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Federal employment discrimination laws are usually used to protect minority group members from unlawful treatment by employers. These laws typically only apply to employers who have 15 or more employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that enforces these laws. Some time ago the EEOC filed a rare lawsuit against the Hampton Inn Hotel for unlawfully firing 3 white workers. The EEOC attorneys accused the owners of the hotel of firing the workers because they were white; a fact which the owners believed makes them lazy. The EEOC also contends that the owners believed that “Hispanics work harder.”
In the vast majority of these cases, employers are accused of unlawful discrimination against non-white employees and job applicants. In this case, the fired white workers were hired to work in the laundry and housekeeping departments. They were soon fired and replaced by Latinos. Within months all workers in those departments were Latinos. The EEOC attorney also accused the hotel owners of not keeping required employment documents. He criticized the hotel’s actions saying “Employers cannot choose employees based on the color of their skin or their ancestry. This form of blatant discrimination clearly violates federal law.”
Immigrant rights representatives have warned that although this case seems to indicate that Latinos are preferred by some employers, it is only because they can pay them less and avoid the cost of providing health insurance and other benefits. This case also demonstrated that the government will protect the rights of all individuals that are unfairly judged by the color of their rather than the quality of their work. Stereotypes and generalizations are unfair because they can never be true for everyone in the group. Not all “Latinos work harder” and not all “Latinos will work for less.”
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It requires that men and women that perform substantially equal work in the same place to be paid equally. It is unlawful to discriminate against people because they are more than 40 years old and qualified workers with disabilities. The 1991 Civil Rights Act created the right to sue employers and receive money to compensate victims for lost wages and even more money to punish employers for violating their rights. It also allows workers that win in court to have the employers pay their attorneys fees. These laws apply to private, state, and local government employers and educational institutions.
Employers that violate federal employment laws can be forced to pay the victimized workers back pay, which is the amount that the victim would have earned without the employer’s misconduct. In some situations the employer can be required to hire or reinstate a victim of illegal discrimination. If hiring or reinstatement is not appropriate, guilty employers can be ordered to pay “front pay” which is compensation for future loss of wages for a reasonable period of time or until the victim starts another job. Always consult an employment law attorney if you think you are the victim of employment discrimination. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®.
JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.