Employment Discrimination in the 21st Century

Employment Discrimination in the 21st Century

In response to a growing social, political, and economic movement, lawmakers passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. This law contained a number of provisions which applied to discriminatory employment practices. Many of these practices still exist today, albeit in different forms. So, the Civil Rights Act is as applicable today as it was in the 1960s.

Since the work environment has changed, and employers are more savvy about circumventing the Civil Rights Act, today’s workers need an assertive Chicago employment lawyer more than ever before. In the 60s, there were a number of advocacy groups which looked out for workers’ rights. Now, those groups are mostly gone, especially in at-will employment states like Illinois.

National Origin

Before the mid 1960s, employers routinely used the physical characteristics of different individuals to either deny them employment or pigeonhole them into certain jobs. Unfortunately, the Civil Rights Act did not end these practices. It simply altered them.

“English Only” policies are a good example. Many employers have such policies. They argue that if workers speak another language around customers, the customers get uncomfortable. That might or might not be true. However, the law is clear on this point. Employers can set and enforce English only policies if there is a compelling business need for such rules. Otherwise, they are merely a back door to job discrimination and therefore illegal.


As little as one generation ago, direct or indirect forcible proselytizing was rather common in Illinois workplaces. Some bosses held mandatory chapel meetings. Others made it clear that only workers affiliated with a certain religious sect could climb up the corporate ladder. These two problems are mostly gone. Two other problems have replaced them.

Some employers, especially retailers, have mandatory Saturday policies. Other employers basically dictate worker schedules. Mandatory Saturdays conflict with many faiths which consider this day a holy day. Furthermore, a dictated schedule makes no allowances for unorthodox holidays.

The Civil Rights Act protects workers in these situations. It’s not enough for bosses to give workers a chance to request time off or switch shifts with someone. Employers must take the initiative and offer time off with no strings attached.

Many people teach in religious schools. These teachers might only be loosely affiliated with the faith, denomination, or sect which runs the school. Typically, these schools cannot force teachers to adhere to faith or lifestyle statements. The law is a bit uncertain on this point.

Sexual Orientation

This job discrimination area might have changed more than any other one. Now, the Civil Rights Act does not only protect boldly professing homosexuals. It also protects subtle homosexuals, people with nontraditional gender identities, and people who are asking questions about these things.

All these individuals are now in a protected class. If they suffer adverse action at work, like a demotion or refusal to hire, that action is presumptively discriminatory. These acts will not stand unless the employer provides a discriminatory-neutral reason for the action. That is a tough showing to make.

Connect With a Dedicated Lawyer

The Civil Rights Act changed job discrimination, but alas, it did not end it. An experienced Chicago employment lawyer can help you with your discrimination claim. Contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline today to get the support you need in your pursuit of justice.