Discrimination and Harassment
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Topic Summary: Discrimination and Harassment
Five federal laws prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment in the U.S.:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin;
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions;
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age;
- The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; and
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prohibits employers and health insurers from discriminating based on genetic information.
In addition, many state and local laws prohibit other forms of workplace discrimination.
The most prevalent form of workplace discrimination is sexual harassment, which consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The two types of prohibited sexual harassment are (1) quid pro quo harassment, where a person in a position of authority makes advances toward a subordinate, promising a raise or promotion if the subordinate submits to those advances; and (2) hostile environment harassment, where an atmosphere of sexual comments or jokes creates an offensive or threatening work environment.
Employees may not be disciplined, demoted or terminated because they (1) reported in good faith an incident of discrimination; or (2) participated in an investigation of a discrimination claim. These actions are considered retaliation and are prohibited by law.