While employers have the right to dictate dress, hair style, and grooming codes, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits them from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 further establishes that monetary damages could be awarded in cases of intentional employment discrimination.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act also provide protection to workers. "Any individual who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC," says Reginald Welch, the agency's communications director.
Each complaint is investigated, and if the EEOC finds cause to believe discrimination occurred, the agency attempts conciliation between the two parties. If conciliation fails, explains Mr. Welch, the EEOC decides whether to file suit on behalf of the aggrieved party, or provide the individual with a "right to sue" so he or she can pursue the case further independently.
In addition, the EEOC has a highly touted Mediation Program, which provides an alternative to the traditional investigation or litigation process.
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