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Understanding Prohibited Employment Policies and Practices

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

"Knowing your rights as an employee is the first line of defense in preventing workplace discrimination."


Employment discrimination is a serious issue affecting individuals across various industries. It is essential for both employers and employees to be aware of the policies and practices that are considered discriminatory under the laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This blog post aims to provide an overview of these prohibited policies and practices, covering various aspects of employment, including recruitment, hiring, job advertisements, pay and benefits, discipline and discharge, and more.

Key Prohibited Employment Policies and Practices

1. Job Advertisements: It is illegal to publish job advertisements that show a preference for or discourage individuals from applying based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. For example, advertisements seeking "females" or "recent college graduates" may be considered discriminatory.

2. Recruitment: Employers cannot recruit new employees in a manner that discriminates against them based on the protected categories mentioned above. For instance, relying on word-of-mouth recruitment from a predominantly Hispanic workforce that results in most new hires being Hispanic could be considered discriminatory.

3. Application & Hiring: Discrimination against job applicants due to their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information is prohibited. Employers must not base hiring decisions on stereotypes and assumptions about individuals from these protected categories.

4. Job Assignments & Promotions: Employers cannot make decisions about job assignments and promotions based on an employee's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

5. Pay and Benefits: Discrimination in the payment of wages or employee benefits based on protected categories is illegal. Employee benefits include sick and vacation leave, insurance, overtime, and retirement programs.

6. Discipline & Discharge: Decisions about discipline or discharge must not take into account a person's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

7. Employment References: Giving a negative or false employment reference (or refusing to give a reference) based on protected categories is illegal.

8. Reasonable Accommodation: Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees or job applicants with disabilities and those with religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

9. Training & Apprenticeship Programs: Discrimination in training or apprenticeship programs based on protected categories is illegal.

10. Harassment: Harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information is illegal. This includes harassment related to complaining about discrimination, filing a charge of discrimination, or participating in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

11. Terms & Conditions of Employment: Discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, and pay, is illegal.

12. Pre-Employment Inquiries: Employers must avoid pre-employment inquiries that disproportionately screen out members based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, unless the questions can be justified by a business purpose.

13. Dress Code: Employers may establish dress codes, but they must not treat some employees less favorably because of their national origin, religion, or disability.

14. Constructive Discharge/Forced to Resign: Forcing an employee to resign by making the work environment intolerable is considered a discriminatory practice.


Know Your Rights: The Importance of Understanding Prohibited Employment Policies and Practices as an Employee.


As an employee, it's crucial to know your rights and understand the key prohibited employment policies and practices. The workplace is a diverse environment where people of different races, religions, genders, and ages come together to work towards a common goal. Therefore, it's vital for employees to be aware of the laws and regulations that protect them against unfair treatment and discrimination. Now, let's discuss the importance of knowing your rights and understanding the prohibited employment policies and practices we discussed earlier.

1. Empowerment and Confidence

Being aware of your rights and the laws protecting you in the workplace can instill a sense of empowerment and confidence. When you understand the prohibited employment practices and your rights, you can confidently stand up for yourself in situations where you feel your rights are being violated. Knowing your rights also helps you navigate the workplace more effectively, ensuring you receive fair treatment and equal opportunities.

2. Identifying Discrimination and Harassment

Understanding prohibited employment practices enables you to recognize discriminatory and harassing behavior when it occurs. Discrimination and harassment can take various forms, from overt actions to subtle comments and actions that create a hostile work environment. By knowing what constitutes discrimination and harassment, you can report incidents to the appropriate parties and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

3. Promoting Equality and Inclusivity

Having a thorough understanding of prohibited employment policies and practices promotes a more inclusive and equitable work environment. When employees are knowledgeable about their rights and the importance of equal treatment, they can work together to create a more diverse and supportive workplace. This not only fosters a positive work culture but also contributes to increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

4. Reducing Legal Risks and Disputes

Being informed about prohibited employment policies and practices helps reduce the risk of legal disputes and potential lawsuits. When employees are educated about their rights and responsibilities, they are less likely to engage in discriminatory behavior, reducing the likelihood of legal issues arising in the workplace.

5. Protecting Yourself

By understanding your rights and prohibited employment practices, you are protecting yourself. When you are well-informed and proactive in addressing workplace discrimination and harassment, you contribute to a safer and more equitable environment for yourself and others.


Taking Action: What to Do When Prohibited Employment Policies and Practices Are Violate


Experiencing discrimination or harassment at work can be overwhelming and disheartening. However, it's important to not only know your rights and the resources that are available to help you navigate these difficult situations. Now, let's discuss what to do if any of the prohibited employment policies and practices discussed above are violated, including the process of reporting the discrimination to your chain of command and how to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

1. Document the Incident

The first step in addressing a violation of prohibited employment policies and practices is to document the incident. Write down the details of the discriminatory act, including the date, time, location, people involved, and any witnesses. Be as specific as possible, and keep all related documents, such as emails, text messages, or performance evaluations that may support your claim. This documentation will be crucial when reporting the incident and filing a charge of discrimination.

Note: It is best that you adopt an avenue for documenting events as they occur within your work environment at the start of your employment tenure. Your employer already has this mechanism in place (i.e your supervisor, human resources, agency attorney). It is important for you to establish this earlier on regardless of if you suspect violations of prohibited policies and practices. It is better to have it and not need it; then to need it and not have it.

2. Report the Incident to Your Chain of Command

Once you have documented the incident, report it to your immediate supervisor or a higher-level manager, depending on the circumstances. If your supervisor is involved in the discrimination or is unresponsive to your concerns, escalate the issue to human resources or another appropriate department within your organization. Be sure to follow your company's reporting procedures, which may be outlined in your employee handbook or internal policies.

3. Seek Support and Guidance

Dealing with discrimination can be emotionally challenging, so it's essential to seek support from trusted friends, family members, or colleagues. They can provide guidance, encouragement, and assistance as you navigate the reporting process. Additionally, consider consulting with on of our Equal Employment Advocates or requesting a case evaluation to better understand your rights and options. Our Equal Employment Advocates are here to help!

4. File a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC

If your employer does not address your concerns adequately, or if you experience retaliation for reporting the discrimination, consider filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information. Contact us today to file a charge and represent you through the entire process. Our Equal Employment Advocates are here to help you understand and fight for your rights and get the justice you deserve.

Please note that there are strict time limits for filing a charge with the EEOC. In general, you have 180 days from the date of the discriminatory act to file a charge, although this deadline may be extended to 300 days in some states.

If you are a federal employee reporting procedures may be slightly different; please contact your agency EEO office to ensure you are navigating the process effectively.

5. Participate in the EEOC Investigation and Mediation

Once you have filed a charge, the EEOC will investigate your claim and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. During the investigation, the EEOC may request additional information, interview witnesses, or conduct an on-site visit. The EEOC may also offer mediation, a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third party helps you and your employer resolve the dispute. Mediation can be a quicker and less adversarial way to address the issue compared to litigation.

6. Consider Legal Action

If the EEOC investigation does not lead to a resolution or if they issue a "right to sue" letter, you may choose to take action against your employer. Consult with a ReeLyfe Solutions Equal Employment Advocate to discuss your options and the potential costs and benefits of litigation.


Experiencing discrimination in the workplace can be a daunting experience, but knowing the steps to take when your rights are violated can help you navigate the process with confidence. By documenting the incident, reporting it to your chain of command, seeking support, filing a charge with the EEOC, and considering legal action, you can stand up for your rights.

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