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Basics of Workplace Discrimination

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

Are you being treated unfairly or harassed at work?

It is illegal for a company to treat you unfairly or harass you at work. You may have workplace rights under federal, state, local laws, or under your company's own policies.

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces the laws against job discrimination and harassment.

  • All of the laws enforced by EEOC, except the Equal Pay Act (EPA) require you to file a Charge of Discrimination with EEOC before you can file a job discrimination lawsuit against your employer.

  • If you have laws that apply to your complaint, you may file them instead of or in addition to filing with the the laws enforced by the EEOC federal law. 

  • State and local laws may offer different or even broader protection depending on the facts and circumstances than the laws enforced by EEOC.

  • Louisiana has its own laws against discrimination, which can provide you different protection or relief for your employment discrimination claim. 

Federal Discrimination Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces the federal laws against job discrimination and harassment. 

  • The EEOC investigates complaints of job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation) national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information.

  • If the EEOC believes an employer is violating the law, the EEOC takes action to stop the discrimination.

  • In some cases, the employer agrees to make certain changes to its workplace. In other cases, the EEOC can sue the employer in court to fix the problem.

  • There are strict time limits for filing a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC. In some cases you only have 180 days to report discrimation. In other cases, that time is extended to 300 days.

  • To preserve your claim under federal law, you must cross-file with the EEOC or LCHR within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

  • If you choose to go to the EEOC you can discuss the situation and you can decide whether or not to file a formal complaint. If the EEOC believes the conduct you are complaining about is not illegal under the laws enforced by EEOC, the EEOC can put you in touch with other government agencies or organizations that may be able to help you. 

 

The EEOC has enforcement responsibility for the following federal employment discrimination laws:

  • Makes it illegal to discriminate against a person on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • The law also protects you from retaliation if you complain about discrimination or participate in an EEOC proceeding (for example, a discrimination investigation or lawsuit).
  • Amended Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.
  • The law also protects you from retaliation if you complain about discrimination or participate in an EEOC proceeding (for example, a discrimination investigation or lawsuit).

 

  • Makes it illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability in private companies and state and local governments.
  • The law also protects you from retaliation if you complain about discrimination or participate in an EEOC proceeding (for example, a discrimination investigation or lawsuit).

Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

  • Makes it illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability in the federal government.
  • The law also protects you from retaliation if you complain about discrimination or participate in an EEOC proceeding (for example, a discrimination investigation or lawsuit).
  • Protects people who are age 40 or older from discrimination because of age.
  • The law also protects you from retaliation if you complain about discrimination or participate in an EEOC proceeding (for example, a discrimination investigation or lawsuit).
  • Makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information.
  • Genetic information includes information about an individual's genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual's family members, as well as information about any disease, disorder or condition of an individual's family members (i.e. an individual's family medical history).
  • The law also protects you from retaliation if you complain about discrimination or participate in an EEOC proceeding (for example, a discrimination investigation or lawsuit).

Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law

In Louisiana you may file a claim under state discrimination laws. 

  • Filing with the EEOC or LCHR are not required to pursue a discrimination claim in court. 
  • You can file a claim with the EEOC or LCHR and also file your discrimination claim in state law. 
  • Keep in mind filing deadlines to file under state law, EEOC or LCHR
  • Louisiana law covers only employers with 20 or more employers (25 or more for employees for discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions).

How Do You Count the Number of Employees an Employer Has?

Coverage

Usually, a worker can be counted as an "employee" if s/he has worked for the employer for at least twenty calendar weeks (in this year or last). That means some part-time workers can be covered as employees to show the employer is covered by the laws we enforce. People who are not employed by the employer, such as independent contractors, are not covered.

 

Coverage for Employers with Several Worksites

In some cases, if the employer has more than one worksite, employees at each of the worksites can be counted together. For example, if an employer operates four different restaurants, it may be possible to count employees at all of the restaurants together

 

Deciding Who Is Covered

Figuring out whether an employer has enough employees to be covered by the laws we enforce can be complicated. If you aren't sure how many employees there are, you should contact one of our field offices as soon as possible so we can make that decision. Also, keep in mind that even if an employer doesn't have enough employees to be covered by the laws we enforce, it may still be covered by state or local law. If it is, we can refer you to the state or local agency responsible for enforcing that law.

Last Review and Update: Nov 16, 2021
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