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Wexford religious discrimination lawyerThe EEOC processed 20% more religious employment discrimination cases in 2017 than 2007, while total discrimination cases rose just 2% over the same 10-year period. As a result, employers have become more cautious in their handling of religion-based requests for accommodations and exceptions to long-standing workplace policies. Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act protects all aspects of religious observance, practice, and belief. 

Workplace Policies With Disparate Impact Based on Religion

Religious employment discrimination cases often involve workplace policies that have a disparate adverse impact on people of a particular religion. For example, suppose an employer requires workers to be able to work any day of the week. That policy would have a disparate impact on people whose religion prohibits working on a holy day. Similarly, a workplace policy that requires workers to be clean-shaven and to wear a uniform consisting of shorts and a short-sleeved shirt can have a disparate impact on men whose religion requires them to wear a beard and women whose religion requires modest dress.

Employer Accommodations Required for Religious Reasons

Suppose a retail chain requires staff to be available to work on weekends, their busiest time. The hiring manager, Bob, interviews a candidate named Sarah. During the interview, Bob explains the job requirements. Sarah asks that she not be scheduled to work from Friday afternoon through Saturday evening due to her religion. 

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Allegheny County work discrimination lawyer disparate impact“Disparate impact” by race means that an employment policy has a greater negative impact on people of a particular race, even if the employer did not intend the policy to be discriminatory and even if the policy does not appear obviously discriminatory on its face. You can file a claim for financial compensation if you have been terminated from your job or otherwise suffered race-based employment discrimination as the result of a workplace policy with disparate impact. 

Requirements to Claim Racial Discrimination By Disparate Impact 

In order to make a valid disparate-impact claim against an employer, several conditions must be met. First, you must have personally suffered harm as a result of the policy, such as being fired because you violated the policy.

Second, according to current court rulings, the basis of racial discrimination must be an unchangeable condition of your race, such as skin color or a medical condition that has been scientifically linked to your race. “Cultural expressions” of your race such as hairstyles and styles of dress do not currently qualify as race-based discrimination, although this could change in the future, because religious expressions have already been granted legal protection.

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Allegheny County work discrimination attorneyRacial discrimination in the workplace does not have to involve open hostility, derogatory remarks, and intentional acts in order to support a claim for damages. In fact, many cases have been won where an employer’s race-based discrimination was subtle and even unintentional. 

When racial discrimination occurs in a more subtle fashion, you may not even be sure whether you have a valid claim. Even after you file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and their investigation reveals some evidence of discriminatory practices, there is no guarantee that the EEOC will decide to prosecute your case. In such cases, you may need to engage a private attorney to help you collect damages.

What Are Some Signs of Subtle Racial Discrimination?

A supervisor or hiring manager may never utter a word against people of another race or intentionally make discriminatory decisions about hiring, promotion, or termination. However, they may still be perpetuating discriminatory practices.

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Allegheny County workplace discrimination lawyer EEOC claimWhen you file a workplace discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this organization will investigate your complaint to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support your claim. If so, the EEOC will file charges against the employer and attempt to settle the case through its conciliation process. 

If the employer refuses to settle your case through conciliation, only then will the EEOC consider filing a federal court lawsuit against that employer. However, the EEOC is not required to pursue your case in court. In fact, the EEOC only pursues litigation in a small percentage of the cases where it finds sufficient evidence of discrimination and fails to resolve the case through conciliation. In making this determination, the EEOC considers factors such as the seriousness of the violation, the specific legal issues involved, and the extent to which a court ruling on the case would advance the agency’s wider efforts to reduce and prevent workplace discrimination. 

The Benefits of Engaging a Private Attorney for Your Pittsburgh Workplace Discrimination Case

You will find it valuable to consult a private attorney about your case even before you file a workplace discrimination complaint with the federal EEOC or the corresponding state agency, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). 

