EEOC Discrimination

Learn about the various types of EEOC-prohibited discrimination. The EEOC protects employees from discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, etc.

Author: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an individual for the following reasons:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic information

Also, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual who files a complaint regarding the discrimination or has otherwise engaged in an employment discrimination lawsuit or investigation. In 2020, about 56% of charges filed with the EEOC related to retaliation. If you’re experiencing discrimination in the workplace, please contact our California employment lawyer for a free consultation.

What Is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency that enforces federal laws concerning harassment or discrimination targeting an employee or job applicant. Congress formed the EEOC as a way to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The agency is based in Washington, D.C. As of 2021, the agency has 37 field offices located throughout the United States.

What Is the EEOC’s Authority and Role?

The EEOC is granted the power to investigate any charges of discrimination levied against employers. Employers are typically subject to EEOC laws if they have at least fifteen employees. A number of labor unions and employment agencies are under its authority as well.

The EEOC is meant to fairly look into allegations and make a finding. If the agency determines that unlawful discrimination had occurred, then it will attempt to settle the charge. The agency also has the power to file a lawsuit to protect certain individuals, as well as the public interest.

EEOC laws apply to all kinds of workplace situations, functions, and processes. This would include the hiring and terminating of employees, harassment, job training, promotions, benefits, and wages. The EEOC is also supposed to prevent discrimination before it happens.

What Are Remedies for Employment Discrimination

When cases of discrimination are discovered, the law is supposed to help the victim of discrimination recover the same position they were in before the discrimination happened. The kinds of relief that an individual receives will depend on the discriminatory act that occurred, as well as its effect on the victim. For instance, if a person is not chosen for a job or a promotion because of a discriminatory reason, then the remedy may involve placement in the job or back pay and benefits that the individual would have otherwise earned.

The employer will also be required to stop any discriminatory practices in the workplace and take action to prevent discrimination from happening in the future.

A victim of discrimination may also be able to recover attorney’s fees, witness fees, as well as court costs.

Remedies Might Include Punitive and Compensatory Damages

In cases where there was intentional discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, sex, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, or genetic information, punitive and compensatory damages may be awarded.

Compensatory damages pay victims for any expenses the discrimination caused (job search costs, medical expenses, etc.), as well as compensate them for any emotional harm caused (mental anguish, inconvenience, etc.).

Punitive damages are awarded as a way of punishing an employer who has committed an especially egregious form of discrimination.

What Are the Limits on Punitive and Compensatory Damages?

When it comes to compensatory and punitive damages, there are limits to the amount that may be awarded to an individual. These limits depend on the size of the employer:

  • Employers with 15 to 100 employees = $50,000 limit
  • Employers with 101 to 200 employees = $100,000 limit
  • Employers with 201-500 employees = $200,000 limit
  • Employers with more than 500 employees = $300,000 limit

Age or Sex Discrimination Exceptions

When there are cases involving intentional age discrimination or sex-based wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, individuals cannot receive compensatory or punitive damages. Rather, they may receive “liquidated damages.”

Liquidated damages may be awarded as a wat of punishing a particularly heinous act of discrimination. The amount of liquidated damages that can be awarded to an individual is equal to the amount of back pay awarded.

What To Do When Experiencing Discrimination at Work

If an employee has reason to believe that he or she has been discriminated against at their workplace due to their race, sex, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information, then he or she can file a discrimination charge with the EEOC. The charge is a signed statement which details how an employer, union, or labor group committed employment discrimination. The statement requests that the EEOC take action. All of the EEOC’s laws, not including the Equal Pay Act, require that an employee file a discrimination charge before filing a job discrimination lawsuit against the employer.

There are relevant time limits of either 180 or 300 days. An employee can file a charge through the EEOC Public Portal after he or she submits an online inquiry and does an intake interview with a staff member from the EEOC.

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