Colorado Workplace Discrimination Lawyer
Discrimination in the Workplace
Federal and state employment laws prohibit an employer from engaging in race discrimination in the workplace.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and other federal and state anti-discrimination laws, it is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. Title VII also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups.
Title VII prohibits both intentional race discrimination in the workplace and neutral job policies that are not job related that disproportionately exclude or disadvantage minority job applicants. See EEOC-Race-Discrimination-Fact-Sheet
Equal employment opportunity cannot be denied because of marriage to or association with an individual of a different race; membership in or association with ethnic based organizations or groups; or attendance or participation in schools or places of worship generally associated with certain minority groups.
Many federal laws protect an organization’s employees from discrimination on a variety of factors. Further, Colorado state law goes on to offer more protections to Colorado citizens from a yet even wider varying array of discriminatory workplace behaviors or policies with a disparate impact. When taking both a combination of United States federal and Colorado state laws into account, Colorado based workers are protected from discrimination on the basis of:
- Skin Color
- National origin / ethnicity
- Citizenship status
- Genetic information
- Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
- Physical, mental, or learning disabilities
- Age (for persons between age 40 and 70)
- Sexual orientation (including perceived sexual orientation)
- Diagnosis of AIDS/HIV
- Lawful conduct outside of work
- Mental illness
- Transgender status
Federal and state laws protect virtually all employees from employment discrimination and sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, protects qualified applicants and employees with disabilities from discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, job training, fringe benefits, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment on the basis of disability. The law also requires that covered entities provide qualified applicants and employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations that do not impose undue hardship on the employer.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, protects applicants and employees 40 years of age or older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. In addition to sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (see above), the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended, prohibits sex discrimination in payment of wages to women and men performing substantially equal work in the same establishment.
An employee must file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or Colorado Civil Rights Division (“CCRD”) prior to filing a discrimination lawsuit under Title VII, the ADA or ADEA. The Charge must be filed with the administrative agency within specific time frames. Otherwise, the employee’s claim may be lost. After a Charge of Discrimination is filed, the employer is typically required by the agency to provide specific information in response to the allegations of employment discrimination.
A prevailing employee in a discrimination case may recover substantial damages, including lost back-pay, front pay, compensatory damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages. These damages may be subject to statutory caps under Federal law depending on the size of the employer. A prevailing employee may also recover attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in prosecuting the action. Needless to say, the potential exposure can be significant, if not ruinous for a small to medium sized business.
Given the high stakes nature of discrimination and/or harassment litigation, it is critical that you have the best possible employment discrimination lawyer in any discrimination or harassment case. Baird Quinn’s attorneys have substantial experience representing individuals and businesses before the EEOC and CCRD. Our employment and race discrimination lawyers have also successfully represented individuals and employers in employment litigation in Federal and state courts in multiple states. We have obtained large recoveries on behalf of our individual clients, and the outright dismissal of lawsuits against our business clients with an award of litigation costs against the opposing party.
Baird Quinn’s labor and employment lawyers are available to assist you. Please go to the following link to find out more about our Colorado labor and employment lawyers.
Covered Employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII applies to private employers, the federal government, state and local governments, labor organizations, and employment agencies. Title VII covers private employers who employ 15 or more employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.
Even employers with fewer than 15 employees may be covered, if the employer acted jointly with a parent, subsidiary or affiliated corporation, and the total number of employees at both companies is 15 or more, and the two companies have acted as a joint enterprise.
Title VII also prohibits labor unions and employment agencies from engaging in racial discrimination in the workplace or otherwise creating a hostile work environment.
Covered Employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII prohibits race discrimination in the workplace against applicants for employment and employees. It does not cover independent contractors. The fact that an employee is called an independent contractor, however, does not automatically mean that he or she is actually an independent contractor. Instead, the courts analyze whether the worker is in business for himself or herself and whether the employer has the right to control the means and manner of the worker’s performance. Thus, even a worker who has been labeled an “independent contractor” may still be covered by the Act.
Further, other laws, such as Section 1981, prohibit racial discrimination against independent contractors. Thus, even if Title VII does not apply, an applicant, employee or independent contractor is protected against unlawful racial discrimination in the workplace.
