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Small Businesses and Equal Opportunity Employment

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Small Businesses and Equal Opportunity Employment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces laws to protect employees and potential employees from being discriminated against. The laws that protect such people are as follows: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which makes it illegal to discriminate against a person based on race, color, religion, national origin or sex, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 which makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women for equal work, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 which protects employees 40 years old and older from discrimination based on age, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person based on a disability are requires employers to accommodate the know physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified person, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 which makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or potential employees because of genetic information (EEOC). All of these laws also protect against the retaliation against an employee or applicant that submits a complaint.

According to the EEOC’s webpage, these laws cover all private employers, state and local government employers with 15 or more employees, 20 or more when pertaining to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. I found it surprising that there would even be a distinction when it comes to discrimination in the workforce. It makes a person think, why are small businesses exempt from laws against discrimination?

In the article “The Small Firm Exemption and the Single Employer Doctrine in Employment Discrimination Law” published in the St. Johns Law Review, Richard Carlson highlights the possible reasons for the exemption of small businesses in terms of discrimination laws. He states, “Congressional debates leading to the enactment of Title VII in 1964 and its amendment in 1972 reveal at least five possible purposes for a small firm exemption: (1) to relieve small firms of the otherwise disproportionate costs they might bear under the new law; (2) to preserve a right of “personal” relationships beyond government intervention, (3) to permit racial or ethnic self-help by small firms and family-owned businesses, (4) to avoid over-extension of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) limited resources; and (5) to defuse at least some business opposition to Title VII and preserve enough support for its enactment” (Carlson).

Another piece of information I thought deserves to be shared is that the businesses that are exempt from these laws are extremely small businesses. According to the Small Business Administration any business up to 500 employees is considered a “small business” (Carlson). With businesses that are a fraction of that size, the burden of compliance of these laws increases due to lack of



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