Major Employment Discrimination Laws

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "Major Employment Discrimination Laws," in The Business Professor, updated January 16, 2015, last accessed April 8, 2020,
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Major Employment Discrimination Laws
This video provides an explanation of what are the major employment discrimination laws.

Next Article: Civil Rights Act of 1866 (1981 Act)


What are the major employment discrimination laws?

The major federal laws and regulations prohibiting employment discrimination were passed as part of several major federal acts and the subsequent amendments thereto. The primary federal acts addressing employment discrimination are as follows:

•    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) – Title VII is the most developed body of employment discrimination law. This Act, along with its numerous amendments, prohibits specific types of employer discrimination based on race, sex (including pregnancy and childbirth), color, religion, and national origin. The Act, as amended in 1993, provides for damages for those discriminated against under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

•    Civil Rights Act of 1866 (1981 Act) – The 1981 Act was passed to prohibit discriminatory practices against individuals based upon race. The Act is commonly known as the 1981 Act, as it is found at Section 1981 of title 42 of the US Code of Statutes. The 1981 Act, as amended in 1991, provides the elements for a claim of intentional discriminatory treatment (disparate treatment) and discriminatory policies with a discriminatory impact (disparate impact). The 1981 Act also outlines the remedies available for discriminatory actions.

•    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – The ADEA provides protection for employees over the age of 40 years from discriminatory practices by the employer based upon age. The discriminatory practices prohibited by the ADEA are similar to those prohibited by Title VII.

•    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA prohibits discriminatory practices by employers against employees based upon an employee’s mental or physical handicap. The ADA requires employers to take measures to accommodate the disabilities of certain prospective or current employees.

•    The Rehabilitation Act – The Rehabilitation Act is another federal law attempting to protect the rights of individuals suffering from physical and mental handicaps. The Act applies only to the Federal Government,  federal contractors, and employers receiving federal financial assistance.

•    Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) – The GINA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based upon information about genetic tests of the individual, past family members, requests for genetic service, etc.

•    Uniformed Services Employment and Redeployment Act (USERRA) – The USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are also members of the military service. Specifically, it protects employees who are members of the military reserve, state national guard, or national disaster medical system are called to temporary periods of active service from suffering any negative employment consequences.

•    Discussion: After reading the short description of the above-listed, federal statutes, what do you think about the Federal Government’s effort to protect specific classes of individuals? Based upon the these laws, do you see in gaps in protection or forms of discrimination that are not prohibited? Should these types of discrimination be prohibited?

•    Practice Question: Can you identify the major federal employment discrimination laws and the type of conduct that they prohibit?

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