Kentucky and Indiana follow the "at will doctrine" which holds that employees considered to be "at-will" employees do not have protection from being fired or demoted regardless of whether it is for a good reason, bad reason or no reason at all. For more information on the "at-will doctrine" see At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination. However, both the federal laws and the state laws in Kentucky and Indiana provide important protections for employees and duties for employers in regards to certain forms of illegal discrimination.
Following the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, many laws have been enacted by the federal government prohibiting employers from discriminating for certain protected reasons. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the most widely recognized law. Title VII prohibits employers with fifteen or more employees from discriminating against employees in the terms and conditions of their employment on the basis of the employees' race, national origin, sex (which has been extended to pregnancy), or religion. Title VII therefore makes it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire, fire, otherwise discipline, deny training or promotion, pay less, or harass any employee on the basis of their membership in one of the protected classes under Title VII. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating (taking adverse employment action including discharge, suspension, denial of a promotion and reduction of pay) against employees who complain of unlawful discrimination or otherwise assert their rights under Title VII.
Employers who violate Title VII can be required to pay damages to the employee who is discriminated against that will restore the employee to the economic position they would have been in if not for the unlawful conduct of the employer. Damages the employee is entitled to include back pay, future pay and the value of lost employment benefits. Title VII also provides for compensation for emotional pain, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience and other non-economic losses, up to certain statutory limits.
In Kentucky, the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, which mirrors Title VII, was passed in 1966. The KCRA made discrimination illegal on a state level. It also appointed the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (KCHR) as the agency with the statutory authority to enforce the KCRA. When KCRA was passed, Kentucky became the first state south of the Mason Dixon Line to make discrimination illegal. Upon its passage, it was referred to by Martin Luther King Jr. as "the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state." Like Title VII, the KCRA makes it illegal to discriminate against someone in the terms and conditions of their employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age (over 40), sex, disability and retaliation.
If you believe you have a claim you wish to pursue for unlawful discrimination, you have the option of filing in federal or state court. There are advantages and disadvantages to both courts. An experienced employment law attorney at Miller and Falkner can help determine which court is best for your particular claim. If you elect to pursue your claim in federal court you are first required to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. There are strict deadlines for when you must file this Charge. See Filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC for more information. The KCRA does not require that you file a charge of discrimination with the KCHR before filing suit against your employer in state court. However, it is usually wise to go ahead and file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. This preserves your right to file in federal court should you wish to pursue this avenue later on.
It is important to note that you have not filed suit against your employer when you file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. When you file a charge, the EEOC will investigate the claim, get a response from the employer and gather all the information they can. The EEOC can decide to represent you in a claim against your employer, but they are not required to do so. Most often, due to limited resources, if the EEOC determines that there is evidence of discrimination, they will issue a "Right to Sue" letter. When you receive this letter you will be informed that the EEOC has finished its investigation and is giving you the "right" to pursue your claim against the employer by filing a lawsuit. This letter also includes an important deadline. Once you have received your "right to sue" letter, you will have only 90 days to file a lawsuit against your employer based on those charges in federal court. Failing to file your claim in federal court before the end of that 90 day deadline could bar your claim from ever being litigated.
While you can complete many of these steps without an attorney, it is still important that you contact us as soon as you determine you have a possible employment discrimination or retaliation claim. The experienced employment law attorneys at Miller and Falkner can help guide you through the entire process and help ensure that your charge and claim are filed properly and that they preserve any and all possible claims you may have. Employment law is complex, very case specific and constantly changing. Our employment law attorneys are knowledgeable of recent updates to the law and are well versed in the process for filing a charge and for filing a lawsuit for employment discrimination and retaliation.
Our firm provides representation exclusively to employees in such areas as:
- Employment discrimination
- Affirmative action
- Sexual harassment
- Whistleblower litigation
- Wrongful discharge
- Employment contracts
- Title VII
- Kentucky Civil rights Act of 1964
- Americans With Disabilities Act
- Family Medical Leave Act
- Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification Act
- Federal Employer's Liability Act
- Occupational Safety & Health Act
- Laws governing municipal employment.
Contact an employment law attorney at Miller and Falkner for a free consultation to discuss your claim. Let us put our experience to work for you.