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Know The Federal Workplace Anti-Discrimination Rules

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Discrimination against employees or job applicants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability is illegal. People in positions of authority are not allowed to take personal action against anyone because of these factors. Keep reading to better understand federal workplace anti-discrimination rules and why discrimination is prohibited in the United States.

Examples of discriminatory actions that are unlawful

A close-up image of the definition of the word "Discrimination"

Employment decisions cannot be based on factors such as the marital status or political affiliation of job candidates. Additionally, you cannot retaliate against employees or applicants who speak up in the face of wrongdoings. You cannot punish those who make complaints or appeals either.

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978

One of the U.S. laws that ensure employers adhere to anti-discrimination rules is the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. This law helps ensure employment decisions are fair and just. The CSRA is upheld and enforced by two agencies: the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing laws that protect job applicants and employees from workplace discrimination. It's against the law for any business to treat someone unfairly based on their race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetics or sex, including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy status. The EEOC also makes sure everyone has an equal opportunity in the workplace void of discriminatory practices.

More examples of illegal workplace discrimination

It is illegal to retaliate against someone who has taken action against discrimination in the workplace. Whether they filed charges in the context of discrimination or they participated in a discrimination investigation pertaining to harassment at work, it is unlawful to punish them for speaking out against discrimination they have endured. This will only worsen the situation for you as an employer.

You might believe that you have neutral employment policies and practices. However, they could still disproportionately and negatively affect people of a particular race, religion, sex, national origin or age unbeknownst to you. That's why it is imperative to ensure that your workplace procedures are in compliance with federal laws.

Furthermore, it is important to understand that creating job advertisements that seek to favor a certain group of people while discouraging other applicants from applying is against the law. Similarly, you are not right for making hiring decisions that are influenced by stereotypes or assumptions pertaining to specific characteristics.

As a rule of thumb, in all aspects of employment, it is legally prohibited to discriminate. This applies when reviewing job referrals, assigning tasks, promoting employees, paying workers, offering benefits, implementing disciplinary actions and terminating individuals.

When providing employment references, you are required to remain unbiased. Base your input solely on the merits of candidates rather than personal identifying factors such as race, age or nationality. Matters like these must be approached diligently and with seriousness, not taken lightly.

Harassing someone based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability or age is completely unacceptable. That's why federal law strictly prohibits this behavior. Retaliation against individuals who file discrimination charges, participate in investigations or speak out against discriminatory practices is also not allowed. Every aspect of employment, no matter how minor, must be free from discrimination.

During the hiring process, it is crucial that you avoid asking candidates questions about their height, weight, unemployment status, race, sex or other personal characteristics that are protected. The only time it is appropriate to pose questions of this nature is in situations where there is a legitimate business-related reason for doing so.

At the end of the day, the words and phrases we use matter. They hold weight and significance. That's why culturally sensitive language is important to utilize. It can have a significantly long-lasting impact on the people you come across.

Similarly, it is essential to actively avoid practices that perpetuate harm or offense toward certain groups of people. Make an effort to always replace harmful language and practices with more inclusive options. Also, strive to eliminate policies that promote discrimination in any way. By adhering to these principles, you can foster a workplace that is respectful, fair and thoroughly inclusive for all your employees.

Reach out to FIC Human Resource Partners' Nuance Culture Consulting and Nuance Culture Academy to ensure that your organization's policies are fostering a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.


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