Federal law has a number of regulations that prohibit workplace discrimination. Many states, including New Jersey, offer additional protections.
The federal laws against workplace discrimination are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed to ensure that men and women did not face wage discrimination based on sex. Employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of national origin, sex, religion, color and race by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
An amendment to the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits employers with at least 15 employees from discriminating against women who are pregnant or who are affected by a condition that is related to their pregnancy. Workers who are at least 40 are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 while people with disabilities are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
State laws that reinforce these federal laws are the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which adds a number of categories, such as ancestry and domestic partnership status, and the New Jersey Equal Pay Act, which also prevents wage discrimination on the basis of sex. Smokers, people in same-sex relationships and people who refuse to engage in illegal activities for their employer are also protected.
Despite these protections, employees who believe they are facing discrimination may be up against a number of obstacles. They might be concerned about the cost to their career if they pursue a discrimination claim. It can be difficult to prove that discrimination has taken place in some cases because it may be subtle. An employer who terminates or disciplines an employee for discriminatory reasons may claim their actions were based on performance. An attorney may be able to advise an employee dealing with discrimination about their rights under employment law.