Skip to main content

Employer Discrimination: What You Need to Know About Your Rights

4 min read

Legal Boulevard Square Logo

By Kelsey Miller

You have a legal right not to be discriminated against at your job for a variety of reasons. Find out about employer discrimination and how you can make a claim.

What Is Employer Discrimination?

Employer discrimination occurs when an employer — including the owner of the business, a manager or a supervisor — makes a decision about your employment with regard to a protected class. It also includes unfair treatment based on protected classes.

Protected Classes
  • race
  • religion
  • color
  • gender or sexual orientation
  • family status
  • pregnancy
  • disability
  • age

Employer discrimination occurs when an employer uses one of the above factors to treat you unfairly or to make decisions, such as whether or not you get a job, raise or promotion. It can also refer to harassment by coworkers, managers or others because of your age, race or other demographic status. If you complain about discrimination of any type and are retaliated against — such as by losing your job or being moved into a less desirable position for no other reason — this can also be considered illegal employer discrimination.

The federal laws that cover employer discrimination and help protect employees from this type of behavior include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. However, these are not the only laws involved in these protections.

Cecille Johnsen/Unsplash

What Is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?

The EEOC is the agency responsible for enforcing many of the federal laws about fair employment and discrimination. If you work for an EEOC-covered employer, you can report cases of discrimination to the EEOC and expect an investigation and possible intervention if the EEOC determines that your rights were violated.

Who Is Covered Under the EEOC?

Very small businesses typically aren’t covered under the EEOC. In most cases, businesses must have 15 or more employees to be covered by this agency. For age discrimination cases, the EEOC only gets involved if the employer has 20 or more employees.

How to File a Charge with the EEOC

If your case is covered by federal law, you may need to file a charge with the EEOC before you can move on to filing a lawsuit. The only exception to this is the Equal Pay Act, which doesn’t require you to file an EEOC claim first.

To file an EEOC charge, you can log into the EEOC Public Portal. The system will guide you through filing a charge, which might require you to provide certain information or be present for an in-person or online interview as the EEOC investigates the matter.

You also only have a certain amount of time to file an EEOC charge. The deadline is typically 180 days from the date the discrimination occurred or from the time you became aware of it. You may have up to 300 days to file a charge in some cases where state laws always forbid the discriminatory act and there is a state agency overseeing such matters. In these cases, you may need to first file with the state agency before filing with the EEOC.

Luis Villasmil/Unsplash

What Are the Benefits of Filing an EEOC Charge?

One of the benefits of filing with the EEOC is that you protect your right to file a civil lawsuit in the future if the matter is not resolved through the EEOC. However, the EEOC also provides some potential remedies should it decide a case in your favor. Possible remedies can include:

The EEOC does limit damages. While outcomes can vary, general limitations include:

Recent EEOC Settlements

The EEOC manages an online newsroom that publishes information relevant to this topic. That includes information about recent EEOC settlements. For example, in the first half of August 2020, the EEOC noted:

Should You Get Professional Help with Employer Discrimination Cases?

While you can file directly with the EEOC, in many cases, you may want to speak with an employment attorney first. Many lawyers offer free consultations to help you understand whether you have a case and what your next steps should be. An attorney can also help you make a strong case to relevant state agencies or the EEOC and assist you in filing a lawsuit if you need to.

Legal Boulevard Square Logo



How to Prepare for the Immigration Process Immigration

How to Prepare for the Immigration Process

The immigration process can be difficult to navigate. Learn what steps to take when preparing for your personal interview, naturalization test and medical exam. For many applicants, the immigration process is overwhelming and difficult to navigate. By taking the following steps to prepare, you can improve your chances of successfully achieving U.S. citizenship…

Read More about How to Prepare for the Immigration Process

5 min read

How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card Immigration

How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card

Determining eligibility for a green card can be complex. Discover eligible categories and which one might be the best fit for individuals or their families. For many people, obtaining a green card is an important milestone. It could be their first step on the road to working in the United States, joining a spouse or […]

Read More about How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card

5 min read

Class Action Lawsuits FAQ General

Class Action Lawsuits FAQ

Class action lawsuits let individuals join together to fight back against harm caused by corporations. Discover how class action lawsuits may pertain to you. Every day, deceptive business practices and outright on the part of corporations and other institutions cause physical and financial harm to individuals. Class action lawsuits give consumers the ability to fight back. Learn more […]

Read More about Class Action Lawsuits FAQ

5 min read

U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect Immigration

U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect

Explore the application process for U.S immigration. Learn about visa categories, eligibility requirements and information on visa approvals during COVID-19. Every year the U.S. Department of State issues immigration visas to family members, skilled workers and diversity immigrants. In 2019, the U.S. issued more than 450,000 immigrant visas to applicants across seven categories. There are different immigrant visas in […]

Read More about U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect

4 min read