When you think about discrimination at work, you might think a lot about how people treat each other. While it’s true that discrimination is particularly noticeable on such a personal level, it can also exist on an institutional level through a company’s policies.
Here are five examples of company policies that may be discriminatory. If you believe you were subjected to a discriminatory policy at work, get in contact with an employment law attorney to assess your situation.
1. Dress Codes & Grooming Standards
Many companies have a dress code and grooming policy. Generally speaking, if a company wishes to enforce certain dressing and grooming standards for its employees, that’s legally permissible.
However, bans on culturally or religiously significant garments, such as headscarves or skullcaps, can discriminate against one’s religion. And grooming standards that ban afros, beards, dreadlocks, and/or braids can discriminate against one’s race or religion.
These policies may also discriminate based on sex or sexual identify if they compel transgender or gender non-conforming employees to dress or groom in a manner that contradicts their gender identities or expressions.
2. Mandatory Retirement
In most professions, forced retirement based on age is illegal. Although mandatory retirement policies were once common, this practice was prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA protects employees who at least 40 years old against discrimination based upon their age. This means that employees generally can’t be fired or compelled to resign simply because they’ve reached 65 or a certain age.
That said, there are a few exceptions to this general rule. An employer may consider age for the following:a. Public Safety Officers – such as firefighters;
b. Executives and policy makers – if the employee has worked for at least the past two years as an executive or in a high policy making position, and is entitled to an annual retirement benefit of at least $44,000 from the employer; and
c. Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) – an employer may set an age limit for a job if
(i) substantially all people older than the age limit would be unable to perform the job; or
(ii) Some people over the age limit would be unable to perform the job, and testing each person individually to determine if she could perform the job would be impossible or impractical.
3. Compulsory Participation in Religious Holidays & Observances
Many employers consider themselves to be faith-based even when the purpose of character of their business isn’t religious. An example might be a hardware store whose owners are deeply religious and strive to run their company according to a certain religious doctrine.
If the owners create policies that compel their employees to participate in religious holidays and observances, these are likely illegal as they impose religion upon workers. The employers would also open themselves up to liability if they attempted to discriminate on the basis of employees’ sex, religion, race, disability status, or another protected characteristic, using their own religious beliefs as a cover.
4. Pregnancy Termination Policies
For many years, employees who could become pregnant risked their jobs when they wanted to expand their families. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 gave workers the protection they needed against employers who sought to discriminate against those who became pregnant.
Under no circumstances can employers have general policies that terminate pregnant employees. Quite to the contrary, employers are actually obligated to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant employees who need it to continue performing essential job functions.
When it comes time to give birth or bond with new children, employees are further protected by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to go on unpaid job-protected leave.
5. ‘U.S. Citizen-Only’ Policies
Citizenship status and national origin are two important protected characteristics. This means that employers can’t base any decisions regarding someone’s employment on them. It’s illegal for employers to adopt or enforce any policies that require their employees to be U.S. citizens unless federal, state, or local laws require U.S. citizenship for a particular job.
We Represent Employees Who’ve Experienced Discrimination
If you have been discriminated against, retaliated against or wrongfully terminated because of a company’s discriminatory policies, you may have a claim against your employer for damages, and we at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP can help. Get in touch with us today to schedule a free consultation where you can discuss your situation with an experienced attorney.
For more information, please contact us online or call (619) 342-8000 today.