Both employers and employees have had to make adaptations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there has been a disturbing trend across the country where employers take negative action against employees based on specific characteristics, rather than the needs of their businesses. If you suspect that you have experienced employment discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to seek out an experienced attorney to determine what options you have to fight back.
Discrimination In Practice, Not In Law
As always, anti-discrimination laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the South Carolina Human Affairs Law are still in force to protect employees, prohibiting any kind of discrimination based on characteristics like race, religion, gender, and national origin. These prohibitions cover hiring, firing, and any interaction in between. However, with employers being more and more concerned about their bottom lines, some are flouting these laws in the name of saving money or dealing with what they perceive as a “problem” employee.
Few employers would ever be so brazen as to tell an employee that they were being terminated or facing negative employment action due to an intrinsic characteristic. That said, just because an employer may not admit the truth it does not mean it is not happening. This is referred to as de facto discrimination, or discrimination in practice, and it is sadly more common in U.S. workplaces than one might like to admit. During the pandemic, there is evidence this is already happening to groups like working mothers, with potentially catastrophic results.
What Are My Options?
While the normal causes of action for employment discrimination do apply, you should keep in mind that your employer is permitted to do certain things to preserve workplace safety that might otherwise be considered intrusive or discriminatory. For example, employers are allowed to take employees’ temperature at work under the EEOC guidance. They can also ask additional health-related questions, especially if the employer believes the employee is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Still, the employer can go too far, giving rise to potential harassment or discrimination complaints.
In addition, it is worth noting that if your employer has been a beneficiary of the recently-passed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), they cannot, by law, discriminate in any way regarding who they rehire. The PPP is designed to help small businesses retain as many employees as possible during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. However, the price of accepting a PPP loan is a promise not to discriminate in any way regarding who to keep—only those with a legitimate reason to terminate someone may be let go.
Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today
With no end to the COVID-19 pandemic on the horizon, employers feel desperate to preserve their bottom line. However, employment discrimination should not occur in pursuit of that goal. If you have been discriminated against during the pandemic, contact a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney at the firm of Hitchcock & Potts to take the first step toward getting back what you deserve. Attorney A. Christopher Potts is happy to assist you.