Please be aware that the information on this page does not constitute legal advice for, or form an attorney-client relationship with, any specific reader. Rather, it is intended to assist readers in understanding what areas of law our firm handles. Thank you.
Discrimination in hiring, firing, or the terms and conditions of employment based on a protected status such as sex, race or ethnicity, disability, age, pregnancy or religion is illegal under both federal and Colorado law. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status is also illegal under Colorado law.
One form of discrimination is failure to reasonably accommodate an employee’s needs arising from his or her disability, religion, or (under Colorado law) pregnancy.
Most claims of discrimination must be pursued before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Colorado Civil Rights Division before they may be pursued in court, and the deadlines to file with these agencies are strictly followed by the courts. Your discrimination claims may also be affected by the size of your employer, by whether it is public or private (and, if public, state or local), and by the position of the person responsible for the discrimination. In addition, an attorney can advise you about the potential value of your claims, the types of damages available, and what duties you may have to ensure your claims remain viable.
For these and other reasons, it is important to consult an attorney as early as possible to learn how to protect and pursue your right to a fair and nondiscriminatory workplace.
Besides consulting an attorney, make sure to take good notes outside working hours on the nature of the discrimination you are experiencing. In addition, consider seeking mental health treatment as soon as possible to help you cope with the situation.
Sex and Gender
Discrimination and harassment based on sex remains common experience for women–and often men—in the American workplace, despite being prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For government employees, such discrimination is also prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which may be enforced through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Colorado, sex discrimination is also illegal under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.
Sex discrimination may take many forms, including “sex stereotyping,” “sex plus age” discrimination affecting only older female employees, other forms of “sex plus” discrimination such as discrimination against only women with children, discriminatory job requirements, sexual harassment, pay discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination.
Women are also protected from pay discrimination by the Equal Pay Act and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and from pregnancy discrimination by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and, in some respects, the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Race, Ethnicity and National Origin
Workplace discrimination based on race, color, national origin, or ethnicity is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and by 42 U.S.C. § 1981. For government employees, such discrimination is also prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which may be enforced through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Colorado, race discrimination is also illegal under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.
Disability, Illness and Injury
You may have the right to a reasonable accommodation of your disability in addition to the right not to be discriminated against or harassed based on your disability or a perceived disability. If you suffer from an ongoing medical condition or are injured on or off the job, you may have rights under multiple statutes including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act which governs short- and long-term disability plans offered by employers, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, and other remedial schemes such as workers’ compensation and Social Security.
It can be bewildering to navigate these overlapping protections and find out what obligations your employer may have after you experience an illness or injury. Because employees themselves have many obligations when requesting relief under these statutes, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you do everything necessary to protect and pursue your rights.
Lowrey Parady, LLC does not represent employees in workers’ compensation, Social Security, or ERISA matters. However, we may be able to advise you on how these remedies may overlap or affect your potential claims under the ADA, RA, FMLA, CADA, or GINA.
Workers age 40 or over are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) as well as the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). If your employer offers you a settlement or severance agreement, you may also have rights under the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA).
Although there is currently no federal law clearly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, if you are discriminated against or harassed in employment based on your sexual orientation or transgender status, you may be able to pursue relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if the discrimination or harassment is based on an employer or supervisor’s perception that you do not fit a gender stereotype. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) also expressly prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
If you experience difficulties at work due to your pregnancy or your need to care for a sick family member, you may have rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, and/or Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination.
Along with sex and race discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on genuinely held religious beliefs. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act provides the same protection on the state level. Government employees are also protected from religious discrimination by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Finally, employers may be obligated to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs or practices.
A large variety of statutes, including the various federal anti-discrimination statutes, prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for exercising rights protected under those statutes. Other types of prohibited retaliation include retaliation for raising certain safety concerns under multiple federal safety statutes, many of which are overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, www.whistleblowers.gov; retaliation for joining together with other employees to jointly advocate for yourselves, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, www.nlrb.gov; or retaliatory termination after engaging in conduct prohibited by the public policies of the state of Colorado.
However, employers are not always prohibited from retaliating against employees for conduct an employee may believe should be protected, so it is important to consult an attorney about whether the retaliation you are experiencing is illegal.
The Colorado Wage Act protects workers from nonpayment of wage and provides for strict penalties for noncompliant employers. In addition, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act governs matters such as overtime pay, and provides that many types of workers must be paid hourly (rather than on a salary basis) and thus must be paid overtime for hours over 40 per week. For some employees, compensation may also be governed by a contract.
Because the wage statutes are highly technical and may have short deadlines, it is important to contact an attorney immediately if you believe you are being underpaid at work or are terminated without full payment of compensation due to you. ou can access more information about the Colorado Wage Act, including complaint forms, at www.colorado.gov.
Workplace harassment based on a protected status such as sex, race or ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, transgender status, pregnancy or religion, or due to protected conduct such as reporting discrimination or making other protected complaints, may be illegal under federal and/or Colorado law.
Because employees may have to fulfill certain duties before pursuing a claim based on illegal harassment, it is important to consult with an attorney as early as possible to learn how best to protect your rights if you are working in a hostile or harassing environment.
Besides consulting an attorney, make sure to take good notes outside working hours on the nature of the harassment you are experiencing. In addition, consider seeking mental health treatment as soon as possible to help you cope with the situation.