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Allegheny County EEOC claim lawyer discrimination compensationIf you have experienced employment discrimination because of your age, race, sex, or another attribute protected under the U.S. Civil Rights Act, you have the right to file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the EEOC determines that your claim of discrimination is valid, you may be eligible to receive substantial compensation for the harm that was done to you. The amount of compensation that you can receive depends on the nature of your case.

Intentional Sex-Based Wage Discrimination

If your claim is that your employer paid you less than other people in comparable positions due to your gender, your compensation will be in the form of back pay. If you were paid $10/hour, and workers of the other gender were paid $11/hour, and you worked at that job for 1,000 hours, you would be eligible for compensation in the amount of $1,000 ($1 per hour wage difference times the number of hours that you were underpaid).

When an employer’s sex-based discrimination is not just intentional but especially malicious, your compensation as described above could be doubled. This type of incremental compensation is termed “liquidated damages.”

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Allegheny County workplace race discrimination lawyerYou may feel that you have been treated in a negative or unfair manner at work because of your race, yet be unsure whether it rises to the level of illegal racial discrimination. It can be difficult to determine whether a single employer decision that appears to be racially biased is actually a violation of your rights under the federal and/or Pennsylvania state civil rights laws. 

Some employer decisions about your work terms or duties may not appear to be discriminatory on their face, but can be proven to be discriminatory when all employee records are reviewed. Some examples include:

  • Offering different work terms or conditions to one race than to others
  • Assigning duties or responsibilities based on an employee's race
  • Limiting promotion opportunities to those of a particular race

If you are unsure whether you have been discriminated against with regard to work terms, conditions, or duties, two helpful resources are guidelines published by the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and EEOC press releases about recently settled cases.

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Pittsburgh EEOC race discrimination claim attorneyGiven that racial discrimination by employers is prohibited nationwide by the U.S. Civil Rights Act, you may wonder why Pennsylvania has passed a virtually identical law at the state level. You may also wonder how the federal and state agencies work together to investigate race discrimination complaints without duplicating each other’s efforts. 

Federal vs. Pennsylvania State Laws on Race Discrimination

Federal law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race (and several other factors) by employers with 15 or more employees. This law established the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC), which is tasked with publishing regulations and guidelines to help employers understand and comply with the law, investigating and resolving discrimination complaints, and generally enforcing the law. 

Pennsylvania state law. The Pennsylvania Fair Employment Practice Act—since retitled to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)—was originally enacted in 1955, nearly a decade before the federal Civil Rights Act. Like Title VII, the Pennsylvania law prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of race (and several other factors). 

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Wexford, PA racial discrimination lawyerVirtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size, have an employee handbook that clearly states a company policy against racial discrimination and harassment. Employees are typically required to sign a form stating that they have read and agree to these policies. Companies hold harassment awareness training sessions. Job postings state that the company is an Equal Opportunity Employer whose employment decisions “shall be made without regard to race, creed, color, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local law.” All of these measures are meant to ensure that the employer complies with Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits racial discrimination and applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.  

However, racial discrimination and harassment persist in some companies and some geographic areas. Sometimes it is subtle or hidden, making you unsure whether you are justified in filing a complaint against your employer.

How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Discrimination Complaint?

Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats workers of one race worse than those of another race. Some of the most common examples involve hiring, retention, or promotion actions that favor one race over another. Other examples include assigning certain job tasks disproportionately to people of one race or paying employees of one race less than other employees who do the same job.

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Allegheny County sexual harassment lawyersThere has never been a greater emphasis on sexual harassment in the workplace than in recent years. After allegations of severe sexual harassment and sexual assault were brought against film producer Harvey Weinstein, more and more victims of sexual harassment started coming forward with their own stories. Accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior and harassment have also been leveled against former NBC News host Matt Lauer, leading to his termination.

If you feel that you are sexually harassed at work, do not hesitate to take action. One of the most important steps you can take is to collect all the instances of sexual harassment in a sexual harassment log.

The Importance of Recording Instances of Harassment

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