What acts by employers are regulated by employment discrimination laws?
Fair employment and discrimination laws under the U.S. federal law system strictly prohibit any type of discrimination in the workplace. This means that beyond the hiring, firing, or disciplinary process, an employer is generally prohibited from discriminating against an employee in any way, shape or form. There are a wide range of protections in place under both federal and state discrimination laws. These protections prevent discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national original, age, or disability status. Some states also include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The prohibition against discrimination on the basis of protected status applies to any terms and/or conditions of employment. In addition to the "terms and conditions" mentioned above, which include hiring, firing, promotions, pay raises, etc., there are also prohibitions against both the creation of a hostile work environment and against testing or other requirements that have a disparate impact.
Hostile work environment claims deal with situations where a person is made to feel uncomfortable or otherwise treated poorly at work on the basis of his or her protected status. For example, a woman might have a claim for hostile work environment discrimination if she was in a work environment where there were sexually explicit pictures displayed on the cubicles of male workers.
Disparate impact cases, on the other hand, deal with situations in which a seemingly neutral requirement actually affects those of a protected class in an adverse manner. For example, if there was a requirement that a certain amount of weight be lifted, that could disqualify more women than men and thus have a disparate impact. Such a test would be permitted only if lifting was legitimately required for the job (aka if it was a bona fide occupational requirement).
If you believe you may have been the victim of some type of discrimination in the workplace, it's in your best interests to speak with a lawyer for advice.