What Can Qualify as Workplace Discrimination in North Carolina?

People go to work with the expectation of getting their job done, being paid for it, and being treated respectfully. However, not everyone’s experience meets their expectations.  Employees can be discriminated against during the hiring process or while employed. If you believe that you’ve been subjected to unlawful treatment and want to know what qualifies as workplace discrimination here in North Carolina, more details are below.

Federal Laws That Protect Against Workplace Discrimination

If federal laws apply to your employer, employment discrimination may be illegal and can occur when seeking a job or when employed.  Federal laws prohibit discrimination based protected characteristics. Some notable federal laws that prohibit workplace discrimination include: 

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, sex, religion, color, and race.
  • The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): This law makes discriminating against prospective and current employees who have disabilities unlawful.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Any discriminatory actions made against a prospective or actual worker age 40 or over are forbidden per this federal law.
  • The Equal Pay Act: This federal law requires men and women who work in substantially similar roles to be paid the same. This equal pay provision applies to all employers regardless of how many workers they have on staff.

Other federal laws apply to discrimination against applicants and employees on the basis of pregnancy, its consequences, and other factors.

NC Laws That Define and Forbid Workplace Discrimination

The North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (NCEEPA) reiterates similar language to the federal laws described above. However, the NCEEPA and other North Carolina laws provide a few express protections for applicants and workers: 

  • Sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Genetic information, such as hemoglobin C trait or sickle cell status
  • Military service 
  • Use of a lawful product as per the law when not on duty at work
  • HIV or AIDS status

It should be noted that there are some local ordinances in place that provide additional protections to workers that go beyond federal and state anti-discrimination laws described above. So, if you’re concerned you’ve been subjected to unlawful treatment, be sure to consult with an employment law attorney to help you better understand whether you were treated illegally.

Do State Anti-Discrimination Laws Apply to Every Employer?

The NCEEPA generally applies to employers with 15 or more workers. However, there are the following exceptions to this rule:

  • Age discrimination (age 40 and up) protections apply to employers with 20 or more workers
  • Citizenship provisions are applicable to those companies that employ four or more employees

Filing a Discrimination Complaint

You may be entitled to file a complaint if you can produce evidence that shows that an employer discriminated against you during one of the following stages in the employment process:

  • Hiring 
  • Assigning your job role
  • Offering you training or advancement opportunities
  • Subjecting you to harassment
  • In offering pay or benefits
  • Firing

Provided you can show a direct correlation between your belonging to one of the protected classes described above and the adverse action you faced when seeking employment or already on the job, you may be entitled to file a complaint with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal government office, or the NC Department of Labor Employment Discrimination Bureau. Since building a solid case can be challenging, it’s in your best interest to consult with an attorney for assistance.

Damages Recoverable in Employment Discrimination Cases in Raleigh

You may be entitled to the following if you have a successful workplace discrimination complaint: 

  • Missed pay: This could include any income you lost because you were demoted or fired, as well as any pay you don’t generate while seeking another job.
  • Court costs and lawyers’ fees: The clerk of court may impose fees for the filing of your complaint or lawsuit. Additionally, an attorney may assess fees to represent you in your legal matter. 
  • Out-of-pocket costs: Any fees associated with your loss of job, whether that’s job finding fees or counseling costs associated with coping with the sudden loss of employment, are examples of potential recoverable losses.
  • Mental anguish: Workers discriminated against often face emotional distress in dealing with their discrimination. 

Punitive damages may also be imposed on the employer if the discrimination a worker faced was particularly egregious or retaliatory. 

Caps may apply depending on the nature of the discrimination and the types of damages in question. You can expect an attorney familiar with the ins and outs of federal and NC employment law to discuss these with you during your initial consultation. 

Getting Help If You Were Discriminated Against on the Job in North Carolina

Here at Anderson Jones, PLLC, we’ve made a name for ourselves in the Raleigh legal community by zealously advocating for our clients’ best interests. We want to do the same for you if you’ve suffered discrimination at work in our state. Please contact us for competent assistance if you were treated unlawfully in your NC workplace. We’re here to help.