Who's watching you? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gets a lot of coverage on this blog, as they are the federal agency tasked with enforcing federal employment laws. The agency investigates discrimination claims and tries to mediate problems. If mediation fails, litigation happens.
These federal employment laws only apply to businesses larger than a certain size. Federal age discrimination laws only apply to businesses with at least 20 employees who worked at least 20 calendar weeks each in this year or last. If the alleged discrimination involves race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, disability, or genetic information, the laws apply to employers with more than 15 similarly-tenured employees.
Federal Equal Pay laws, which require equal pay for male and female employees, apply to all employers, as do the equivalent state laws.
If the federal regulations apply, there are a few responsibilities that you, the small business employer, should be aware of, including the responsibility to:
- Treat employees fairly regardless of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, disability or genetic information;
- Prevent harassment in the workplace, whether the harassment is conducted by an employee, employer, manager, co-worker, etc. This harassment includes sexual harassment or other types, such as racial or religious harassment;
- Accommodate an employee's religious needs, such as time off for religious holidays;
- Make reasonable accommodations for an employee's disabilities or medical needs, such as medical leave; and
- Avoid retaliation against employees who complain about any illegal activity at the workplace, such as sexual harassment or other whistle-blowing.
The determination of whether or not an employee counts for purposes of applying these laws, or whether the laws apply to you at all, is a complicated question when it comes to small businesses. For further advice on the matter, you can contact the Chicago District Office of the EEOC or consult with a local employment attorney.
Also, note that even if these federal laws don't apply to you, similar state laws, such as the Illinois Equal Pay Act, may still apply. The best practice is to abide by the rules, regardless of applicability.
- Consult a Chicago Employment Attorney (FindLaw)
- Sexual Harassment at Work (FindLaw)
- EEOC Focusing More on Muslim, Sikh Workplace Discrimination (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)
- Religion in the Workplace (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)