Employment Law in a Nutshell
When applying for a job, what most candidates say they want is a hiring environment free of discrimination.

There are a number of local, state, and federal laws that employers must follow when hiring employees. Generally speaking, these laws prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, age, ethnicity/national origin, disability, or veteran status.

Note: The information in this guide is not intended to provide legal, medical, or financial advice. Here is a brief analysis of some of the most relevant laws for job seekers.

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952
Under this law, employers may only hire candidates who are legally eligible to work in the U.S. (i.e., citizens and U.S. nationals) and aliens authorized to work in the U.S.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964
This law protects applicants from discrimination in hiring. Protection is granted on the basis of the applicant’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), and national origin.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
This law protects job seekers who are 40 years of age — or older — from age discrimination in hiring. However, it is not illegal for an employer to favor an older job applicant over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older. The law also forbids harassment because of age — for example, offensive remarks or repeated jokes about a person’s age. The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local government entities.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
It requires certain employers (including those with federal contracts or subcontracts) to take affirmative action to hire, retain, and promote qualified individuals with disabilities.

Covered disabilities include a wide range of mental and/or physical impairments that “substantially limit or restrict a major life activity,” such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning, or working. In addition, individuals who have recovered from their disabilities may not be discriminated against because of their past medical history.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act
This law forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring. If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered organization must treat her the same way it treats any other temporarily disabled employee.

  • You do not have to disclose your pregnancy to a prospective employer when applying for a position.

Immigration Reform and Control Act
Discrimination on the basis of national origin involves treating applicants unfavorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if they are not).

The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
This protects qualified individuals from discrimination in hiring on the basis of disability. Covered employers must make reasonable accommodations for known physical and/or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual (unless it creates an “undue hardship” on the employer).

The term “qualified” means that you have the skills, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position being sought, and can perform the essential job functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
This protects applicants from discrimination in hiring based on genetic information.

Special Consideration for Veterans in Hiring
Certain companies with federal government contracts or subcontracts are required to

Fair Labor Standards Act
This is relevant for job seekers because it specifies the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour as of July 24, 2009, and has not been changed. You are also entitled to 1.5 times your regular pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek if you work for a covered entity.