4 Facts to Know about Workplace Discrimination Laws

women at the office

Discrimination is real and happens in almost all organizations. The problem is, many employers are not aware of it. One reason is the lack of enough information about the laws that prohibit it.

For those living in Colorado, here are four essential facts to know:

1. Federal and State Laws Can Vary

The federal law prohibits workplace discrimination, but the state can also add more to the list or change the statutes. That’s what Colorado did.

Under federal law, no employee should experience discrimination because of their race, national origin, creed, religion, disability, skin color, or genetic information. However, Colorado protects workers against illegal termination because of their age or gender orientation, among others. To be specific, the law prohibits a business from removing an employee 40 years old and above without a just cause.

2. Employees Can File a Claim Due to Discrimination

Since discrimination is against the law, it comes with penalties, although it is usually a civil liability. In other words, the accused party doesn’t go to jail.

In the workplace, employees who believe they lost their jobs because of discrimination can file a claim for different damages:

  • Economic
  • Non-economic
  • Punitive

The economic damages can refer to back wages, lost benefits, or other types of compensation they cannot receive because of the “illegal termination.” Non-economic ones include pain and suffering, while the court can award punitive damages, which is a set amount set to “punish” or “serve as a lesson” for the organization (and other businesses).

A claim can be both stressful and expensive for any business. Besides the possibly lengthy court battle, fees can also pile up. For this reason, experts highly advise undergoing employment mediation first.

Mediation involves a neutral individual or professionals helping both parties resolve the conflict without court intervention. It is voluntary, which means the employer and the worker must agree to it. However, it is less draining than a courtroom. Often, it avoids further straining the relationship between those involved.

woman being scolded at work

3. No Company Can Discriminate

Many small-business employers mistakenly believe they are exempted from the anti-discrimination laws because of their size. In Colorado, no organization is immune to it, but employees might need to file their claims at the correct agency.

  • If the business has fewer than 15 employees, the worker can complain to the CCRD (Colorado Civil Rights Division).
  • For companies with over 15 workers, the discriminated employee can approach EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or CCRD.

Note that these two agencies can still cooperate over a complaint.

Discrimination-related cases also need to follow the statute of limitations. If they wish to file with the CCRD, they need to submit their complaint within 180 days from the incident. If they need or want to work with EEOC, they have 30 days to file a claim.

4. Discrimination Comes in Many Forms

Many incidents of discrimination are loud enough for everyone to notice. Take, for example, outright terminating an employee because of their physical or mental condition. However, some can be subtle and, unfortunately, commonplace.

According to The Balance Careers, over 51% experienced retaliation as discrimination. These cases even outnumbered discrimination because of sex, disability, race, or age.

Discrimination can also include:

  • Treating a select group of employees differently from the others
  • Harassing the worker
  • Making the job difficult
  • Bypassing an employee for promotions
  • Illegally terminating them
  • Sharing personal information about the employees to others

The sooner businesses pay attention to signs of discrimination, the faster they can stamp it out.