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits.

  • Harass you because of your genetic information.

  • Tell anyone else about your genetic information. They must keep any genetic information in a separate medical file.

 

Ethnicity and National Origin. An employer with 15 or more employees can’t discriminate against you because you:

  • Are from a particular country or part of the world,

  • Are a certain ethnicity

  • Have an accent,

  • Because you appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if you aren’t).

  • Are married or have a relationship with someone who is of a certain national origin.

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits.

  • Harass you because of your national origin.

  • Discriminate in making or enforcing policies. The employer cannot make policies based solely on national origin. Even if they are not based on national origin, the employer’s policies or practices cannot negatively affect people from some national origins more than others. This comes up often when there is a rule requiring employees to only speak English at work. This is only allowed if it is necessary for the safety and efficiency of the business, not because of preference or to discriminate against non-english speakers. 

  • Refuse to hire immigrants if they are legally allowed to work in the United States.

 

Pregnancy. An employer with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against you because you:

  • Are pregnant,

  • Gave birth, or

  • Have a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits.

  • Harass you because of pregnancy or childbirth.

  • Treat medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth differently than other temporarily disabled employees. If an employer allows other employees who have a temporary disability to take leave with or without pay, they must also let a person who is disabled because of childbirth or pregnancy take the same leave.

  • Stop an employee who is eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to take that leave to care for a new child.

 

Race/Color. An employer with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against you because of your:

  • Race,

  • Personal characteristics tied to race, like:

    • Skin color,

    • Hair texture,

    • Facial features. 

  • Relationship with someone of a certain race. 

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits.

  • Harass you because of race.

  • Discriminate in making or enforcing policies. The employer cannot make policies based solely on race. Even if they are not based on race, the employer’s policies or practices cannot negatively affect people of one race more than another.

 

Religion. An employer with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against you because of your: 

  • Religious beliefs, or 

  • Relationship with someone with certain religious beliefs. 

 

This includes both organized religions and anyone who has a sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits.

  • Harass you because of religion.

  • Segregate a workplace based on religion. An employer can’t assign only Christians to deal with customers because the customers are also mostly Christian. 

  • Deny you a reasonable accommodation that would allow you to practice your religion. This might mean allowing you time to pray or days off for religious holidays. This might also mean allowing you to dress or groom as your religion allows. They must make these changes as long as it does not cause an undue hardship for the employer. 

  • Force you to take part in (or not practice) a religious activity as part of your employment. 

 

Sex. An employer with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against you because of your sex. Discrimination based on sex includes treating you unfavorably because of your:

  • Sex,

  • Gender identity, or

  • Sexual orientation.

 

An employer cannot:

  • Discriminate in any part of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits.

  • Harass you because of sex.

  • Discriminate in making or enforcing policies. The employer cannot make policies based solely on sex. Even if they are not based on sex, the employer’s policies or practices cannot negatively affect people of one sex more than another.

  • Pay you differently because of your sex. This is a requirement for all employers, no matter how many employees they have.

 

Retaliation. In addition to these categories, an employer cannot punish you because you have complained about discrimination or harassment. This is called retaliation and it is illegal. You cannot be punished because you participated in a protected activity. A protected activity could mean you:

  • Filed a complaint or lawsuit, or were called as a witness,

  • Talked to a manager or supervisor about harassment or discrimination at work,

  • Answered questions about an investigation into harassment or discrimination,

  • Wouldn’t follow orders that were discriminatory,

  • Refused a sexual advance, or tried to protect a coworker from sexual advances,

  • Asked for an accommodation for a disability or religion,

  • Asked about the salaries of your coworkers to see if pay is discriminatory.

 

Retaliation could be:

  • A reprimand or bad performance review that you didn’t deserve,

  • A transfer to worse position or location,

  • Verbal or physical abuse,

  • Threatening to make reports to the police,

  • Spreading rumors that are not true,

  • Treating a family member that works for the company poorly,

  • Making your work more difficult, or

  • A higher level of supervision than you had before.

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What are an employers rights and responsibilities with discrimination at work?

Employers are responsible for creating a workplace where discrimination is not allowed. Employers who are covered under federal laws are responsible for following those laws. That means:

  • Giving equal pay for the same work,

  • Not discriminating or harassing employees or applicants because of their protected characteristic (race, sex, etc.).

