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Employer Liability for Discriminatory Termination: Federal

Author: Stacy Swinton


  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from terminating employees based on their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Though an employer has the discretion to terminate at-will employees for a variety of reasons, including good cause, bad cause or no cause at all, the termination must be lawful and non-discriminatory. See Title VII, Generally.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it unlawful to terminate employees who are 40 years or older based on age. See Age Discrimination.
  • Sexual discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by federal and state law, its basis deriving from Title VII. Sexual discrimination covers many types of unlawful activity in the workplace including harassment, maltreatment and pregnancy discrimination. See Sex Discrimination.
  • Title VII requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the religious practices of employees, unless such accommodation would result in an undue hardship on the employer. See Discrimination Based on Religion.
  • Federal law requires employers to accommodate returning service members and proscribes discrimination against employees based on their veteran or military status. See Discrimination Based on Veteran or Military Status.
  • Employers may benefit from training their managers and/or supervisors to identify discriminatory behavior in the workplace. If so, employers take action to correct the issue and even compensate the affected employees to discourage litigation. See Training Managers and Supervisors to Identify Discrimination in the Workplace.
  • Where employers have identified potential cases of discrimination which may expose the employer to claims or damages, employers may seek a written release of claims from the employee(s) in question, so long as the employer offers something of value in exchange. See Obtaining Waivers or Releases of Claims.