Constructive Discharge — When “I Quit” Means “I Was Fired”

Constructive DischargeConstructive discharge is the legal term for when an employee is compelled to quit due to intolerable working conditions. Constructive discharge is not grounds for a lawsuit in and of itself. Rather, it allows an employee to sue for wrongful termination as part of a lawsuit based on some other employment law, such as a workplace discrimination lawsuit. This is because an employee who has been constructively discharged has really just been terminated, and terminations are not illegal unless they are in violation of some other law — or an employment contract.

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The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)

Pregnancy Discrimination ActThe Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal law which makes discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions a form of gender discrimination prohibited under Title VII. Being part of Title VII, the PDA only applies to employers who employed 15 or more employees in the year of, or preceding, the discriminatory act. Title VII’s statute of limitations and damages provisions apply to claims brought under the PDA.

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The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) – Employment Law

ADAWhile the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against the disabled in areas other than employment (such as housing, public services and accommodations), this article only addresses workplace discrimination claims under Title I of the Act. As with Title VII, the ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees (full or part time) on the payroll during the current or previous year. It does not apply to employees of the federal government, who are provided similar protections under the Rehabilitation Act. Private, state and local government employers are covered under the ADA.

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The Equal Pay Act (EPA) — Gender-Based Pay Discrimination

EPAThe Equal Pay Act (EPA) is a federal law which prohibits employers from discriminating in the payment of wages based on employee gender. While this may seem to duplicate the protections offered under Title VII (even though the EPA was passed a year before Title VII), there are significant differences between the two laws. The types of employers and employees covered, the time and manner for bringing claims, the burden of proof and the damages available differ between the EPA and Title VII. Whether your particular case is better served by an EPA claim or Title VII will depend on its particular facts. Luckily, many employees can sue under both statutes and get the best of both worlds.

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Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) — The Basics

ADEAThe Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of age. It applies to all employers (private, federal, state and local) who employ 20 or more employees. The ADEA protects only employees who are 40 years old or older. In many ways, it is similar to Title VII, but there are several key differences both in the procedures for bringing claims, as well as the damages which can be recovered.

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Race Discrimination Claims Under Section 1981

Section 1981 Race Discrimination ClaimsTitle VII is the not the only federal law which prohibits employment discrimination based on race — in fact, it may not be the best statute under which to file your claim. For many workplace race discrimination claims, plaintiffs will be better served by filing their lawsuits under 42 U.S.C. §1981 (Section 1981). As Section 1981 is not restricted to employers with at least 15 employees (unlike Title VII), in cases involving small businesses it may be a plaintiff’s only option. While Title VII and Section 1981 are not mutually exclusive (you can file suit under both if the employer has 15 or more employees), Section 1981 has several benefits over Title VII which allow claims to proceed more quickly and potentially make a larger recovery.

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Damages Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

Damages Under the ADEAThe remedies to a plaintiff who brings a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) are similar to those of a Title VII plaintiff, but with a few major differences. As in a Title VII case, an ADEA plaintiff can recover attorney’s fees, back pay, and reinstatement or front pay. However, unlike Title VII, the ADEA does not allow the recovery of compensatory (e.g., emotional distress) or punitive damages. However, a plaintiff under the ADEA can recover a type of damages not available to the Title VII plaintiff. In cases in which the employer commits a “willful violation” of the ADEA, the plaintiff can recover liquidated damages equal to the amount of his or her back pay award.

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Statutes of Limitations for Employment Discrimination Claims

Statutes of Limitations for Employment Discrimination ClaimsUnlike statutes of limitations for personal injury claims, which are fairly straightforward (e.g., 4 years from the date of the car accident), statutes of limitations for federal employment discrimination claims are often variable, depending on factors such as: (1) when the plaintiff believed or should have reasonably believed that he was subjected to discrimination, (2) whether the discriminatory act is a “continuing violation”, (3) whether there is a state or local agency equivalent to the EEOC which enforces a law that prohibits discrimination on the same basis as the relevant federal law, and (4) how long it takes for the EEOC to issue a “right to sue letter” to the plaintiff. This article will discuss the statutes of limitations applicable to employment discrimination claims brought under Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Section 1981. It is not applicable to employees of the federal government, which have procedures that vary from agency to agency.

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Damages in a Title VII Employment Discrimination Case

Damages in Title VII casesThe damages available in Title VII employment discrimination cases can vary from case to case. I don’t mean simply that each case is worth a different amount. Under Title VII, some types of cases will not entitle you to recover compensatory (emotional distress) or punitive damages. In cases where compensatory and punitive damages are available, there are statutory caps on these damages which vary depending on the number of employees your employer has. Depending on the motives of your employer, you may not be able to recover any monetary damages at all (aside from attorney’s fees). Seem complicated? Well, read on to have it explained in the simplest terms possible.

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Title VII – The Swiss Army Knife of Workplace Discrimination Laws

Title VIITitle VII is a series of federal laws which prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. I call it the Swiss army knife of workplace discrimination laws because it covers so many different classes of employees, prohibits various forms of both intentional and unintentional conduct and provides various forms of relief. Other federal discrimination laws only protect one class of employees, only prohibit certain types of conduct or provide only one form of relief. Title VII is by far the most often used federal workplace discrimination law.

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