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Practice Areas

Employment Discrimination and Civil Rights

McGillivary Steele Elkin LLP successfully represents both public and private sector workers who have suffered from unlawful employment discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, sex, national origin, and disability.
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McGillivary Steele Elkin LLP successfully represents both public and private sector workers who have suffered from unlawful employment discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, sex, national origin, and disability. In addition, MSE represents workers whose employers have retaliated against them for speaking out against or reporting unlawful discrimination. Attorneys at MSE can help you effectively navigate the complex challenges associated with fighting workplace discrimination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act Protects Employees from Unlawful Discrimination

If you have been discriminated against or experienced workplace harassment based on race, sex, religion, or national origin, you have protections and remedies under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., protects worker from discrimination based on protected traits, including:

National Origin; and
Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, sexual orientation, and gender identity).
Specifically, Title VII prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from taking adverse employment actions or from otherwise discriminating against an individual with respect to their compensation and terms and conditions of employment based on that individual’s protected traits. Adverse employment actions include conduct like failing to hire, firing, or denying a transfer.

Title VII also protects employees from workplace harassment based on a protected trait, and from discrimination based on stereotypes about a person’s abilities, traits or performance resulting from their protected trait. The only exception to this prohibition on unlawful discrimination is where a particular protected trait is a bona fide occupational qualification for employment.

Employers are also prohibited from taking any adverse employment actions against an individual for opposing unlawful employment practices or for making, participating, testifying in, or assisting in any investigation or proceeding in which discriminatory employment practices are being challenged. Complaints need not be formal to be protected.

Moreover, many states and municipalities have anti-discrimination laws which provide even greater protections to workers than Title VII and other federal employment laws.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Unlawful Disability-Based Discrimination

Disability rights are civil rights. Workers are protected from discrimination based on disability status, or perceived disability status, under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. A person with a disability for purposes of the ADA is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a history of such an impairment, or is perceived by others to have such an impairment.

Under the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against an individual in recruitment, hiring, promotions, compensation, training, or other privileges of employment based on an individual’s disability.

Additionally, workers who are covered by the ADA have a right to be reasonably accommodated by their employer so that they are afforded equal opportunity to get and successfully perform a job to the same extent as people without such impairments. Reasonable accommodations vary based on a particular individual’s needs, the workplace environment, and the capabilities of the employer, but may include things like modified work schedules, provision of new or different office equipment, access to accessible communication materials, leave, and telework. Under the law, an employer must engage in an interactive process with the worker to determine if a reasonable accommodation is available.

Process for Challenging Unlawful Discrimination

To challenge any type of civil rights violation or unlawful workplace discrimination, a non-federal employee must first file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state or local government equal employment agency before filing a lawsuit. A complaint must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the date of discrimination, or within 300 days if filed with a state or local fair employment practice agency. Under some circumstances, employees may also be required to first raise their concerns of unlawful discrimination internally pursuant to an employer’s policies or by reporting to human resources.

Once the EEOC receives a complaint, it will undertake an investigation to determine if the EEOC would like to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Often the investigation will include an opportunity to participate in mediation to attempt to resolve the matter prior to further litigation. However, most commonly, the EEOC will issue a “right-to-sue” letter informing the individual that if they want to continue to pursue their complaint, they must file a lawsuit within 90 days of the date of the letter.

Discrimination complaints by federal employees follow a slightly different process. Federal employees must reach out to an EEO counselor within 45 days of the discrimination. Thereafter, there will be a 30-day period for counseling (i.e., an investigation) or participation in alternative dispute resolution. At the conclusion of that process, if the complaint has not yet been resolved, the employee will have a right to file a formal EEO complaint within 15 days. For more information on your rights as a federal employee, see our page discussing Workplace Protections for Federal Employees.

The EEOC and federal courts strictly apply these filing deadlines. It is extremely important to be mindful of them if you are considering taking action to challenge unlawful workplace discrimination.

For more information about your rights or if you believe you have been subjected to unlawful employment discrimination, email us at to set up a free consultation with an experienced labor and employment attorney.

Legal Representation for All Workers

When McGillivary Steele Elkin LLP decides to take your case, it is because we believe there is an unacceptable workplace violation that has negatively impacted you or resulted in your employer paying less than what the law requires and which we have a reasonable chance of remedying. We recognize that meritorious claims should not go unremedied because of the level of a person’s resources.

To ensure accessible and available legal representation for all our clients, MSE handles cases through different forms of fee arrangements, including contingency fees, hourly fees and fixed fees.

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