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Employment discrimination occurs when employers treat an employee with disparate, unfavorable treatment because of his or her race, skin color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or age. The right to be free from discrimination at work stems from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Colorado law also forbids workplace discrimination based on certain “protected classes,” including race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, religion, creed, marriage to a co-worker (if not a supervisor), or sexual orientation.
The following is an overview of the types of employment issues, including discrimination, Colorado workers may face on the job or that may result in retaliation and wrongful discharge:
Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his/her age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against people who are 40 years or older. Under Colorado law, it is illegal to discriminate against employees based on their age if they are between the ages of 40-69. Employers may consider older candidates and employees less of an asset because of their age and perceived inability or lack of longevity as an employee and/or more of an expense because of the often times higher salary, pension, benefits costs, etc. as compared to costs for a younger applicant.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination
against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.
Colorado law provides the same protection as described under federal law and also prohibits discrimination based on a mental (e.g. chronic depression or bipolar disorder) or physical disability (e.g. an injury that prevents you from working for a certain length of time or that requires surgery), a disease (such as epilepsy, cancer, osteoporosis, or asthma).
Employers must make reasonable accommodations that allow a disabled person who is otherwise qualified for a position complete his or her job. When an individual is fired, harassed, or discriminated against because of the injury or condition, there is legal recourse to protect your rights.
FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:
Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
Birth: birth of child(ren) and to care for the newborn(s) within one year of birth;
Adoption/Foster Care: Placement with employee of adopted or foster care child and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
Caregiver: Care of employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;Serious Health Condition: A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
Exigency of Military Family: any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
Service Member Caregiver: Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
SEX DISCRIMINATION/PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) amended Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. Women who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.
It is illegal to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise “retaliate” against applicants or employees because he/she filed a Charge of Discrimination, complained to their employer or other covered entity about discrimination, for filing a workers compensation claim, or because they participated in an Employment Discrimination proceeding (such as an investigation or lawsuit).
Colorado is an “At Will” state. This means an employer does not need “Just Cause” to terminate an employment relationship. However, it is illegal for an employer to terminate employment if the employee is:
Subjected to employment based discrimination;
Retaliated against for opposing illegal practices of their employer;
Terminated or discriminated against because they take FMLA leave;
Filed a Worker's Compensation Claim; or,
Not being paid proper wages and overtime.
Even in an “At Will employment” state, employees who are promised “Just Cause” employment by his/her employer are not considered “At Will” and may be able to sue their employer if they are terminated without cause.