Employment Law

Laws Protecting Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

As the country continues to push towards this continuously evolving melting pot, the nation's laws regarding the workplace aim to adapt with it.

Laws Protecting Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

The United States is an ever growing country made up of people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities. As the country continues to push towards this continuously evolving melting pot, the nation’s laws regarding the workplace aim to adapt with it. 

Under most definitions of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, these terms are used to describe the vast differences that exist between job applicants and employees. Under both federal and state law, diversity is used to describe individuals of different ethnicities, sexes, ages, physical and mental abilities, and all other factors that make them who they are. 

What is the EEOC? 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the national organization that ensures federal Laws relating to equal opportunity in the workplace are enforced. Under EEOC, it is illegal for individuals to be discriminated against on job applications because of their race, color, religion, sex, or disability. 

In addition to ensuring against workplace discrimination, the EEOC works to make sure discrimination does not happen in the first place. They do this through their many outreach and education programs. 

Federal Protections for Diversity and Inclusion

Federal Laws Protecting Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Federal laws are enacted at the highest level of government and are applicable to all 50 states. The following laws are some of the key protections that employees have when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

Equal Pay Act 

One of the most notable anti-discriminatory workplace laws is the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This law makes it so that it is illegal for men and women who work the same duties under the same employer to be paid different wages. 

The Equal Pay Act is one of the earliest laws to fall under the EEOC. This is one of the major laws that gets brought up in discussions about diversity in the workplace, especially as it pertains to compensation. According to the Center for American Progress, the gender wage gap is more prevalent with women of color. In a recent study, Asian women were paid the highest at $.90 to the dollar followed by white women at $0.79 to the dollar. Black women were paid $0.62 to the dollar while Native American women were paid $0.57 to the dollar. Hispanic women came in at the bottom at $0.54 to the dollar. 

Opponents of the prevalence of the gender wage gap cite the realities that many women tend to take on lower paying roles in industries such as teaching, while other women do not work as many hours as men or do not have the same experience to provide them a higher wage. Although the Equal Pay Act aims to level the playing field for both genders, it is one of the most frequently violated acts. 

Title VII Of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII is another one of the early acts designed to protect those who are often marginalized in society. Under Title VII, employers cannot discriminate against a job applicant because of their sex, race, national origin, or sexual orientation. 

This law also works to promote a positive work environment as it makes it illegal for offensive comments to be made about someone’s sexual orientation. This law is the basis of protection against sexual harassment in the workplace. It was in July of 2015 when the EEOC expanded protections against sexual orientation discrimination to all 50 states. 

Age Discrimination in Employment Act 

Age discrimination is unfortunately another common occurrence in the workplace. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) seeks to prevent against this. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against individuals who are 40 years of age or older. Wages cannot be reduced because of an applicant’s age and employers should base a potential hire on their ability, not on how old they are. The law also allows employers the ability to advertise to this specific age range in order to help boost employment to what is often seen as a vulnerable age group. 

American with Disabilities Act 

The Americans with Disabilities act of 1990 protects mentally or physically disabled individuals from illegal hiring practices. Under the act, applicants cannot be denied appropriate wages, promotions, and other details related to a job because of their disability. The ADA is one of the major pieces of legislation that protects what once was a marginalized group in the workforce.   

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 

One of the newer laws that protect diversity in the workplace is the Genetic Informational Nondiscriminatory Act (GINA). This act highlights the ever advancing efforts of technology. Under this law, job applicants cannot be denied or discriminated against because of their genetic makeup, their family genetics, or their family history. This rather new law saw its first lawsuit in the case of Rhonda Jones, a woman who was denied a position at a fabric distribution company, Fabricut, because carpal tunnel ran in her family history. She was applying to be an administrative clerk with the company. 

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

In 1978 the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was added to the Civil Rights Law of 1964. Under this act, employers can not discriminate against pregnant women, or towards any individual who was experiencing an event related to childbirth. The overall law helps to ensure that pregnant woman are not under unnecessary stress or pregnancy harassment related to their pregnancy

State Protections for Diversity and Inclusivity

States can pass their own legislation that apply to their constituents in order to protect diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For example, New York State has a new piece of legislation titled the Executive Order Requiring the Adoption of Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policies. 

Another state mandate, the New York State Human Rights law, protects individuals under a wide range of situations and also focuses on illegal discrimination against individuals on the basis of “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, disability, genetic predisposition or carrier status, or marital status of any individual.” Among other things, the law expands federal protections that are already in place. 

States can assess what the needs are in their own community and pass legislation that meets those needs. Much like the New York State Human Rights Law, state legislation generally expands on federal protections. Some state laws also expand protections to business with fewer employees as well. 

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