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3 Protected Characteristics for a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

Is your company doing everything it can to safeguard itself from complaints and court filings regarding illegal discrimination during the hiring process? To protect candidates against discriminatory hiring decisions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has strict regulations regarding six characteristics.

While it’s important for employers to know how to comply with all six protected characteristics, here is a closer look at three of them. (Please note that this list is not comprehensive and does not include state anti-discrimination laws, which can differ from federal laws and each other.)

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1. Race, color and national origin

It’s illegal to discriminate against candidates based on race, color or national origin, per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you’re found to have discriminated intentionally against a job candidate, jury trials, compensation and punitive damages may be awarded to individuals, as listed in sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

2. Sex, including pregnancy

Under Title VII, it’s also illegal to discriminate against someone due to his or her sex. Plus, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman due to pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to either.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay different wages to men and women performing the same work in the same workplace. Companies found to have paid women less than men for the same work are at risk for a jury by trial, compensation and punitive damages, according to sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

3. Medical history or genetic information

Often referred to as GINA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 made it illegal to discriminate based on a candidate’s medical history or genetic information, including family medical history.

In the 2017 case of the EEOC v. Consolidated Edison Company of New York Inc., the Big Apple-based utilities company paid an $800,000 settlement for back wages and damages for requiring job applicants to undergo medical examinations and provide genetic information on their family members before being hired. Consolidated Edison also was found to be discriminating against employees with disabilities.

And the rest …

In addition to these three characteristics, the EEOC protects three more equally as important. To learn more about them, download our free HR e-book, What Your Front-Line Managers Need to Know About Diversity, Inclusion and EEOC Compliance.

If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more information on EEOC compliance be sure to checkout 2 Questions You Never Should Ask a Job Candidate … and What You Should Ask Instead.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.