Federal law prohibits any kind of discrimination in the workplace based on a so-called “protected characteristic.” Protected characteristics include race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), disability, age (40 and older), veteran status, and genetic information (including family medical history).
Unlawful conduct includes:
If you have been subjected to discrimination, you may be entitled to back pay, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.
Federal law mandates that men and women be given equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately, pay discrimination is rampant in the United States, with women making approximately 80 cents for every dollar men earn. Women of color face an even grimmer picture; black women make approximately 61 cents and Latina women make 53 cents on the dollar compared with men.
Pay discrimination covers all types of pay, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.
If you have been subjected to pay discrimination, you may be entitled to back pay equal to the pay differential between you and the higher paid male employee and additional damages equal to the pay differential (so-called “liquidated damages”).
Federal law prohibits harassment by managers, co-workers, or others in the workplace based on a so-called “protected characteristic.” Protected characteristics include race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), disability, age (40 and older), veteran status, and genetic information (including family medical history).
Harassment can take various forms, such as racial slurs, graffiti, offensive or derogatory comments, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other unwanted verbal or physical conduct. The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or even a client/customer.
If you have been subjected to harassment, you may be entitled to back pay, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.
Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for engaging in some type of “protected activity.”
Protected activity includes , but is not limited to, exercising one’s right to certain leave, such as family and medical leave; complaining about discrimination or harassment in the workplace; complaining or raising concerns about workplace safety; discussing terms and conditions of employment with other employees; or assisting with an employment-related investigation or lawsuit.
Retaliatory actions can take various forms, including disciplinary action or discharge, job transfer, demotion, increased scrutiny, poor performance evaluation, or any other action that would discourage employees from exercising their rights in the workplace.
If you have been subjected to retaliation, you may be entitled to back pay, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.
Regardless of whether you are paid on a salary or hourly basis, you are entitled to overtime pay if you do not fall under one of the exceptions outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act.
So-called “non-exempt” workers (i.e. workers who are entitled to overtime pay) are generally entitled to receive overtime pay at a rate of 1.5x their usual pay for any time worked over 40 hours in a workweek.
Thus, if a non-exempt worker makes $10 per hour, then her overtime rate is $15 per hour ($10 x 1.5). If she works 50 hours one workweek, then she is entitled to $550 for that week ((40 hours x $10) + (10 hours x $15)).
If your employer has failed to compensate you for overtime work at an overtime pay rate, then you may be entitled to back pay damages for the amount of overtime pay that was unlawfully withheld, as well as an equal amount of damages in so-called “liquidated damages.”
Employees are entitled to certain types of leave under federal law and may be eligible for additional leave under state law.
Perhaps the most commonly used leave is family and medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The FMLA entitles eligible employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specified family and medical reasons (such as childbirth, adoption, or a serious health condition) or 26 weeks of unpaid leave per year to take care of a covered member of the armed services with a serious injury or illness.
Another common source of leave is unpaid leave as an accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”). Even after an employee has exhausted all available FMLA leave, he or she may be entitled to additional unpaid leave under the ADA.
If your employer has interfered with your right to certain leave, you may be eligible for damages, reinstatement, and other relief.