Employment Bias

We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.
• Nelson Mandela •

There are many ways that employers can discriminate against employees and potential employees, and most have legal remedies.  Different laws apply and different remedies are available in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, but the federal and constitutional standards are the same.  

The D.C. Human Rights Act

The District of Columbia has excellent laws against discrimination.  Here is the main provision of the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C.Code § 2-1401.11:  

"It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice to do any of the following acts, wholly or partially for a discriminatory reason based upon the actual or perceived: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of any individual."

There are certain ways in which employers cannot discriminate.


While employees can pay and treat employees differently based on performance and qualification, it is illegal to treat employees differently based on race, or characteristics associated with race, such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features. This constitutes racial discrimination, which is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Sex or gender discrimination is the act of treating individuals differently in their employment because an individual is a woman or a man. When sex and/or gender-based assumptions factor into workplace and employment decision making, sex discrimination may be taking place.


Age Discrimination is the act of treating an employee, or potential employee, less favorably due to the employee’s age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects employees and applicants age 40 or older from workplace age discrimination. Anti-age discrimination laws do not protect individuals under the age of 40. The purpose of ADEA is to protect individuals from being discriminated against for being viewed in terms of employment as being “too old.”


Individuals with disabilities are explicitly protected from discrimination in the workplace by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Employers are prohibited from asking about the existence, nature or severity of a disability. Asking for a medical exam is also illegal unless it is common practice for applicants or employees in that position.

Ethnicity & National Origin 

Ethnic discrimination can appear in various aspects of employment, and has a negative impact on employment in areas such as hiring and testing; pay, promotions, and benefits; jobs assignments and training. Ethnic discrimination can also involve decision making based on stereotypes of ethnic groups.

Sexual Orientation 

Sexual orientation is not a protected class under federal legislation. Unlike gender, religion and national origin, it is not illegal, under federal law, to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  But the laws in the District of Columbia and Maryland may protect against this kind of discrimination.


The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) requires that employers treat pregnancy exactly the same as any other medical condition. Pregnant women cannot be treated differently from others who perform their jobs equally well. In regards to necessary leave, the employer must treat them no differently than any other temporarily disabled employee, with access to FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) leave as applicable.


While employees can pay and treat employees differently based on performance and qualification, it is illegal to treat employees differently based on religion. This constitutes religious discrimination, which is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law applies to all traditional religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also to others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

wage and overtime violations

Wage and overtime standards are established under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA regulates minimum wages and overtime pay for both full-time and part-time employees.

Basic Minimum Wage Provisions of FLSA

Employers are required under the FLSA to pay non-exempt employees a minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour. The FLSA requires that employers keep records of employee hours and wages.

Basic Overtime Pay Provisions of FLSA

The FLSA does not limit the number of overtime hours that an employer may schedule as long as all non-exempt employees are paid the minimum of one and one-half times (1½ x) their regular rate for all hours in excess of a 40 hour work week.

Exempt Employees

Some employees are exempt from the overtime and minimum wage provisions, and some are exempt from the overtime provisions alone. 

Employees who are exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements include:

  • Newspaper delivery employees or other employees of certain small newspapers
  • Certain employees of recreational seasonal amusement establishments
  • Executive, administrative and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), outside sales employees, and certain skilled computer professionals (as defined in the Department of Labor’s regulations)
  • Casual babysitters and individuals working as companions to the elderly
  • Seamen employed on foreign vessels
  • Fishing operations employees

Employees who are exempt only from the overtime pay requirements include:

  • Certain domestic service workers
  • Movie theater employees
  • Salespersons, parts clerks and mechanics of auto, truck, trailer, aircraft, boat, or farm implements employed by non-manufacturing establishments that primarily sell those items to certain purchasers
  • Farm workers
  • Commissioned employees of certain retail or service establishments
  • Certain employees paid on approved trip-rate plans, including taxi drivers, certain motor carrier employees, railroad and air carrier employees, local delivery employees, and seamen on American vessels
  • Announcers, news editors and chief engineers of certain non-metropolitan broadcasting stations

If you are paid hourly, daily or per shift, you are not exempt from payment of overtime wages. Even if you are salaried, you may not be exempt if you are not performing exempt duties.

Zipin, Amster & Greenberg

We are happy to refer to the attorneys at Zipin, Amster & Greenberg for issues surrounding unpaid wages and overtime violations.  Their attorneys also speak Spanish.  Call them at (301) 812-4744 or email them at inquiries@zagfirm.com. 

Wrongful termination

“At Will” Employment

The term wrongful termination can be misleading because in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and most other states, employees are considered “at will” if there are no specific agreements or terms of employment. This means that the employee works at the will of the employer and the employer can terminate the worker for any reason at any time; likewise, an employee may resign at any time.

The “at will” rule allows an employer to terminate employees for almost any reason. The exceptions to this rule are: 1) when an employer discharges an employee in violation of federal or state anti-discrimination laws because of age, race, gender, religion, national origin, pregnancy status, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability; 2) when the employee has a contract of employment; and 3) when the termination violates the public policy of the state for example, being fired because you filed a worker’s compensation claim, even though the law allows you to file such a claim if you are injured on the job.

Reasons For Termination

If you were not terminated based on discrimination, in breach of an employment contract, or in violation of public policy, employers may terminate you for any other reason, or no reason at all. This means that employers may fire you for reasons that may seem capricious and arbitrary, as long as they do not terminate you for an illegal reason.