The Meaning of EEO

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    Basis of Illegal Discrimination

    • An employer cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, genetic data or disability. Discrimination against an employee or applicant who is 40 years of age or older is also illegal. The law further prohibits discriminating against anyone who has complained, filed charges or participated in a lawsuit or investigation regarding discrimination.

    Covered Employers

    • All agencies of the federal government are covered employers and therefore must comply with EEOC laws. Age discrimination laws apply to private employers who have at least 20 employees. All local and state government agencies must comply with the laws on age discrimination regardless of the number of employees. Other categories apply to private employers, as well as state and local governments, who have 15 or more employees working at least 20 calendar weeks during the current or previous year. Unions with 15 or more members or who have a hiring hall must comply as well. Temporary agencies and employment referral agencies must comply with the laws regardless of the number of employees.

    Discriminatory Treatment

    • Employers cannot treat employees unfairly due to religion, race, national origin, disability, color, age if employee is at least 40, genetic information or sex, which includes pregnancy. The same restrictions apply to harassing behavior by members of management, co-workers, vendors or others who might have cause to visit the workplace. Employees have the right to request reasonable accommodations in the workplace due to disability or religious beliefs, and denial of the request may be considered discriminatory.

    Statute of Limitations for Filing Complaints

    • The EEOC statutes limit the amount of time an employee has to file discrimination charges. You must file a complaint with the EEOC before 180 calendar days have elapsed following the date of the discriminatory action. This deadline is 300 days if the employee's local or state agency enforces discrimination laws that agree with the federal statutes. The extension for instances of age discrimination only applies if the employee's state laws prohibit age discrimination and has a state agency to enforce that law. Local laws regarding age discrimination do not permit an extension. Federal applicants and employees should contact their agency's EEO counselor no later than 45 days after the incident.

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