News & Articles

3 Laws You Should Be Aware of to Help Prevent Discrimination and Harassment

Published on July 6, 2016

Three laws employers should be aware of to help prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace are the Equal Pay Act, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Failure to comply with these laws can give rise to disputes that leave employers exposed to claims, government investigations, and even lengthy litigation.  If you or your company finds itself in a questionable situation of needing more information about these laws, feel free to contact an attorney in the Employment Rights, Benefits and Labor Group at Ryan Swanson.

Equal Pay Act (EPA)

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination.  Employers may not reduce wages of either sex to equalize pay between men and women.  An employer may be held liable for violating the law when it pays different wages to a person who worked in the same job before or after an employee of the opposite sex.  An individual alleging a violation of the EPA may go directly to court and is not required to file an EEOC charge beforehand.  Someone with an EPA claim may also have a Title VII claim.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)

WARN requires employers with 100 or more employees (not counting those who have worked less than six months in the last 12 months and those who work an average of less than 20 hours a week) to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.  The goal is to allow workers and their families some transition time to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and obtain other jobs, and, if necessary, to enter skill training or retraining that will allow these workers to compete successfully in the job market.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

Enacted in 2009, GINA prohibits discrimination against, harassment of, and retaliation of employees or applicants on the basis of genetic information.  It applies to companies with 15 or more employees.  Genetic information includes information about an individual’s and his or her family member’s genetic tests and information because genetic information is irrelevant to the employee’s current ability to do work.  While it is generally unlawful to obtain genetic information, there are several narrow exceptions including inadvertent acquisition, obtaining information as part of a voluntary wellness program, certification for FMLA leave.  Any genetic information obtained must be kept confidential in a separate medical file.

Britenae Pierce is a member in Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC’s Employment Rights, Benefits and Labor Group and can be reached at 206.654.2289 or [email protected]

This message has been created by the Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor Group at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC to advise of recent developments in the law. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances. Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC is a full-service law firm located in Seattle, Washington.


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