The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. These laws protect employees and job applicants against:
Discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace by anyone because of:
Sex (including gender identity, transgender status, and sexual orientation)
Age (40 or older)
Being denied reasonable workplace accommodations for disability or religious beliefs
Retaliation because they:
Complained about job discrimination
Helped with an investigation or lawsuit
Filing a Complaint with State or Local Government or Tribal Employment Rights Office
To file a complaint, contact your state, local or tribal employment rights office.
Many state and local governments have their own anti-discrimination laws. These laws may offer extra protections beyond federal laws.
Some state laws:
Apply to businesses with only five or six employees
Prohibit discrimination based on whether you're married or have children
Have different deadlines for filing a charge
Have different standards for deciding whether you’re covered by them
Many state laws have more protections for nursing mothers than federal law requires. State labor offices enforce these laws.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you're a victim of job discrimination or harassment, you can file a lawsuit. If the discrimination violates federal law, you must first file a charge with the EEOC. (This doesn't apply to cases of unequal pay between men and women.)
You may decide to sue if the EEOC can’t help you. In either case, look for an attorney who specializes in employment law. You can check with:
Not All Employers Are Subject to EEOC Laws
An employer must have a certain number of employees to be covered by EEOC-enforced laws. This number varies based on the type of employer and the kind of discrimination alleged.
Businesses, state, and local governments must follow most EEOC laws if they have 15 or more employees.
Federal agencies must follow all EEOC laws, no matter how many employees they have.
Laws that the EEOC Enforces
Federal employment discrimination laws include:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – prohibiting discrimination against workers with disabilities and mandating reasonable accommodations
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) – prohibiting discrimination based on:
Sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity). Learn more about harassment and discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers. These protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws.
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) – requiring equal pay for equal work by men and women
Harassment is unwelcome conduct based on:
It can include:
Physical assaults or threats
Ridicule or insults
Display of offensive objects or pictures
Sexual harassment may include:
Unwelcome sexual advances
Requests for sexual favors
Other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature
Offensive remarks about a person's sex
Harassment becomes illegal when:
It creates a hostile or abusive work environment
The victim gets fired or demoted for refusing to put up with it
Protection from Retaliation
EEOC laws protect employees and job applicants from retaliation. For example, it’s unlawful to punish people for:
Filing or being a witness in an EEO charge or investigation
Talking to a supervisor or manager about discrimination or harassment
Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others