As an employee, it is easy to feel powerless in the face of threats of termination or suspension from an employer. Those facing employment termination or other adverse employment actions may simply give up, believing any fight would be hopeless. However, it is important to remember that employees are protected by various laws and understanding these laws ensures that an employee is not being unjustly discriminated against by an employer.
Federal and various state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against current or prospective employees based upon race, gender, religion or creed, sexual orientation or gender identity, pregnancy, disability, age, or ethnic or national origin. Each of these groups is classified as “protected” from employment discrimination under the law.
At a theoretical level, it is easy enough to understand the need for employment discrimination laws to protect employees from adverse employment actions, but it is helpful to look at what employment discrimination laws look like in practice. Taking a closer look at two cases currently playing out in Iowa courts involving alleged age and sex discrimination provides a glimpse into what may constitute a claim:
One case involves a long time employee who is suing his Iowa employer for alleged age discrimination after his position was downgraded and his pay reduced following a complaint from a recent hire that she was being paid less for performing essentially the same job, which she alleges to be because of her sex.
Instead of the employer raising her pay in response to the allegation of sex discrimination, the employer demoted and reduced the salary of the more senior employee saying it would not be acceptable to pay him more than the female employee to do a job that is essentially the same and, to add insult to injury, repeatedly asked him about his plans to retire.
On the basis of alleged age discrimination, the more senior employee is suing his employer because he believes the proper course of action was to pay the female employee more, not to reduce his salary and position, or inquire about his plans to retire, in response to the discrepancy between their salaries.
The female employee has filed her own suit against the same employer arguing she was the subject of sex-based discrimination, citing salary differences between herself and her colleagues when performing essentially the same job.
While these two cases have yet to be resolved, the details of the claims against the employer provide an example of what age and sex discrimination can look like in the workplace and what legal recourse may be available to an employee. When you are in a protected class and are treated unfairly, it is important to discuss your concerns with an experienced employment law attorney who will evaluate the strength of your case and make recommendations regarding legal action you may take to reinstate a job if wrongfully terminated, receive past and future compensation for lost wages, or other damages that you have suffered due to discrimination on the job.