What Are The Different Forms Of Discrimination?
Under the anti-discrimination laws that are in effect in the United States, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of any of the seven protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability. These protected characteristics also protect against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, as well as sexual harassment. In Arizona, there are also state laws that prohibit these same types of discrimination. If an employee or potential employee has been discriminated against in the hiring process, in the terms and conditions of her employment, or in demotion or firing decisions, then these laws have been broken, and the employer may be liable to the employee for damages.
What Can’t A Prospective Employer Ask When Hiring?
A prospective employer is not allowed to ask questions targeted at determining whether or not you fall into one or more of the seven protected categories protected under the anti-discrimination laws. Of course, this means the employer can’t ask a blatantly illegal question such as “Are you pregnant or do you plan to become pregnant?” or “What religion are you?” But it also means the prospective employer is not allowed to ask questions that are designed to elicit a response that would reveal whether or not the employee falls into one of the protected categories. Questions that might be perfectly normal between friends (“Are you going to church this Sunday?” or “Where does the rest of your family live?” or the like) would be entirely inappropriate for a job interview.
Even after the employee has been hired, certain questions should still be treated as off-limits by employers. For example, if an employer asks questions that seem geared toward determining whether have health problems related to your age, then they would be eliciting information that they should not consider in the process of hiring, promoting, giving raises or performance reviews or the like. Prospective employees should be hired based on the merits of their talent and experience rather than any factor related to protected characteristics, and current employees should be judged on their performance and not on potential problems related to pregnancy, health, age, disability or the like.
Can I Lose My Job For Requesting Breaks Due To Medical Or Religious Reasons?
There are two laws that apply to request breaks, leaves, or changes to a work situation based on a medical condition, one of which is the Americans with Disabilities Act. If your medical condition qualifies as a disability and if your employer has at least 15 employees, then the employer has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for you, if doing so will allow you to continue to perform the essential functions of your job, and if doing so would not disrupt the workplace or be inordinately expensive.
The second law that applies to medical conditions is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which a company must follow if they have 50 or more employees. In such a company, if an employee has worked for at least 12 months, and has worked at least 1,250 hours during that time, then the employee would be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to deal with a qualified medical or family situation. If an employee were to be terminated for requesting this leave, or if the employer denied the employee’s qualified request for leave, then that employer would be breaking the law. As it pertains to medical conditions, both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act offer employees some protections against both denial and/or retaliation in response to requests for breaks or leave.
There is only one law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, and it is found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When a religious employee otherwise performs his essential job functions, but simply requires a short break or leave for religious purposes (such as taking a day off to observe a holy day), most employers are very good about granting such requests. Employers should keep in mind, however, that it is not only a violation of Title VII for an employer to unreasonably deny such leave or other religious accommodations, but it is also a violation if certain religions are favored over others in granting these requests. For example, it would be illegal for an employer to give her Jewish employees the day off to observe Yom Kippur while refusing to give her Christian employees the day off for Easter.
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