Q: I know that most of the federal employment discrimination laws kick in when an employer reaches a certain number of employees. But how do we count that number? Are part-time and temporary employees included in the total?
A: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicates that employers should count everyone who has worked for the employer during at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or previous year. Those 20 weeks don't have to be consecutive, and the individual could have worked full-time or part-time. The EEOC enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII, the Pregnancy Disability Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Some of those same protections also show up in state laws, which may take effect at lower headcounts. For example, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has protections similar to those in the ADA. The definition of a disability under FEHA, however, is even broader, and FEHA applies to any organization with 5 or more employees (compared with the ADA’s 15+). So, if you’re trying to set policy or assess liability related to discrimination, make sure you’ve checked state and local laws as well.
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