By Mary Bauer
Part-time workers are not a protected class, but the federal regulations that protect workers’ rights also apply to part-time employees. Confusion sometimes sets in when it comes to benefits, such as sick pay, vacation, and health insurance. Some companies prorate benefits based on the number of hours worked, while others set a threshold number of work hours to qualify for any benefits. Denying benefits to part-time workers may seem like discrimination but, in fact, it is legal because they are a different class of workers than full-time employees.
Discrimination in the workplace is an action by an employer that treats an individual differently based on characteristics such as gender, race, or religious affiliation. Covered actions include hiring, transfer, use of company facilities, demotion, and firing. Part-time status is not among the characteristics protected by federal discrimination law, but if a worker is part-time due to health, age, or family status, she could potentially prove discrimination based on these characteristics rather than her part-time status.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the most important anti-discrimination laws that apply to the workplace. It protects full- and part-time employees against adverse employment actions based on religion, race, color, gender or national origin. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a part of Title VII and prohibits unequal treatment on the basis of pregnancy, related medical problems or childbirth. Title VII applies to most employers with 15 or more employees. It does not, however, prohibit an employer from offering better pay, benefits or other perks to full-time workers. It only stipulates that workers in the same category must be treated equally.
Equal Pay Act
Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 to protect women and men from gender-based pay discrimination. It requires employers to give equal pay and benefits to men and women who perform duties that are substantially similar. Part-time employees are covered under the EPA, but an employee could claim discrimination under the EPA only if other part-time workers performing similar functions and with the same level of seniority receive different pay or benefits.
Filing a Complaint
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handles discrimination claims. In general, you must file within 180 days of the event. Filing may be done by mail, telephone, or in person at the nearest EEOC office. To find the nearest office, visit the EEOC’s website. An employee must file an EEOC claim before pursuing a private lawsuit unless the event is an EPA violation.
This article is originally posted in Chron.