Prohibited Race Discrimination in the Workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
Title VII also prohibits racial harassment in the workplace due to a person’s race or color. Harassment may include, for example, racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
Title VII also prohibits a covered employer from retaliating against any applicant or employee who opposes a prohibited practice, files a charge, or participates or testifies in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
Race/Color Discrimination & Employment Policies/Practices
An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of race or color, can be illegal if it has a disproportionately negative impact on the employment of people of a particular race or color and is not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. For example, a “no-beard” employment policy that applies to all workers without regard to race may still be unlawful if it is not job-related and has a disproportionately negative impact on the employment of African-American men (who have a predisposition to a skin condition that causes severe shaving bumps).
Litigating Claims Involving Race Discrimination in the Workplace
In order to pursue a race discrimination claim, an applicant or employee must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It must typically be filed within a very short time frame (180 or 300 days) from the date of the alleged discrimination or retaliation.
The EEOC (or state fair employment practices agency – which is the Colorado Civil Rights Division in Colorado) will investigate the charge of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace. If the agency determines there is “probable cause” to believe that discrimination occurred, it will attempt to conciliate (or resolve) the claim. If conciliation fails, the EEOC may litigate the claim in limited circumstances. Otherwise, the employee may obtain the right to pursue his or her claims in court.
Remedies available under Title VII for Race Discrimination in the Workplace
If an applicant or employee prevails on a racial discrimination in the workplace claim, he or she may be entitled to the following relief:
- Reinstatement, compelled employment, or compelled promotion;
- Back pay;
- Front pay;
- Emotional distress damages;
- Punitive Damages; and
- Attorneys’ fees
The Denver labor and employment lawyers at the law firm of Baird Quinn LLC have a long history of successfully representing clients in cases involving claims of discrimination and/or retaliation in the workplace. If you have any questions regarding these issues, please contact one of our experienced Denver racial discrimination lawyers for an initial consultation on how our legal advice and representation beyond this free consultation might support you and start building a strong attorney-client relationship. You may find additional information regarding our Colorado race discrimination attorneys at the following link.
Sex Discrimination in the Workplace
Title VII prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. This means that employers may not take an adverse employment action against an employee “because of” the employee’s sex. Thus, an employee’s sex cannot be a motivating factor in any employment decision, including hiring, transfers, promotions, pay, disciplinary action, suspensions, and discharges from employment. See EEOC-Guidance-Sex-Discrimination-Title VII.
In addition to Title VII, the Equal Pay Act requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work. When male and female employees perform jobs which require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and are performed in similar working conditions, an employer must pay employees equally for the work. An employer, however, may be able to demonstrate that disparate pay decisions are based on a reasonable factor other than sex, such as merit, a seniority system, or a quantity system.
Although the rights and remedies in a sex discrimination case are similar to those of the other protected categories, such as race or national origin, Congress has passed some additional anti-discrimination laws to protect women in the workplace. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Although this doesn’t mean that pregnant women are entitled to special or preferential treatment, it does mean that pregnant women must be treated equally to non-pregnant individuals. For example, if a company gives extra leaves of absence to employees with medical conditions, they must extend this practice to pregnant women. The Family and Medical Leave Act also gives employees rights to leaves of absence necessitated by pregnancy or the birth of a child.
Although Title VII was originally understood only to apply to women, that is no longer the case. Title VII also prohibits sex discrimination against men. Thus, for example, when a male employee is denied a promotion in favor of a female employee, and the male can prove that the reason was “because of his sex,” he may have a claim for sex discrimination.
Sex discrimination also includes sexual harassment—creating a hostile environment for an individual based on his or her sex. This is just as actionable as firing a person because of his or her sex. For more information about sexual harassment, see our sexual harassment page. The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for complaining about sex discrimination or sexual harassment, or for participating in someone else’s sex discrimination or sexual harassment case. For more information about retaliation and retaliation claims, see our retaliation page.
Baird Quinn LLC’s sex discrimination lawyers have significant experience representing clients with respect to all aspects of sex discrimination in the workplace. If you require additional information about the various laws governing sex discrimination in the workplace, please call Baird Quinn’s Colorado sex discrimination lawyers to discuss these issues. You may obtain additional information regarding our Denver sex discrimination lawyers at the following link.