Discrimination and Wrongful Termination
Employees are protected against certain forms of discrimination under both federal and state laws. Employees are protected against discrimination based on the following factors and others: race, sex, age, disability, national origin, religion, and pregnancy. For example, employers may not wrongfully terminate or demote you on the basis of your race or sex. Employers are also prohibited from engaging in other actions that are considered “adverse employment actions.” Adverse employment actions include misconduct by the employer such as wrongfully discharging the employee, demoting the employee, or cutting the pay of the employee based on one of the above-listed factors.
Other types of discrimination that are prohibited include:
- Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information, or age;
- Retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
- Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities, or based on myths or assumptions about an individual’s genetic information;
- Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group;
- Sexual harassment – This includes practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender, including same sex harassment. (The “hostile environment” standard also applies to harassment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, age, and disability.);
- Pregnancy based discrimination – Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated in the same way as other temporary illnesses or conditions;
- Age-based discrimination such as having age preferences or limitations or denying benefits to older employees;
- Pay-based discrimination such as paying women less than men for equal work; and
- Disability-based discrimination such as refusing to provide a reasoanble accommodation to an employee. A reasoanble accommodation could consist of modifications to your work environment to permit you to work with a disability
When an employee brings a lawsuit based on discrimination and wins, he or she is entitled to an award of damages which may include:
- Back pay (or what you would have earned but for the employer’s wrongful conduct between the time of the wrongful act (such as wrongful discharge) and the time of trial);
- Front pay (or what you would have earned but for the employer’s wrongful conduct from the time of the trial into the future);
- Reinstatement (or giving you your job back);
- Reasonable accommodation (such as a modification of your work environment if you are disabled); and
- Other damages to restore the employee to the position he or she would have been in but for the discrimination.
Remedies may also include compensatory and punitive damages depending on various circumstances such as the egregiousness of the employer’s conduct. Remedies also may include attorneys’ fees and court costs.