Alan Lescht and Associates represents state and local government employees in cases involving discrimination, hostile work environment, and harassment.
Employment discrimination can take many forms. Discrimination may occur in the form of an adverse employment action, such as termination, suspension, demotion, or non-selection for a job. Employers discriminate through less formal acts, such as taking away telework privileges, giving negative performance ratings, denying requests for training, or reassigning job duties. Discrimination may also occur in the form of hostile work environment, which is harassment that does not result in an adverse action.
Federal laws prohibit covered employers from discriminating against employees based on protected traits. Here are some examples:
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of their age. This means that an employer cannot deny a promotion, eliminate a position, or force an employee to retire because of age.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating because of color. Color discrimination is based on skin color complexion. For example, an employer cannot prefer one job applicant over another based on skin complexion.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating because of disability. Employers must also provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. Examples of accommodations include telework, an alternative work schedule, leave to attend medical appointments, an office close to a restroom, and modified job duties.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating because of genetic information. Genetic information may include genetic testing results and family history. For example, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee because the employee’s son had a genetic illness.
Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating because of national origin. National origin discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfavorably because he/she is from a particular part of the world or a specific country. Evidence of national origin discrimination may include comments and jokes about a person’s apparel, mannerisms, accent, or cultural traditions.
Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating because of race or characteristics associated with a certain race (skin color, facial features, hair texture, etc.). Evidence of race discrimination may include use of racial slurs, displaying racially-offensive symbols, or joking about racial stereotypes.
Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating because of religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs. Covered employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations based on religion. Accommodations may include flexible scheduling or modified job duties.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Generally, the law requires employers to treat women who are pregnant or who have a medical issue related to pregnancy or childbirth, like an employee who has a disability. For example, covered employers must provide reasonable accommodations. Women should not be given less important duties and assignments, rejected for leadership roles, or passed over for career advancement opportunities because of pregnancy or childbirth.
Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating because of sex. Evidence of sex discrimination may include comments about an employee’s apparel, mannerisms, marital status, and parental duties. Employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, gender identity discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination may also have claims for sex discrimination.
Federal law does not specifically prohibit most employers from discriminating because of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) considers sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination to be forms of sex discrimination. Additionally, some states and localities, including Washington, DC, have their own laws that explicitly prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
Title VII prohibits employers from subjecting employees to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can range from sexually explicit language to requests for sexual favors. Both men and women may be victims of sexual harassment.
The ADA, ADEA, GINA, and Title VII also make it illegal for covered employers to retaliate against employees who complain about discrimination or who participate in a discrimination case, whether it was the employee’s own case or someone else’s.
You have the right to work without fear of discrimination or retaliation. You may challenge discrimination and retaliation that violates a federal law (Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, etc.) by filing a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Discrimination cases have short deadlines. You may need to file with the EEOC within as few as 180 days. Your deadline may be longer, depending on where you live.
Your EEOC charge should clearly explain why you think you were discriminated against and who discriminated against you. The EEOC has 180 days to investigate your complaint. At the end of that 180-day period, the EEOC should send you a letter that explains your rights. In general, you must file a federal lawsuit within 90 days if you want to continue with your case.
You may have different options and requirements, depending on where you work. The District of Columbia has its own anti-discrimination law called the DC Human Rights Act, which provides more protections than federal law. The DC Human Rights Act specifically prohibits discrimination based on the same traits as under federal law, as well as several others, such as personal appearance, marital status, sexual orientation, and parental responsibilities. However, DC employees must follow a special procedure to bring a claim under the DC Human Rights Act. DC employees must contact their agency’s EEO officer within 45 days of the discrimination or retaliation. The EEO officer will conduct a 30-day investigation. When the investigation is complete, the EEO officer will issue an Exit Letter, which advises the employee of the right to file a complaint with the DC Human Rights Office. DC government employees may still file with the EEOC, as well.
Maryland state and government employees may file an administrative complaint with the EEOC, the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, or both. You may also have the option to file a lawsuit in state law under state or county anti-discrimination laws.
Unfortunately, state and local government employees in Virginia generally only have the option to file an EEOC charge and then to file a lawsuit in federal court.
If your employer discriminated against you, we can help. Our attorneys will work with you to evaluate your case, discuss your options, and develop a strategy to assert your rights. Alan Lescht and Associates represents state and local government employees in the following discrimination matters:
Send us an email or call us at (202) 463-6036 to speak with an experienced employment attorney. Alan Lescht and Associates offers strategic and results-driven legal services to state and local government employees in Washington, DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia.