Several federal laws protect employees (and job applicants) from unlawful discrimination in the workplace based on age, disability, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, harassment, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, retaliation, sex, and sexual harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act)
Both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act require employers to reasonably accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee (unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business).
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)
In addition to providing protections against specific types of discrimination, most of the above federal laws also prohibit retaliation against a person for complaining about discrimination, filing a charge of discrimination, or participating in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the federal laws that prohibit discrimination. The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against most employers with at least fifteen (15) employees (twenty (20) employees in age discrimination cases). If the EEOC determines that discrimination has occurred, it may settle the charge or file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the public.
If you believe you have experienced unlawful discrimination in violation of a federal law enforced by the EEOC (except the EPA), you must file a charge with the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination.
There are strict time limits for filing a charge. The federal laws generally require a complaint to be filed with the EEOC within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place, which can be extended to 300 calendar days if a state (e.g. New York State Division of Human Rights) or local (e.g. New York City Commission on Human Rights) agency enforces a law that prohibits discrimination on the same basis.
For age discrimination, the deadline is only extended to 300 calendar days if there is a state law prohibiting age discrimination (e.g. New York State Human Rights Law) and a state agency or authority enforcing the law (e.g. New York State Division of Human Rights). The deadline is not extended if only a local law prohibits age discrimination.
To ensure preservation of your rights, it is best to file as soon as you have decided that is what you would like to do.
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
New York District Office
33 Whitehall Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10004