  • Not using policies or practices that negatively affect employees or applicants in certain protected categories. 

  • Providing reasonable accommodations.

  • Not retaliating against employees who participate in protected activities. 

 

Employers have the right to review and respond to an EEO charge of discrimination filed by an employee. 

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What can I do? +

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How can I file a complaint for discrimination at work?

If you have been discriminated against at work, you must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Equal Employment Division (EED) BEFORE you can file a lawsuit against your employer. There are different procedures depending on what kind of employer you work for. 

 

How can I file a complaint if my employer has 15 or more employees?

If you work for an employer with 15 or more employees (or 20 or more for an age discrimination claim), you have 180 days from the date of the discrimination to file a charge with the EEOC.

 

Begin the process:

  • Online through the EEOC’s Public Portal

    • Start by submitting an inquiry. This will help the EEOC to decide if they can handle your complaint. 

    • After your inquiry, you can schedule an initial interview. The interview will be in person or over the phone with an EEOC staff person.  The staff person will discuss your case, your rights and responsibilities and the process.

    • Once you have the interview, you will get instructions for filing a charge.

  • In person at your local EEOC office.

    • You can make an appointment online or walk-in. Bring any documents or information that supports your claim. 

    • The staff person will discuss your case, your rights and responsibilities and the process.

    • Once you have the interview, you will get instructions for filing a charge.

 

What happens after I file an EEOC charge?

After you file an EEOC charge, the EEOC has 10 days to contact your employer. The employer will get information about the charge. 

 

The EEOC will then investigate your claim. During the investigation, your employer may try to mediate or settle your charge. This is completely up to you. You do not have to accept any settlement offer or agree to mediation.

 

After the investigation, the EEOC will decide whether there is enough evidence to conclude discrimination happened.

  • If they cannot conclude that the discrimination happened, you will get a notice called a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. Once you get this, you will have 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court.

  • If they conclude there is reasonable cause to believe there was discrimination, both you and your employer will get a Letter of Determination. This letter invites you both to try to resolve the claim through an information mediation process. This is called conciliation.

  • If you can’t resolve the issue through conciliation, the EEOC will either:

    • File a lawsuit in federal court on your behalf, or 

    • Send you a Notice of Right to Sue.  Once you get this, you will have 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court.

 

How can I file a complaint if I am a federal employee or job applicant?

There is a different process if you are a federal employee or job applicant. 

  • You must first contact an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Counselor for your agency within 45 days of the discrimination.

  • The EEO counselor will give you the choice of EEO counseling or a mediation program. 

  • If you do not settle the claim, you can file a formal complaint against the agency with the agency’s EEO Office. You must file this within 15 days of getting notice from the EEO Counselor about how to file a complaint.

  • The agency will then investigate. It has 180 days to finish the investigation. You will then get two choices:

    • Either request a hearing with an EEOC Administrative Judge.

      • You must request a hearing within 30 days.

      • If you disagree with the judge’s decision you can appeal the decision to the EEOC or file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days.

    • Ask the agency to make a decision.

      • If you ask the agency to make a decision and they find no discrimination, you can appeal the decision to the EEOC or file a lawsuit in federal district court within 90 days.


 

How can I file a complaint if I am a State of Georgia employee?

If you are an employee of the State of Georgia, you must first file a complaint with the Georgia Equal Employment Division (EED). You have 180 days from the discrimination to file your complaint. 

 

The EED will then either:

  • Investigate the complaint or

  • Refer the complaint to the EEOC to investigate.

 

During the investigation, the EED will likely ask you to settle or mediate your complaint. This is completely voluntary. You do not have to agree to any settlement unless you want to. 

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 What can I do if I work for an employer that has less than 15 employees?

Federal harassment and discrimination laws only cover employers with a certain number of employees. Georgia does not have an anti-harassment or anti-discrimination law that covers employers with fewer employees (unless you work for a local or state government office). 

 

If you are being discriminated against at work and your employer is not covered under these laws, you may or may not have a legal claim. Contact an attorney to discuss your rights.

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Types of discrimination

 

Filing a discrimination claim

Last Review and Update: Mar 02, 2020