Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects U.S. workers from discrimination on the basis of:
- National origin
- Sex (and pregnancy)
- Genetic information
- Citizenship status
More recently, in 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation and transgender status are also protected categories.
With some variations, depending on the state, the law typically applies to any employer with at least 15 employees. While this is a federal statute, most states have also enacted similar anti-discrimination laws based on Title VII.
For example, under Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee for all of the aforementioned reasons or, additionally, on the basis of:
- Physical or mental disability
- Age over 40
- AIDS/HIV status
- Smoker/nonsmoker status
- Use of tobacco while not on duty
- Occupational pneumoconiosis as a result of coal dust exposure (without respiratory impairment)
Meanwhile, in Indiana, state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees for all the same reasons covered by Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, as well as:
- Age from 40 to 75 (if an employer has at least one employee)
- Use of tobacco while off duty
- Veteran status
- Sealed or expunged criminal record
If you believe your workers’ rights have been violated, contact Charles W. Miller & Associates to speak to an experienced Louisville discrimination attorney about your legal rights and options. We have successfully helped numerous Kentuckians and employees from Southern Indiana fight back against unjust and illegal employer practices.
The “At-Will” Doctrine & Discrimination
Kentucky and Indiana follow the "at-will doctrine," which holds that employees considered to be "at-will" employees do not have protection from being fired or demoted regardless of whether it is for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. To learn more about the at-will doctrine and your rights, visit our Wrongful Termination page.
However, both federal laws and state laws in Kentucky and Indiana provide important protections for employees and duties for employers in regards to certain forms of illegal discrimination. Most importantly, employers cannot terminate an employee on the basis of any of the protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or any protected class under applicable state law.
Title VII makes it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire, fire, otherwise discipline, deny training or promotion, pay less, or harass any employee on the basis of their membership in one of the protected classes under Title VII. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating (taking adverse employment action including discharge, suspension, denial of a promotion, or reduction of pay) against employees who complain of unlawful discrimination or otherwise assert their rights under Title VII.
What Happens If an Employer Violates Anti-Discrimination Laws?
Employers who violate Title VII can be required to pay damages to the employee in question. This compensation is meant to restore the employee to the economic position he/she would have been in if not for the unlawful conduct of the employer.
An employee who has been discriminated against by an employer may be entitled to the following damages:
- Back pay
- Future pay
- The value of lost employment benefits
Title VII also provides for compensation for emotional pain, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, and other non-economic losses up to certain statutory limits.
Filing a Claim in Federal or State Court
If you believe you have a claim for unlawful employment discrimination, you have the option of filing in federal or state court. There are advantages and disadvantages to both courts. An experienced Louisville workplace discrimination attorney at Charles W. Miller & Associates can help determine which court is best for your particular claim.
If you elect to pursue your claim in federal court, you are first required to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. There are strict deadlines for when you must file this Charge. The Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA) does not require that you file a charge of discrimination with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (the agency with the authority to enforce KCRA claims) before filing suit against your employer in state court. However, it is usually wise to go ahead and file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This preserves your right to file in federal court should you wish to pursue this avenue later on.
It is important to note that you have not filed suit against your employer when you file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. When you file a charge, the EEOC will investigate the claim, get a response from the employer and gather all the information they can. The EEOC can decide to represent you in a claim against your employer, but they are not required to do so. Most often, due to limited resources, if the EEOC determines that there is evidence of discrimination, they will issue a "Right to Sue" letter. When you receive this letter, you will be informed that the EEOC has finished its investigation and is giving you the "right" to pursue your claim against the employer by filing a lawsuit. This letter also includes an important deadline—once you have received your "right to sue" letter, you will have only 90 days to file a lawsuit against your employer based on those charges in federal court. Failing to file your claim in federal court before the end of that 90-day deadline could bar your claim from ever being litigated.
How Can Our Discrimination Attorneys Help You?
While you can complete many of these steps without an attorney, it is still important that you contact us as soon as you determine you have a possible employment discrimination or retaliation claim. The experienced employment law attorneys at Charles W. Miller & Associates can help guide you through the entire process. We will work to ensure that your charge and claim are filed properly and that the proper authorities preserve any and all possible claims you may have.
Our employment discrimination attorneys are knowledgeable of recent updates to the law and are well-versed in the processes of filing a charge and filing a lawsuit for employment discrimination and retaliation.
For a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation, contact Charles W. Miller & Associates at (502) 890-9954 today.
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