Q: What is employment discrimination?
A: Employment discrimination is when a company treats an employee differently than other employees because of his or her race, color, age, sex, pregnancy, ancestry, religion, disability, national origin, retaliation, or sexual orientation (in Pittsburgh). Local, state, and federal laws make employment discrimination illegal for most employers (42 U.S.C. 2000e et. seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat § 951 et. seq., Art. 5 Pit. Code chs. 651-59).
Q: Are all people protected by these discrimination laws?
A: No. Only people who work for companies with four or more employees are protected by employment discrimination laws (43 Pa. Cons. Stat § 954(b)). Furthermore, certain agricultural and domestic workers are not protected by employment discrimination laws. Also, to be protected by the age discrimination laws, you must be at least 40 years old (43 Pa. Cons. Stat § 954(h)).
Q: Specifically, what kinds of things can’t an employer do?
A: An employer may not:
- Fail to hire
- Fail to promote or give a pay increase
- Verbally or physically harass
- Segregate or assign
Otherwise differentiate a person because of his or her race, color, age, sex, pregnancy, ancestry, religion, disability, national origin, or sexual orientation (in Pittsburgh).
Q: How do you prove that you were discriminated against?
A: It can be difficult to prove employment discrimination. For obvious reasons, employers rarely admit that they illegally discriminated against an employee. However, there is often some evidence of unfair discrimination. You should ask yourself:
Did my boss ever make any derogatory slurs, remarks, or “jokes” about my group?
Did my boss ever say anything that shows bias against my group?
Is there any statistical evidence? (Such as everyone who got a promotion was white.)
Am I treated worse than people in other groups (especially if they have the same or lesser qualifications)?
Have there been other claims of discrimination at my job?
You should write down any evidence of discrimination that you have. Write down everything that your company does that you think may be discriminatory.
Q: You think that you are the victim of discrimination. What should you do?
A: If you are still on the job, it may be easier to fix the situation by trying to work it out with your company. If you think that there is a supervisor who may help you, talk to him or her. If your supervisor is causing the problem, speak with his or her supervisor or the Human Resources Department. If you’re in a union, tell them about the situation. Look in your employee handbook to see if your company has a complaint procedure.
Q: If your company ignores your complaints, or if they fired or didn’t hire you, what should you do?
A: You should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Your company is not allowed to retaliate against you for filing a discrimination complaint. Be aware that there are time restrictions on filing discrimination claims. Usually, you only have 180 days from the time of the last incident to file a complaint with the PHRC and 300 days to file a complaint with the EEOC (43 P.S. § 959(h), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)).
You can reach the EEOC at:
William S. Moorhead Federal Building
1000 Liberty Avenue, Suite 1112
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Voice: (800) 669-4000 / Text Telephone: (412) 395-5904
You can reach the PHRC at:
301 Fifth Avenue
Suite 390, Piatt Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Voice: (412) 565-5395 / Text Telephone: (412) 565-5711