5 Myths Far Too Many Managers Have About Employment Discrimination Law

Employment discrimination laws prohibit certain employers from engaging in discriminatory practices on the basis of characteristics such as race, religion, age, disability, and gender. This area of law can be complex since federal and state statutes, regulations, and guidelines apply.

It’s not surprising, then, that myths about employment discrimination law abound. Here are five of the most common:

MYTH #1: All employers are bound by federal employment anti-discrimination laws.

Reality: Many federal statutes apply only to employers with 15 or more employees, but this threshold varies. For example, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) covers employers with at least 20 employees, while the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers with at least 50.

State laws are often broader, however, and, in fact, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) applies to all employers in the state.

MYTH #2: Discrimination laws only apply to race, religion, and sex.

Reality: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency charged with enforcement of federal workplace anti-discrimination laws. Under the EEOC’s purview are allegations of discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.

Again, states may offer more protection; for example, Colorado also considers “marriage to a co-worker” a protected status.

MYTH #3: Only hiring and firing decisions are subject to employment discrimination laws.

Reality: Anti-discrimination laws apply to all workplace situations including hiring, firing and everything in between—such as job applications, training, wages, job assignments, and promotions.

Relatedly, employers may not retaliate against an employee for reporting discrimination.

MYTH #4: Discrimination and harassment are the same thing.

Reality: Legally speaking, “discrimination” concerns employment decisions such as interviewing and terminations. “Harassment” refers to negative treatment aside from employment decisions—such as unwanted physical contact and inappropriate jokes, slurs, or insults.

MYTH #5: Only women can claim sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Reality: Sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims may be brought by anyone.

While these are five of the most common myths, employment discrimination law is complicated. If you’d like a better understanding of the legal landscape or need advice on a specific situation, please contact us or call today: (303) 894-8948.