There has been quite a bit in the news lately about women protesting to protect their rights. One of the rights I keep hearing about is equality in the workplace. Did you know there are already Federal laws that provide protection against discrimination? In fact, there are many persons in the United States that would fall under one or more of the protected classes that cannot legally be discriminated against.
A few months ago I had a lady walk into my office wanting to speak to an attorney. She asked me if I’d be willing to look over some paperwork for her that was sent to her home by her employer. The paperwork included a letter and waiver. The letter advised her that she was being terminated, and the waiver was to be signed so that she could receive her termination pay. The catch was that by signing to receive the money, which amounted to around only $4,500, she must waive all her rights to further action, including her right to sue for wrongful termination.
I have to assume that most large companies play the odds, so to speak, believing that they can do whatever they want and rarely get caught. They think that most employees will settle for next-to-nothing during a time in their lives when the money is severely needed, and they will gladly sign away their future rights to pay the bills this month.
I advised her not to sign, but to instead file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), and consider filing a law suit against her former employer. After several meetings, that is exactly what she chose to do.
Under the EEOC guidelines, all sex-based discrimination is illegal. This applies not only to women, but to gender-identity, sexual orientation, and LGBT persons as well. It also sets forth guidelines against sexual harassment in the workplace and for pregnant women.
The EEOC guidelines do not apply only to women. The following are all considered protected classes by the EEOC: