While workplaces in the United States have the right to decide who they hire, who they fire, and how their business is run, several labor laws exist and are designed to keep employees safe in the workplace. Under the supervision of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), workplace discrimination is one heavily regulated area that prevents anyone from being subject to a negative employment action based on their demographics, health status, or other variables. If you’ve been accused of violating these laws, a white-collar crime lawyer will be able to work with you on proving your innocence.
1. They Manage All Forms of Discrimination Cases
According to the EEOC, any of the following can be a form of workplace discrimination: age, pay equity, harassment, pregnancy, race, retaliation for things like discussing pay, sexual harassment, disability, genetic information, ethnicity, race, religion, sex, or gender. These forms of discrimination can be present at any time, beginning with a job application and ending with termination from a role.
While some lawyers, especially prosecutors, may specialize in one or more areas, most lawyers are able to work all of these cases similarly as they fall under the same set of laws. Many workplace discrimination lawyers will also deal with other employment issues like FMLA and overtime violations.
2. They Can Help You Before There’s a Problem
Because of their knowledge of these laws, many workplace discrimination attorneys actually help companies establish strong policies to prevent future lawsuits. Having a policy with a clear way to address complaints is the first step. This communication will be the first line of defense if a suit does come up and allows employers to assess concerns before they reach litigation. It is also crucial to document any decisions surrounding hiring, promotions, salary increases, and terminations with solid explanations for each decision that rule out discrimination as a motive.
3. They Don’t Have to Defend All Discrimination
There are particular cases in which the defense can argue some discrimination is necessary. This is known as Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ). This allows for a preference for a particular group based on job requirements. For example, an airline may set requirements for flight attendants to not have certain physical disabilities due to their need to perform physical acts. Because this is related to safety, it isn’t unlawful discrimination.
4. They Can Help Avoid Severe Penalties
Title VII, one of the laws that dictates unlawful discrimination rules, allows for a range of entitlements for a victim who is probably harmed by discrimination. This can include job reinstatement and promotion, wage recovery, repayment for other job-related losses and financial damages, payment of legal fees, and injunctive relief, which forces a company to change its policies going forward.
When any complaint is registered with the EEOC, they will usually attempt to reach an amicable solution between the employer and the employee. If this isn’t possible, the EEOC may sue on the employee’s behalf or permit them to sue the company. Because these charges are civil, a judge will then be able to decide what compensation is granted to the victim.
5. They Know State and Federal Law
While the EEOC is a federal organization and many discrimination laws are federal, additional rules may be relevant to your state that a lawyer must know. For example, Georgia has a Commission on Equal Opportunity that oversees the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act. This allows for state charges to be put on employers with more than 15 employees who discriminate based on age, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or disability.
6. They Act Fast
The process for filing a complaint with the EEOC has a strict statute of limitations. Charges must be filed within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act. While the EEOC’s investigation and process will account for part of that time, it’s important to have a lawyer at your side as soon as you are made aware of a complaint. They will use this time window to review your policies as well as the specific case and make recommendations on how to proceed. If you do end up in court, they will be able to bring this evidence forward in your defense.