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As the Covid-19 pandemic stretches across the United States and the world, many workers have found themselves looking for a way to stay afloat. 

As of the date of this article, 17 million unemployment applications have been filed in the past three weeks.  This as many businesses start to receive large, forgivable loans to maintain employees on payroll. 

Now is as important time as ever to know your rights against discrimination so that you can protect yourself and your family.

Employment discrimination is a sad, but pervasive problem in many workplaces. 

Fortunately, employees that are harassed and discriminated against are protected by state and federal laws.  The present crisis does not eliminate these protections.

Broadly speaking, an employer may not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, gender, race, national origin, religion, pregnancy, or sexual orientation. 

Many state laws further enforce these anti-discrimination provisions and add further protections such as Louisiana and Texas, which prohibit an employer from taking any retaliatory action against an employee that refuses to engage in illegal conduct.

With millions out of work and small businesses receiving millions in forgivable loans to rehire these employees, employers and employees must be mindful of the anti-discrimination laws already on the books.

Federal laws include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, commonly just referred to as Title VII, which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.  It also protects against retaliation against a person making a claim of discrimination.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which clarifies that Title VII protects against discrimination relating to pregnancy, child birth, or medical conditions related to either.
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits wage discrimination between men and women.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects employees and prospective employees age 40 or older from discrimination.
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which protect persons with certain disabilities from discrimination in the workplace.

None of these laws have been suspended by the pandemic.

Understanding the Paycheck Protection Program and Your Rights To Be Protected Against Discrimination

 The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is part of the recently passed $2 trillion aid package passed by Congress.  It provides forgivable loans to employers with 500 or fewer employees to retain or rehire employees dismissed as a result of the pandemic.  Businesses will receive loans up to $10 million dollars at a 1% rate of interest payable in two years. 

However, if the business uses these funds for wages, paid sick, medical, or family leave, and costs related to group health care benefits during those periods of leave. 

It also allows funds to be used for certain overhead costs like rent, mortgages, utilities, and certain other debt obligations, the loans will be completely forgiven. 

The objective of the PPP is to get small businesses to retain as many employees during the pandemic as possible.

Businesses receiving PPP loans may not discriminate in deciding who to retain or rehire.  Each of the anti-discrimination laws mentioned above continue to apply. 

If you believe that you were terminated for a discriminatory reason or that your employer refused to hire you back after receiving PPP funds, you have rights.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against by your employer during this crisis, contact us at The BFH Law Group for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Tony Hernandez

Prior to joining The Johns Firm, LLC, Tony spent more than a decade working closely with the Texas Legislature in developing the laws governing insurance disputes in Texas as well as programs to assist victims of natural disasters. Tony is a graduate of Tulane University Law School and Saint Edward’s University. He has attended Cambridge University School of Law and Australia National University, where he also clerked in the Australian Parliament.