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HR managers act as mediators between the company and its workers, protecting the interests of both sides and ensuring positive outcomes for any conflicts arising. Hence, it is crucial for HR specialists to understand the official federal and state laws that apply to their work.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991
The purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 was “to strengthen and improve Federal civil rights laws, [and] to provide for damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination” (CRA, 1991, p. 1). The Act prohibits the discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, and disability and allows employees to seek compensation if they were subject to intentional discrimination (CRA, 1991).
The CRA (1991) provides employees with a right of recover compensatory and punitive damages from discriminating employers. In addition, the CRA (1991) imposes limitations on the amount of monetary damages to be paid out by employers, depending on their size. The CRA (1991) also allows any party to demand a trial by jury, which provides an opportunity for employees to protect their interests in court. Title III of the CRA (1991) also extends anti-discrimination laws to Senate and other government employees, which is an important addition to the 1964 CRA policies.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA, 2016) aims “to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; [and] to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment” (p. 1). The Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their age.
The Act prohibits age discrimination of workers by their employers and deems all acts of age discrimination by employers unlawful (ADEA, 2016). Also, age discrimination by labor organizations and employment agencies is prohibited and may be subject to a penalty (ADEA, 2016). The actions against people of older age are only permitted if the differentiation is based on reasonable factors other than age, or if employee age is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business (ADEA, 2016). Moreover, the Act states that employee benefit plan or voluntary early retirement incentive plan shall not compensate for involuntary retirement based on age discrimination (ADEA, 2016). Finally, the Act establishes investigation and trial practices, as well as the employee’s opportunity to receive monetary compensation in the case of age discrimination (ADEA, 2016).
The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 aimed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in workplaces. According to the act, it is unlawful for employers “to discriminate against disabled employees or job applicants based on their disabilities if they were otherwise qualified to perform their jobs” (Jackson, 2017, para. 1).
The definition of disability by ADA includes any physical or mental impairment that limits the person’s daily life activities, including hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, taking care of oneself, breathing, learning, performing manual tasks, and working (Jackson, 2017). The ADA states that if the person with said limitations is qualified and able to perform essential job functions, the employer cannot discriminate against him or her (Jackson, 2017). The ADA also requires employers that hire disabled persons to make reasonable accommodations to make the work environment more accessible to them (Jackson, 2017). Finally, the ADA defines the consequences of discrimination by disability, allowing employees to file an official complaint on the business and on the state in which the business is located (Jackson, 2017).
Besides the three most important laws discussed above, there are also many state laws and regulations, as well as internal company policies, that HR managers have to consider. Good knowledge of applicable laws and policies protects the company from lawsuits, allowing HR managers to anticipate conflicts and advise employers on certain hiring or termination decisions.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). (2016).
Jackson, A. (2017). ADA laws in the workplace.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 (CRA). (1991).