There are many federal and state laws making discrimination an unlawful employment practice. However, not all discrimination is unlawful discrimination. It is generally lawful to discriminate based on performance, ability, experience, character, etc. It is generally unlawful to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, and religion. It is also unlawful in Florida to discriminate based on age or marital status. Discrimination can take the form of an “adverse employment action,” such as being fired, failure to hire, demotion, failure to promote, disadvantageous transfer, failure to provide a raise or benefit, etc. Another form of discrimination can be a “hostile work environment,” usually created due to some type of “harassment.” It is not generally unlawful for an employer to “harass” an employee, but it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to “harass” an employee because of the employee’s race, sex, national origin, religion, age or marital status. When such “harassment” is so extensive and pervasive that it “alters the terms and conditions” of the employment relationship, a hostile working environment has been created and the employee has suffered unlawful discrimination.

Most discrimination claims are brought under Title VII of the U. S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended by later laws, including the U. S. Civil Rights Act of 1991), which applies to all employers who have 15 or more employees. Under the U. S. Civil Rights Act, an employee in Florida must file a claim with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within 300 days of the date that the employee suffered discrimination. There is no charge for filing a charge of discrimination.

For further information contact the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 or visit www.eeoc.gov. For frequently asked questions on various discrimination laws go to www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html

The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 prohibits employers in Florida of 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age, handicap, or marital status. There is no cost to file a charge of discrimination. It must be filed within one year from the date the employee was discriminated against. For further information contact the Florida Commission on Human Relations at 1-800-342-8172 or visit fchr.state.fl.us. For the complete text of the law, go to

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If you are employed in Palm Beach County, you also may file a charge of discrimination under Palm Beach County Ordinance No. 95-31. It also only applies to employers who employ 15 or more persons. The charge must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. Contact the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity at 561-355-4883.


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