Social Question

Mariah's avatar

What, if anything, is done to enforce laws regarding what employers can't fire employees over?

Asked by Mariah (24656points) November 11th, 2012

So say I have a sexist asshole for a boss, and he decides to fire me. Can’t he pretty much just say that my work wasn’t good enough and get away with being a sexist asshole? How exactly is this supposed to be enforced?

On a related note, I have a question about the clause that says that you can’t discriminate against someone with a disability. Is this only true if the disability doesn’t get in the way of performing the job? Say I need to take more sick days than your average person, does it then become okay to discriminate against me?

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Except for specifics protected by law, employment is at will meaning that you can be fired for any reason or no reason.

You could be fired for being sick too many days to do the job.

Mariah's avatar

@marinelife I know that, but I thought there were a few particular things that are protected by law. Like no firing because of gender, race, etc. Or am I wrong? Those are what I’m asking about. How can anyone possibly prove that an employer fired someone because of one of the illegal things and not because of something else?


dabbler's avatar

Assuming you did not blatantly violate company rules or do something illegal or violent on the job, then unless your employer is rock-stupid they won’t give you a reason for letting you go except that your position has been eliminated. That’s all they have to tell you in a ‘right-to-work’ state.
If they tell you anything more they open themselves up for a lawsuit.

zenvelo's avatar

There are “protected” classes, but the employee needs to be able to show that the reason for the firing was because of being in one of the classes. While the ADA requires a reasonable accommodation for absence because of health reasons, an employer cannot be expected to keep a position open for a person whose health prevents them from working a reasonable amount of time.

All of these issues should be covered in an employee handbook, and discussed after hiring so that both the employer and the employee have a clear understanding of what the job requires.

If one has a sexist asshole for a boss, it becomes important to document every instance, from inappropriate jokes to physical interactions. If one works for a company large enough to have an HR department, complaints need to be made to the HR people so that a pattern or practice is established.

And one cannot claim discrimination of a protected class to prevent firing for another reason.

marinelife's avatar

@Mariah Here is a clear explanation of the protections available for employees.

rooeytoo's avatar

Do you ever find it interesting that an employee can walk out at any time, on any day, with absolutely no explanation and the employer has no recourse. But the employer is faced with all sorts of conditions to be met in order to be rid of an employee he doesn’t like or who doesn’t do a good job.

Not suggesting @Mariah that you fall into this catagory but I always think of this when I see a question of this nature. I have been an employer and an employee so I tend to look at both sides of the coin.

In Australia it is almost impossible to fire someone unless you have serious reasons. I would hate to be an employer here.

flo's avatar

It is difficult to to prove what a person is fired for, generally. I thought they couldn’t fire you for political affiliation but it doesn’t seem to be the case according to
this thread.

jca's avatar

The Americans with Disabilities Act outlines specifics as to what rights people who are classified as “disabled” have.

I always felt that if a boss wants to, they can easily justify firing someone and it’s the worker’s word against the employer’s. For example, if the worker is occasionally late, the employer could fire them and say it’s due to lateness. They could say we have budget cutbacks. They could say we’re eliminating your position. They could do any number of things.

Questions such as this make me realize how much I appreciate being a member of a labor union.

bolwerk's avatar

You need to figure out:

• were you fired or laid off? The difference: one requires cause, the other does not. He could fire you because you messed up, but laying you off probably requires following some kind of non-discriminatory selection process.

Then there are two types of cases:

• Is it disparate treatment? Do you have evidence that you were treated differently because you were in a protected class? You have to show this in court. The defense has to show why you actually were treated in a non-discriminatory way.

• Is it a case of adverse impact? Your boss may be a racist, sexist pig, but did anything he did on the job cause you harm? If so, did what was his reason? Defense: whatever had an adverse impact on you had to have a legitimate job-related reason.

Here is an example: maybe a cop needs to be able to run an 8-minute mile with some heavy gear, and maybe this is a bit harder for women than for men. There is an adverse impact for women, but there is a job-related reason for it. The employer may have a burden of showing why this is necessary to do the job. Requiring women to run a 7-minute mile while men only need to run an 8-minute mile would definitely be; it makes absolutely no sense for men to get to run a mile more slowly than women. There is an abverse impact element here for the women who don’t get selected.

The disability thing is probably mostly in the adverse impact category. Yes, an employer can require your disability not get in the way of performing your job adequately. Yes, this can have an adverse impact on you, and the employer has the burden of showing why it is necessary. You probably the same right right to your sick days that everyone else has (anything else would be disparate treatment), but your higher use of sick days compared to other employees could be a legitimate factor in a decision to terminate in spite of your disability, but not because of it. That said, there may be special laws protecting the disabled in these kinds of cases that I’m not aware of.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

There are laws against discrimination in the workplace, but no boss is going to fire you and say (in front of witnesses) that it is because you are a woman, or a black, or gay, or Catholic. All they have to say is that your performance is unsatisfactory, and keep the real reason to themselves. No way to prove it, no law suit possible.

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