Workplace Discrimination

Workplace Discrimination Law – Charleston, SC

Federal and state law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or prospective employees on the basis of one’s membership in a protected class or involvement in protected activity. There are many federal laws that protect the rights of employees and they serve as exceptions to the doctrine of “at-will” employment. While the general rule for employment in South Carolina is that an employer can fire an employee at any time and for any reason, whether good or bad, or even for no reason at all, federal law prohibits employers from firing employees for discriminatory reasons or retaliatory reasons.

Title VII

Generally, Title VII prohibits covered employers from discriminating against an individual on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. Title VII makes it an unlawful employment practice to refuse to hire, discharge or otherwise discriminate against any individual. Title VII further prohibits employers from retaliating against any individual because he or she has opposed an employment practice that is made unlawful under Title VII.

Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)

While Title VII did not originally prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, Congress amended Title VII in 1978 to “prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.” The PDA prohibits employers from discriminating “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Specifically, the PDA states that an employer is prohibited from terminating or refusing to hire/promote a woman on the basis of her pregnancy. Further, under the PDA, employers cannot discriminatorily assign or re-assign pregnant women to unfavorable positions, take away their benefits, or require mandatory leave periods. The PDA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The ADEA prohibits covered employers from engaging in age discrimination against employees who are 40 years of age or older. The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, terminate, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of the person’s age. Like Title VII, the ADEA has an anti-retaliation provision making it unlawful for an employer to take adverse employment action against an employee because he or she has opposed any employment practice that is deemed unlawful under the ADEA.

The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)

The ADA, along with its amendments, prohibits employment discrimination against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. The ADAAA significantly broadened the scope of what constitutes a “disability” under the Act. With the ADAAA, Congress intended to shift the focus of the analysis under the ADA to whether a qualified individual has been discriminated against, rather than on whether the individual is a person with a disability.

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees in certain situations.

The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Other federal ant-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), the Equal Pay Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Employees must be vigilant in determining and exercising any rights they may have under the aforementioned or any other federal or state employment laws, as many of these laws have strict procedural filing rules and deadlines.