Employees have rights. The law protects everyone in the workplace against certain behaviors, attitudes, and actions taken by their coworkers and employer. Everyone deserves to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. As a business, as long as you put policies and enforcement structures in place to uphold that concept, you will reduce the risk of having a lawsuit filed against you.
If you are like most employers, then you want to do what is right by the people that work for you. You also want to ensure that no one on your executive team intentionally or accidentally discriminates against an employee or otherwise oversteps their boundaries by behaving inappropriately.
Here are the main categories of discrimination under which an individual, with help from an employment lawyer, can bring suit against their employer:
Under federal and state laws, it is illegal for any person to be denied employment or promotion based solely on race or ethnicity. You can also be sued if your company maintains practices and policies that have a disparate negative impact on a particular racial group. If bigots exist in your organization, they will usually not show themselves in an obvious way. However, if you receive complaints that certain people are being shown favoritism while others are being isolated or denied the same opportunities, then you should investigate and remedy the situation.
You cannot discriminate against an employee on the basis of gender. This category includes sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment. It is an unfortunate fact that many male executives believe they can do as they like with their female colleagues. If a woman in your organization has been denied advancement because she refused the sexual advances of a male superior, then you are vulnerable to a lawsuit. If someone else in your organization reported such abuse and was subsequently penalized for it, they can sue you. Sexist and sexually charged jokes and comments in the office constitute a hostile work environment, and anyone who feels so threatened can sue your company.
LGBTQ people are protected by federal law and most state laws. You cannot deny or mistreat someone for being gay or transgender. If a person decides to keep their sexual orientation private at the time you hired them, and you discover later on that they are gay, you cannot deny them the same advancement opportunities enjoyed by everyone else.
America is the land of religious tolerance. People are free to practice the religion of their choice or to practice no religion at all. There are occasions when especially religious people get into positions of authority and look for like-minded individuals among their subordinates. They then seek to give career advantages to that particular clique. This is illegal. It is also illegal for anyone in your organization to be denied employment or promotion because they are without religious beliefs.
It is illegal to deny someone the chance of employment because of their country of birth. Nor can you fire someone for being an immigrant. It is also illegal for your company to deny individuals frontline positions or put immigrant employees under other restrictions just because they are immigrants.
Businesses have an obligation to operate within the boundaries of the law. It’s therefore imperative for business owners to understand the fundamentals of employment law and respect employee rights.