Employment law is a broad set of statutes and regulations enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor that affect businesses and workers. You have probably seen posters or notices in your workplace with information regarding:
- Job safety and health protection
- Equal employment opportunity
- Fair labor standards (minimum wage)
- Employee rights for workers with disabilities
- Family and medical leave
- Military service employment and re-employment
- And more
When employers violate these laws, they can potentially be held liable for their actions by their employees. In many cases, employees sue for personal injury, lost wages, opportunity costs, and benefits. In very serious cases, punitive damages may are be awarded.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination and harassment based on your race, religion, sex, pregnancy, country of origin, age (over 40), disability, or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination or participated in a lawsuit.
How to File an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit
If you believe you were discriminated against, you can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. All of the laws enforced by this commission, except equal pay, require you to file a charge before you can file a lawsuit against your employer. In general, you need to file a charge within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place (up to 300 days in some cases).
Equal Pay Act and Title VII for Wage Discrimination
If you plan to file a charge and/or lawsuit alleging violation of the Equal Pay Act (discrimination in wages and benefits based on sex), you don’t need to file a charge. Instead, you can go directly to court and file a lawsuit. The deadline is two years from the day you received the last discriminatory paycheck. You may also want to file a Title VII claim for sex discrimination, but you will have to file a charge with the EEOC first.
Wage & Hour Class Action
Employers must pay employees for all time worked, including minimum wage and overtime. In recent years, many class actions have been filed against major corporations by employees and/or interns who claim they were not paid the wages they deserved.
Examples of wage discrimination include:
- Misclassification of employees as independent contractors or exempt
- Failure to pay for “off-the-clock” activities for non-exempt employees
- Unpaid meal and rest breaks
- Improper calculation of wages or other pay practice irregularities
- Failure to pay minimum wage, overtime wages, tips or “service charges”
- Using unpaid “interns” for the advantage of the employer