Frequently Asked Questions - Types of Discrimination
- Age Discrimination
- Sexual Orientation
- Status as a Parent
- Religious Discrimination
- National Origin
- Sexual Harassment
- Race, Color, and Sex
- Reprisal / Retaliation
I have heard a lot about a law that protects employees over the age of 40. What is this about?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, protects individuals who are 40 years of age and older from employment discrimination based on age. Under this Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment.
Can you cite examples of term, condition, or privilege of employment?
Some examples are hiring, firing, promotion, job assignments, and training.Top of Page
Are there any laws that protect employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation?
No, there are no laws, however, on May 28, 1998, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13087, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the Federal sector. Sexual orientation is defined as homosexuality, bisexuality, or heterosexuality.
Is sexual orientation covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also?
No, this protection is afforded by Executive Order 13087 and is included in Departmental policy. This means that appeal rights to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are not afforded. In addition, complaints based on sexual orientation cannot be the subject of a hearing before an Administrative Judge of the EEOC.Top of Page
I heard through unofficial means that it is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on their parental status. Is this true?
Yes it is. On May 2, 2000, Executive Order 13152, amending Executive Order 11478, was signed to prohibit discrimination based on an individual's status as a parent in the Federal government.
I am a foster parent. Does this mean that I am covered too?
Yes. Status as a parent is defined as an individual who, with respect to an individual who is under the age of 18 or who is 18 or older, but, is incapable of self-care because of a physical or mental disability, is a biological parent, an adoptive parent, a foster parent, a stepparent, a custodian of a legal ward, in loco parentis over such an individual, or actively seeking legal custody or adoption of such an individual.
I think my supervisor denied my promotion based on my marital status. He constantly speaks of his dislike for divorced people. Are there any regulations that prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their marital status?
Yes, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), as amended, prohibits employment discrimination in the Federal government based on marital status, political affiliation, and conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee. Please note, however, that these bases do not fall within the jurisdiction of EEO.
Well, if not EEO whom can I go to?
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) enforce the prohibitions against Federal employment discrimination contained in the CSRA. You might want to take a look at their websites (www.osc.gov and www.mspb.gov)for more information.Top of Page
I have heard that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of his or her religion. What does this mean?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and condition of employment. The Act also requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would create an undue hardship on the employer.
What is an undue hardship?
An employer can claim undue hardship when an employee's request for religious accommodation requires more than administrative costs. Undue hardship can also be demonstrated if changing a bona fide practice, such as seniority, to accommodate an employee's religious practices denies another employee an entitlement.
Can you cite examples of religious reasonable accommodation?
Flexible scheduling to attend religious observances, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and lateral transfers are examples of accommodating an employee's religious beliefs.
My religion is non-traditional. Am I protected?
Religion is not limited to traditional denominations.
I am an atheist. Does that mean I am not protected?
Atheists are protected because of their sincere lack of religious beliefs.Top of Page
What is meant by national origin discrimination?
It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of the individual's birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group.
I believe I was discriminated against because of my accent. Is this covered under national origin?
Yes. An employer must show a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the employment action taken or denied because of an individual's accent or manner of speaking. Investigations will focus on the qualifications of the employee and whether his or her accent or manner of speaking had a detrimental effect on job performance.
I am often teased and harassed in my work area because of my nationality. Is this legal?
No. An ethnic slur or other verbal or physical conduct because of an individual's national origin constitute harassment if they create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, unreasonably interfere with work performance or negatively affect an individual's employment opportunities.
Is there a National Origin Act that covers this form of discrimination?
No. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of national origin as well as race, color, religion, and sex.Top of Page
Is there a law that protects pregnant employees?
Yes, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under this Act, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex (pregnancy) discrimination.
I am pregnant, and my doctor has placed me on restrictions. Is my supervisor required to adhere to these restrictions?
If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the agency must treat her the same way as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if an employee with a broken hand received modified tasks or alternative assignments, the same must be done for a pregnant employee.
I am pregnant, and I am thinking about taking three months off after my baby is born. Is my supervisor required to approve my leave request?
An employer may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth. For instance, an employer may not require an employee to return to work 4 weeks after childbirth.Top of Page
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome advances of a sexual nature. It could be a touch, written note, joke, picture, etc. It can be intentional or unintentional.
I have heard there are two types of sexual harassment. What are they?
The first type is Quid Pro Quo. This means that a person in a position of power over another offers to trade a tangible employment action or benefit (such as promotion) for a sexual favor. Only someone who has the power to control the victim's job destiny can commit this type of sexual harassment. The second type is hostile work environment. In this instance, the environment is created by obvious sexually oriented activity by employees and supervisors. Sexual harassment is rarely found as the result of a single incident or event. The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
I have first-hand knowledge of a co-worker who is being harassed by his supervisor. He is afraid and embarrassed to come forward and report the harassment. Since I am in the immediate work area, can I report the harassment?
Yes, the victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
A co-worker constantly tells lewd jokes in my presence. Her behavior is offensive, but I am afraid to speak up in fear of not being perceived as a team player. Any advice?
Inform the individual that her conduct is unwelcome and must stop. If her behavior continues, inform the supervisor or the OEEO.
My supervisor often asks me to lunch, but I decline his offers. Is this a form of sexual harassment?
The conduct as described is not sufficient to constitute sexual harassment; it must be of a sexual nature.Top of Page
I am aware that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. What is the difference between race discrimination and color discrimination?
Race discrimination occurs when employees are treated differently than other employees because of unalterable characteristics, such as physical features attributed to their race. For example, this Act prohibits discrimination against an Asian individual because of physical characteristics such as facial features or height. Color discrimination occurs when persons are treated differently than others because of their skin pigmentation. Color discrimination can occur within the same ethnic group.
So does that mean that individuals of the same race can discriminate against another because of different skin pigmentation?
Yes, as stated above, color discrimination is based on skin pigmentation.
What is sex discrimination?
Sex discrimination occurs when men and women who are similarly situated are treated differently based on gender. It takes place when deliberate, repeated, or unsolicited verbal comments, gestures, or physical contacts of a sexual nature are unwelcome. Sex discrimination also occurs when an organization's policy has a disproportionate adverse impact on a person or group based on gender.Top of Page
What is the definition of retaliation/reprisal in the EEO context?
Retaliation is a discriminatory or adverse action made against a person who files a complaint or charge, participates in an investigation or charge, or opposes an employment practice made illegal by any of the statutes. Employees are protected from retaliation in the EEO process.
What are some examples of reprisal for having participated in EEO activity?
The most obvious types of retaliation are denial of a promotion, refusal to hire, denial of job benefits, demotion, suspension and discharge. Other types of adverse actions include threats, reprimands, negative evaluations, and harassment.
After a female employee filed an EEO complaint of discrimination stating she was denied a promotion because of her gender, one week later the supervisor invited a few employees out to lunch. The employee believed she was excluded because of her EEO complaint. Is this reprisal?
No. Even if the supervisor chose not to invite the employee because of her charge, this would not constitute unlawful retaliation because it is not reasonably likely to deter protected activity.
Same example as above, except that the employee's supervisor invites all employees to regular weekly lunches. The supervisor excluded the employee from these lunches after she filed the sex discrimination charge.
If she was excluded because of her charge, this would constitute unlawful retaliation since it could reasonably deter this employee or others from engaging in protected activity.
If I file a Whistle Blowers complaint or union grievance am I protected from retaliation under EEO regulations?
If you are a federal whistler-blower you are protected under the NoFEAR Act. Union activity is not a protected activity.Top of Page