Federal laws have been passed in order to provide protection for American citizens from discrimination in a number of different instances. This paper will review the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. This paper will also present legal cases in which all three of these laws have become involved in litigation, and will also include an example of a Human Relations policy for each, which reflects that there has been compliance in specific workplaces.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
This law, enacted in 1967, was designed to protect people over the age of 40 from being discriminated against based on their age. In short, it is against the law to discriminate against an individual due to his or her age, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This law includes discrimination that may occur during the hiring, firing of a person; it also applies to situations during layoffs, when compensation issues arise, when job assignments are given out and during training as well (EEOC).
Interestingly, the ADEA allows employers to "favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or older" (EEOC). The law prohibits an employer from retaliating against a person who may have shown opposition to practices within a company that discriminate based on age; and it prohibits retaliation by an employer when a worker who believes he or she has been discriminated against testifies or otherwise helps in an investigation into the alleged discrimination (EEOC).
The ADEA also prohibits putting age limitations on job advertising (there is an exception when the job is deemed a "bona fide occupational qualification").
Present-day court case that challenges the ADEA
In 2000, in the case of Reeves v. Sanders Plumbing Products, Inc., a 57-year-old man was fired based on alleged "misrepresentations" he had made on some internal reports. However, reeves presented evidence that indeed he had "accurately and honestly" completed the paper work and the real reason he was fired was his age (www.agerights.com). The district court ruled in Reeves' favor; the Fifth Circuit Court reversed that ruling but the Supreme Court ruled that Reeves had provided sufficient evidence, and Reeves won the case.
HR policy -- ADEA
Beth Zoller with the XpertHR.com organization warns HR departments that a good policy is to "…avoid any pre-employment inquiries or employment decisions" based on a person's age (Zoller, 2013). A recent rule that EEOC passed down makes it "harder for employers to establish that policies that discriminate based on age were justified based on a legitimate business reason…[it] requires employers to show" they have an established business purpose vis-a-vis restrictions on older workers (Zoller, p. 1).
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act -- Title VII
This Act is actually an amended version of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or "related medical conditions," according to the EEOC. In short, an employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant, because of a "pregnancy-related condition," or because co-workers or customers object to having a pregnant woman on any particular job (EEOC). There are many more particulars to this law, including these three: a) if a pregnant woman is not able to perform her job, she must be treated the same way as other "temporarily disabled" person (alternative assignments must be offered); b) pregnant women must be allowed to work as long as they can perform their tasks; and c) an employer must hold open a job for a pregnant woman for the same length of time jobs are held open for "employees on sick or disability leave" (EEOC).
Present-day court case that challenged Title VII
According to the National Women's Law Center, over the past 10 years, pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC have increased by "35%"; and low wage workers have been "hit the hardest" by employers (Watson, 2013). In the case of Christina Spigarelli v. Target Corporation, Spigarelli was fired in 2008 under suspicious reasons. Within two weeks after learning that Spigarelli, an executive team leader, was pregnant, her supervisors made several statements regarding her ability to continue working while pregnant. They said that her "decision-making was being affected because of her pregnancy hormones and that she was being "too emotional…" and "…wasn't thinking right" (Bouboushian, 2012). She was fired shortly thereafter, and she sued under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. District Court Judge C. Darnell Jones ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Spigarelli.
HR policy -- Pregnancy Discrimination Title VII
Beth Zoller, with a Juris Doctor (law degree), says that legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would require employers to "provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees" -- unless those accommodations would cause "undue hardship for the employer" (Zoller, 2014). Zoller writes that the EEOC has recently "cracked down on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace in its strategic enforcement plan," labeling pregnancy discrimination as "an emerging issue" (Zoller, p. 1). This means HR people should be "alert" to the changes in the law as they come down (Zoller. p. 1).
Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988
This law (EPPA) prevents employers who engage in interstate commerce from using lie detector tests for either "pre-employment screening or during the court of employment," according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Also, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee (or fire him, or discipline him, or any other way discriminate against him) for refusing to take a lie detector test (DOL). However, there are certain jobs in which a lie detector exam is permitted. Those jobs include "security service firms" like drivers or an armored car, alarm installers, and guards at banks and other places where security is vital (DOL).
Also, the lie detector test may be justified in cases where: a) an employee is reasonably suspected of involvement in an incident that caused "economic loss to the employer"; and where the employee had "access to the property that is the subject of an investigation" and b) the prospective employee has applied for a job for a pharmaceutical or other firm in which "controlled substances" will be manufactured or distributed; and the employee would have access to those "controlled substances" (DOL).
Present day court case involving EPPA
In San Diego a private corporation (Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators) had contracted with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies. The employees -- who were providing translation services -- were "requested, required and demanded" by Metropolitan to take polygraph tests (Iredale, et al., 2012). The plaintiffs (employees of Metropolitan) were fired for refusing to take the polygraph tests albeit the Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibited firing employees for refusing to take the polygraph tests. There was no suspicion of wrongdoing, and Metropolitan was not investigating any financial loss to the company, and hence the employees were awarded $500,000 to settle the case (Iredale, 2012).
HR policy -- EPPA
The Society for Human Resource Management explains that when polygraph tests are legally justified, HR departments must provide employees and prospective employees with "written notice explaining the employee's rights and limitations imposed," including prohibited areas of questions and the restrictions on the use of the results of any polygraph test (SHRM). Moreover, when a polygraph test is justified (under the law's restrictions) the employee must be given (in a written notice) the "specific incident or activity being investigated and the basis for the employer's reasonable suspicion that the employee was involved in such incident or activity," according to SHRM.
In conclusion, the three laws reviewed in this paper are designed to protect employees from discrimination because of age, because of pregnancy, and the polygraph law is designed to protect…