As an employment lawyer in Alabama, one of the questions I am most often asked by prospective clients is what laws protect an employee from illegal or improper treatment in the workplace. The answer to this question would take pages to answer completely, but I thought it would be worth addressing the basic framework of legal protections in the employment context.
In Alabama, there is no state law protection from being terminated because Alabama is an “at will” employment state. There are a few notable exceptions to this rule. One exception is that Alabama law protects employees from retaliatory discharge for making a claim for worker’s compensation (i.e. making a claim for injury sustained while working for your employer).
Federal law provide most of the legal protections for employees. Employees are protected against discrimination and harassment based on gender, race, age, disability, or pregnancy. A summary of some of the federal laws providing these protections from discrimination is below:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
- the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;
- the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;
- Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities;
- Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government; and
- the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.
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