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Anti-Discrimination Laws – What Is Covered?

In a more humane world, everyone would be protected against discrimination by law. However, under current state and federal laws, there are loopholes that allow companies to opt out of enforcing anti-discrimination laws for their employees. There are many rationales for allowing them to do so, but regardless, the important thing is that you are not misinformed about the level of protections you might enjoy on the job.

Different Protections at Different Company Sizes

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lays out the general criteria for when a company is required to observe and follow federal anti-discrimination law. For instance, if a business has one employee, they must follow the law that mandates equal pay for equal work, regardless of the employee’s gender. If there are four employees or more, the business is required to avoid discriminating based on suspected citizenship or alienage. If the business has at least 15 employees, they must comply with laws barring discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, and the like.

Depending on where you live, there may be more categories added to this list when you examine state anti-discrimination laws. South Carolina’s Human Affairs Law does not add any more categories to the law, but other states such as Illinois or Colorado bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Still other states add different criteria, such as barring discrimination against the mentally ill. These classes are considered protected in addition to those named in federal anti-discrimination legislation.

Why Loopholes?

One might wonder why companies are permitted to decline to enforce these laws, when clamping down on discrimination is good for employee morale and business prospects. The answer lies in the amount of training and testing that is required, as well as possible physical modifications to the interior of the business, depending on the nature of the law and which characteristic it targets. The costs associated with complying with such laws can be so burdensome as to restrict businesses from operating, and as such, many are exempted simply so they can remain open.

For example, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled workers from discrimination in employment or in the hiring process. However, it is explicitly stated in the law that if a necessary accommodation would be cost prohibitive or create an unreasonable burden on the employer, they are free to decline to hire the disabled person. The objective of the ADA and other similar laws are not to cost businesses money, but to balance the interests of businesses in making money with the rights of those otherwise disadvantaged to make a living.

Contact An Employment Discrimination Attorney

Even if your employer is too small to be covered by South Carolina or federal anti-discrimination laws, there may be another way you can seek redress if you have been mistreated. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his Charleston employment discrimination firm have years of experience and will do their best to defend your rights. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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