A Guide For Nevada Employees Regarding Federal Anti-Discrimination LawsFiled under Employment Law
Nevada, like many other states, is an at-will employment state. This means, as an employee working in Nevada, you can be fired for almost any reason. However, you cannot be fired for an illegal reason. An “illegal reason” would be a reason expressly prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is the key federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees.
What is prohibited under Title VII?
Title VII protects applicants and employees against discrimination based upon factors such as race, color, religion, gender (which includes pregnancy and sexual harassment) or national origin. It does not cover age discrimination or disability discrimination, both of which are covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As an employee, you should be aware that Title VII generally makes it illegal for employers to make employment decisions where the decision is based upon a person’s protected trait (race, religion, color, gender or national origin). So for example, favoring one employee over another simply because of race would be illegal.
Title VII also make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for engaging in “protected activity.” Protected activity is any type of act that you are legally permitted to do. Being punished for exercising a right, therefore, is illegal. Examples of protected activity include the following: filing a claim of discrimination with an agency, requesting medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or filing a claim for worker’s compensation. Another example of protected activity would be complaining to anyone, like a co-worker or your spouse, about your employer’s discrimination and then being punished for it. The key is to show that you were punished because of the protected activity.
Are All Employers Covered By Title VII?
No. An employer must have 15 or more full-time employees to be covered by federal anti-discrimination laws.
How Do I File A Claim Under Title VII?
To file a claim under Title VII alleging discrimination or retaliation, a person must first “exhaust” his or her “administrative remedies.” What does this mean? In simple terms, it means you are required to file a claim with a federal agency called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or a state counterpart. In Nevada, the equivalent to the EEOC is the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (“NERC”). Every major American city has an EEOC office. In Las Vegas, the EEOC is located in the federal courthouse located at 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, near old downtown.
One of the most important things to remember in filing an EEOC claim is that, generally, it must be filed within 180 days of the unlawful treatment which forms the basis for your discrimination claim. For example, if you are fired because you employer is punishing you for filing a worker compensation claim, you have to file an EEOC complaint within 180 days of the date of your termination.
After you file a complaint with the EEOC or NERC, the agency will conduct an investigation into your claims. Often, as part of that process, the agency will contact the employer and attempt to conduct a mediation to resolve the dispute. Sometimes mediation can be successful, often it is not.
Going through the EEOC or NERC is a mandatory prerequisite before you can file a lawsuit against your employer for violation of your rights. After the agency’s investigation is complete or mediation is unsuccessful, the agency will issue a “right to sue” letter which permits you to proceed to the next step and file a lawsuit if necessary. Even if the EEOC finds that your claims have no merit, it is required to issue you a right to sue letter permitting you to proceed to court. Thus, a right to sue letter should not be viewed as a determination that you have a case. Instead, it just means you have the right to pursue a case. Likewise, the fact that the EEOC does not find discrimination does not mean you were not discriminated against or that you will lose in court.
Employment law can be tricky with many pitfalls and nuances. It is essential, therefore, to consult with a good attorney before deciding how to proceed to protect your rights.