Will Obama End Employment Discrimination?

President Obama seems to hold the key which unlocked the door to his victory. What is the key to his success you ask? Simply addressing long lasting social issues. Close to two times as many women than men find concerns like same-sex marriage, abortion, and Employment Discrimination as the most important issues that determined their vote, based on recently reported polling information.
When it comes to discrimination in the workplace, Presidents over the years have issued orders to protect workers against it. In 1941 President Roosevelt issued an order that prevented discrimination against any worker because of their race, creed and national origin. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was released two decades later, which outlaws employment discrimination based on  religion, sex and race. Since Obama has been in office, he has addressed issues of employment discrimination and in 2011 he agreed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He abolished “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and openly supports the gay community and same sex marriage. That’s great for Obama, but what about the rest of the country? As it stands today, 21 states have outlawed sexual-orientation discrimination, while 16 also forbid gender-identity discrimination, and many cities and counties have similar nondiscrimination laws. But only about half of the population of the United States lives in places with such laws, which leaves millions of workers undefendable against discrimination.
Who is being Discriminated Against?
Nowadays, even though the world has widely accepted individuality and self expression, discrimination against women in the workplace still occurs. It is also distributed amongst lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. A recent research study found that in the last five years, 27% of lesbian, gay or bisexual people had been harassed at work or lost a job because of their sexual orientation. In addition to that, half of transgender people had experienced discrimination in hiring, promotion or job retention. Discrimination can also be found in their paychecks. Studies also show that they earn less than heterosexual men with the same qualifications. Pay discrimination can also be found with women who, despite holding the same positions as men, are receiving less pay than men for doing the same job. Even though studies also show that there are more women attending colleges than men, women are still given less of a chance at flourishing financially in comparison to men in the workplace.
What Can Be Done?
There is currently a Democratic bill that has long been sitting in Congress, which Obama supports, called the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to show that any salary differences between men and women doing the same job are not gender-related. The bill also would have prohibited employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers. The bill never passed because it could not gain the support of the Republican party.

Are you protected from discrimination on an Indian Reservation?

Broadly speaking, federal protections against discrimination in the workplace serve Americans living in all 50 states. However, discrimination rules can be quite different if that discrimination took place on an Indian reservation. Many of these reservations exist as entities separate from the states, pursuant to federal law and treaties between the reservation and the federal government. As a result, victims of workplace discrimination on reservations often have to go through a different process in order to seek recourse.
While Congress does have the power to create and enforce federal law on Indian reservations, Congress also has the power to exempt Indian reservations from those same laws. For example, Indian reservations are exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These two acts combined comprise main sources of federal law governing race, gender, and disability discrimination in the workplace.
However, if you are a victim of discrimination on an Indian reservation, you may still have recourse. Some reservations voluntarily allow themselves to be regulated by the federal statutes from which they would otherwise be exempt, and even more reservations enter into agreements with the states in which they reside and voluntarily subject themselves to applicable state law protections for workers. You’re starting point, and best bet for a favorable outcome regarding your discrimination claim, is to become familiar with the constitution and laws of your particular reservation; see what, if any, local reservation laws have been violated; and investigate what administrative and judicial venues exist under reservation law. Often, a reservation will have its own administrative and judicial systems, with investigators, judges, and other judicial officials, to resolve employment disputes.

Your Cheat Sheet to Understanding the ADA Amendment Act of 2008

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to protect workers across the U.S. from discrimination against disability.  Congress has recently amended the definition of disability within the ADA by instating the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008.  The March 25, 2011 ruling made significant changes to the ADA, making it easier for individuals to prove they are disabled under the ADAAA’s guidelines.
The changes appear minimal, but will have a sizable impact on the number of citizens classified as disabled. The Amendment is one of the most significant changes in the fight for equality among disabled citizens. It finally provides the disabled an opportunity for protection against unjust discrimination, and implements the necessary change for equality.
We have compiled the most important things you should know about the new ADA Amendment Act.  The ADAAA does the following things:

  1. Provides an interpretation of the word “disability” that is applicable to many impairments that were previously unprotected. The definition of disability remains the same, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.”  However, the ADAAA encourages that the terms in the definition should be interpreted broadly.
  2. Supplies guidelines for determining if the disability is “substantially limiting”. A substantially limiting disability is one that makes a person ”significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which a major life activity can be performed, in comparison to the average person or to most people.”  The ADAAA also encourages this term to be interpreted broadly, but further develops the law to include guidelines for future court cases.
    1. Broad construction- The narrow interpretation of the words “impairment” and “substantially limiting” was changed to provide a broader spectrum of the definitions.
    2. Comparison to general population– The disability can be substantially limiting if the person cannot perform a major life activity in comparison to the general population.
    3. Primary issue is compliance, not substantial limitation– Court cases should focus on if the employer was in compliance with the law, rather than focusing on if the disability was, in fact, substantially limiting.
    4. Individualized assessment– all impairments that are alleged to be substantially limiting must be determined on an individual basis.
    5. No requirement for scientific analysis- when the performance of a major life activity by the disabled person is compared to the general population, no scientific, medical or statistical analysis is needed.
    6. No consideration of mitigating measures– when determining if a disability is substantially limiting, mitigating measures (other than ordinary eye glasses or contact lenses) may not be considered.
    7. Episodic impairments or conditions in remission– episodic impairments are still regarded as disabilities when in remission as long as the disability would limit a major life activity when active.
    8. One substantial limitation is sufficient– one determination of a limitation of a major life function is enough to classify an impairment as a protected disability.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your disability, contact an attorney to discuss your options.