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Employment Discrimination Overview

On Behalf of | Sep 25, 2014 | Firm News

Employment discrimination generally refers to unlawful employment-related decisions (e.g., hiring, promotion, discipline, termination) based on “protected characteristics” of an employee or applicant.

Applicable Federal and State Laws

Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for an employer with 15 or more employees to consider the race, color, religion, sex or national origin of an employee or applicant. Pregnancy has been specifically included in the prohibition against sex discrimination since enactment of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Discrimination based on physical or mental disability is unlawful under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers may not base employment decisions on the fact that an employee or applicant is between the ages of 40 and 70 years of age.

Many states have enacted laws creating additional protected characteristics, such as sexual preference (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of homosexuality, heterosexuality or trans sexuality) or status as an adoptive parent, a victim of domestic violence or an organ donor. Also, many states have laws prohibiting employment discrimination by employers with as few as five employees.

Sex and Pregnancy

Employers may not make employment decisions based on an employee’s gender, marital status or pregnancy status. Thus, it is unlawful to fail to hire or promote an employee because she is of child-bearing age and might need time off for pregnancy. Employers must provide employees with medically required time off for pregnancy and childbirth (it may be unpaid). Many states have laws requiring employers to provide a safe, private place for lactating employees to express breast milk during their breaks. Employers may not advertise a requirement or preference for men or women applicants. The courts have found sexual harassment on the job to be a form of unlawful sex discrimination as well.

Religious Discrimination

Employers may not discriminate against employees or applicants because they wear religiously required garments or head coverings. Examples include the wearing of a burqa, yarmulke or Sikh turban. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for religious practices, such as allowing a Muslim employee to pray during his or her breaks or adjusting the work schedule of an Orthodox Jewish employee to allow him or her to leave early enough on Friday afternoon to arrive home prior to the start of the Sabbath.

Disability Discrimination

Employers may not discriminate against an employee or applicant because he or she has a disability, is regarded as having a disability or has a record of a disability. Thus, an employer may not refuse to hire an employee because he or she is in a wheelchair, appears to have a speech impediment or exhibits mannerisms that may suggest mental retardation. Employers must make reasonable disability accommodations both in the application process and after hire. For example, if an employee with a disability can perform the “essential functions” of a job, the employer may be required to remove marginal job responsibilities that an employee is unable to perform. Generally, deaf employees must be permitted to use a sign language interpreter and blind employees must be allowed to use a service animal at work.


Employees may not be disciplined or terminated for reporting or denouncing unlawful discrimination or harassment. For example, an employee complaining of being sexual harassed by a supervisor should not have his work schedule or duties changed to remove him from being a subordinate of that supervisor. Doing so may subject an employer to liability for unlawful sex discrimination. Instead, the supervisor’s assignment or hours should be changed.

If you’ve been discriminated against for any reason contact our attorneys today and see if you have a case.

Executives Leaving A Company

Executives who have decided to leave a company in order to pursue a new career or independent, entrepreneurial endeavors afford themselves the opportunity to experience the professional world in new, exciting ways. At the same time, however, it is important that executives who plan to leave their jobs do so in an orderly, business-like way. Her are several strategies you can employ once you’ve decided to leave a company:

1. Give Notice.

This is one of the most important strategies for you to implement when you decide to leave a company. Giving a notice (at least two weeks, if not a month or more) is very professional because it gives your employer an opportunity to plan. As an executive your job will be more difficult to fill, so the earlier you give a notice the more time your employer will have to plan who will take your position. When you announce that you are leaving your position in advance, your employer can begin the job recruitment process and hopefully have someone hired and in training before you are gone, thereby ensuring that the business continues to function smoothly.

2. Put It In Writing.

In addition to ensuring that you give your boss a notice, it is important that you put the notice in writing. This is an important part of the resignation process because every career-related decision that you make needs to be documented so both you and all future employers can reference and review your vocational past.

3. Be Positive.

Oftentimes, leaving a company is perceived to be a negative occurrence because it suggests transition and absence, both of which will likely instill fear and resistance from people. And even if you are leaving your company on good terms, your co-workers and superiors may view your departure in a negative light. To preclude this type of lackluster attitude from clouding your final days of work, be positive about your transition by focusing on how much fun you’ve had in your current position as well as the personal and professional growth you’ve experienced while there.

4. Remain Productive.

In many cases, humans have a tendency to slack off in terms of job performance once they decide to leave a job. Don’t conform to this principle. Instead, remain highly productive so that your boss doesn’t have to worry about tasks being completed with expedience and excellence. When you conclude your career with a company on this high note, you will likely be able to come back in the event that you need or want to.

5. Don’t Forget The Details.

Once an executive has turned in their letter of resignation, there is a tendency to begin concentrating on a new job or other entrepreneurial endeavors. However, executives still need to focus on the details of their current job. By paying attention to details such as any employee benefits or other moneys you are entitled to, you can help prevent any sort of financial pinch that might transpire while you are in transition.


If you are an executive who has decided to leave a company, you should know that doing so will afford you the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. However, it is very important that you leave your current job in a professional capacity. By utilizing some or all of the techniques outlined above, you can accomplish this objective.

Hiring Disabled Employees

The Chicago discrimination attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich have over 25 years of courtroom experience in dealing with employee and disability discrimination laws. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enforces companies with 15 or more employees to make accommodations for Americans that suffer from disabilities as long as the company is not overburdened with provisions for providing reasonable accommodations. In this way, equal opportunity laws can be reinforced to include disabled person(s). The attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich are dedicated to serving the needs of their disabled clients that have sought out legal counsel regarding infringements on their employment rights in regards to their disability. The legal team at Goldman & Ehrlich also defends employers that have been unjustly accused of breaking the laws that surround the Americans with Disabilities Act or have not been able to comply with the standards that have been impressed upon them.

How Can Disability Laws Impact Employers and Employees?

The ADA protects disabled individuals from being discriminated against in areas of employment including state or local government positions, public transportation jobs, telecommunications, and commercial facilities. A person that the ADA defines as disabled has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits their activities. The ADA does not list all disabilities that fall into this category, but the ADA does state that a person who is perceived by others as having a mental or physical disability that limits their activities and a person with a medical history or record of disabilities would also be considered as disabled. Thus employers have to be careful when making decisions regarding what is and what is not considered a disability. Employers must provide their disabled employees with the same opportunities for employment as their non-disabled employees. Promotions, hiring, recruitment, training, pay, and social activities are all components that fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are an employer or an employee who needs an attorney, the attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich can offer legal services regarding your rights in a disability case or law suit. Feel free to contact
Goldman & Ehrlich to obtain expert legal advice.

Can an Employee Be Terminated Because of a Disability?

Employers are prohibited from terminating employees based on a disability as this is considered wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If an employee becomes disabled, then employers must provide them with reasonable accommodations. If you are an employer that is concerned about terminating an employee who may be considered disabled or you are an employee that has been terminated solely on the basis of your disability, the attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich can help you determine if a case can be made by either party. Contact us today to get started.