Employment Discrimination and Harassment

Guest Author, Dana L. Bacsi, Esquire

Discrimination and Harassment in the workplace is unlawful. Employment decisions must be based on legitimate job-related criteria. It is inappropriate to act in a manner that reflects negatively on individuals based on protected categories.

  1. Make sure you are familiar with the protected categories:
    Race Sex Genetic Information
    Color Age Sexual Orientation
    Creed Physical or Mental Disability Gender Identity
    Religion Marital Status Veteran or Military Status
    National Origin Family Responsibilities
    Ancestry Pregnancy
  1. Know the laws that protect employees from discrimination and harassment:

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act - Protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and gender.
    Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) - Protects against discrimination based on age, 40+ years old.
    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - Protects against discrimination based on disability.
    Equal Pay Act (EPA)-Prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions.
    Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Imposes minimum wage and hourly work limits.
    Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - Provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year and requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.
    Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) - Assures safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.
    National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)- Protects the rights of employees and employers, encourages collective bargaining, and curtails certain private sector labor and management practices.
    Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) - Protects against discrimination based on genetic information.

  1. The ADA protects individuals who: have a disability, are regarded as having a disability, or have a record of a disability. Determine whether an individual with a disability can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. Make sure the interactive process is engaged to determine what is needed and if an accommodation can be made.
  1. "Unwelcome" sexual conduct that is a term or condition of employment is prohibited. There are two types of sexual harassment: Quid Pro Quo (a favor for a favor) and Hostile Work Environment (severe and pervasive conduct that interferes with an individual’s ability to perform his or her job).
  1. Obtain and review current employer policies and the company handbook while learning about employer practices and employee behavior. Documents to gather as part of an investigation may include personnel files, physical evidence, medical records, pay records, emails, text messages, photographs, journal entries, and party and witness statements and interviews.

Dana L. Bacsi, Esquire serves as in-house labor and employment counsel for Port Authority of Allegheny County located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In her position, she counsels Port Authority on a wide variety of labor and employment matters, including policies and compliance, and she represents Port Authority before administrative agencies, including the EEOC, PHRC, and DOL, arbitrators, and in state and federal courts. The views expressed by this author are solely hers and do not necessarily reflect those of Port Authority of Allegheny County.

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