Facts about workplace discrimination

September 9, 2008 7:16:36 PM PDT
While there's no federal law that explicitly covers gender identity or sexual orientation, the Civil Rights Act does prohibit discrimination by sex. And one court ruling in 1989 set a precedent that employees could not be discriminated against based on sex stereotyping, or not acting in accordance with expectations of how society perceived a man or woman should behave.

Hiring managers should be careful to note that there are many areas of behavior and identity, while not exactly covered by name in legislation, that may result in lawsuits.

Debra Raskin, a plaintiff's employment lawyer at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard has advice on navigating discrimination laws in the workplace:

-- Know the specific laws in your city and state. Many states have their own, specific anti-discrimination laws in place that go beyond federal protections on age, gender, disability, race, religion and national origin.

-- Keep a good employment lawyer on hand, if possible. New law is always in the making -- Raskin cited cases on discrimination based on appearance, such as wearing hijab, the Muslim scarf for women, or whether making employment decisions based on accent constitutes national-origin discrimination.

-- Focus on specific job qualifications and try to exclude everything else about the candidate. "The basic principle is, deal with the qualifications for the job. If the job requires you to use Excel on a computer, let's focus on that. It's hard to think of jobs that matter whether you wear a dress or not."