Subtitle: 
Familiarize yourself with the rules governing unlawful discrimination.

Refraining from discriminatory employment practices may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many employers unwittingly engage in unlawful employment practices.  Careful attention to anti-discrimination laws, from pre-hiring practices all the way through termination will help protect you from costly litigation.

Important Tip When advertising an employment opportunity, be sure the ad does not express a preference based on a prohibited classification; and indicate that your business is an equal-opportunity employer.

A web of federal and Colorado laws prohibit discrimination based on a variety of classifications, including:

-    Race
-    Color
-    Religion
-    Creed
-    National origin
-    Ancestry
-    Sex
-    Pregnancy
-    Age
-    Sexual orientation
-    Physical or mental disability
-    Marriage to a co-worker
-    Retaliation for engaging in protected activity

The consequences of employment discrimination can be severe.  Aside from the cost and distraction of litigation, employers found liable may be ordered to pay back pay and benefits, reinstate a terminated employee, front pay in lieu of reinstatement, compensatory and punitive damages.

What is discrimination?  Discrimination encompasses a variety of actions and decisions based on the above-referenced classifications, including hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and any other aspect of employment.  In other words, when making employment decisions, do not take into account any of the above-referenced factors.  Failure to do so may subject you to liability for disparate treatment based on an unlawful classification.  Be careful to avoid actions that could even give the appearance that you are taking into consideration an impermissible factor.  For example, employers should not even ask employees and prospective employees questions about any protected classification (such as asking a job candidate whether she is pregnant, or to submit a photograph), even if the purpose of the question is unrelated to the hiring decision.  

In addition, employment laws prohibit employment practices that, while neutral on their face, have a disparate impact on a protected group and are not a business necessity.  For example, requiring that secretaries be able to lift at least 50 pounds is likely to have an unlawful disparate impact, since most secretaries’ responsibilities do not involve heavy lifting.  On the other hand, such a requirement is probably permissible in a brewery, where workers are often required to lift heavy kegs.

While this article contains a broad overview of employment discrimination laws, they are complex and contain several nuances.  Contact your attorney if you need advice on a specific area of employment law.

 

Additional Information
Important Tip: 
When advertising an employment opportunity, be sure the ad does not express a preference based on a prohibited classification; and indicate that your business is an equal-opportunity employer.