Small business owners are often unaware that the employment discrimination laws apply to them. Since such business owners usually do not have the luxury of having large human resource departments or in-house counsel such businesses are often caught in the dark about their obligations under these laws. Any employer that has 15 or more employees must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Employers with 20 or more employees must also comply with the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). What do these laws require? They require that you not discriminate against employees on the basis of the employee's age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin or religion. In addition to these federal laws, there are also state laws that often apply to employers with very few employees. For example, in New York, the New York State Human Rights Law applies to employers with 4 or more employees and in Connecticut the state Fair Employment Practices Act applies to employers with 3 or more employees. Many times these state employment laws prohibit discrimination against people in protected classes in addition to those protected under federal law. So for instance, in New York, employers are prohibited under state law from discriminating against employees based on their race, color, creed, national origin, military status, sex, age, religion, marital status, alienage or citizenship status, sexual orientation, disability or genetic predisposition or carrier status. In Connecticut, the FEPA prohibits discrimination based upon race, color, religious creed, age, marital status, ancestry, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, breast feeding, genetic information, present or past history of mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability or physical disability (including blindness). Moreover, both state and federal employment discrimination laws prohibit harassment as well as discrimination.
What does all this mean for you as a small or medium employer? You need to ensure that you and your managers are familiar with the employment discrimination laws. This means that all employment decisions from hiring to firing need to be made based on job-related factors having nothing to do with a person's age, race, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, etc. It also means that your managers and employees need to be trained on the employment discrimination laws and preventing sexual and other forms of unlawful harassment. In fact, Connecticut requires employers with 50 or more employees to train all managers within six months of becoming a manager. The training must be legally compliant or it will not satisfy an employer's obligations under the law. Small businesses should retain outside consultants to provide their Anti-Harassment Training to ensure that such training is properly taught. Our company, HR Learning Center LLC provides employment law, sexual and unlawful harassment training to small and medium employers. Please visit our website at http://www.hrlearningcenter.com/.