Discrimination Law Blog

What Are Some of The Most Common Types of Workplace Discrimination?

Employment discrimination may include biased actions of the employer in preferential hiring, job assignment, promotion, wrongful termination, retaliation, compensation, and various forms of harassment.


Workplace discrimination in any form is illegal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants or employees on the basis of a variety of factors that indicate a legal bias.


Discrimination: Direct and Indirect


When it comes to the workplace, two forms of discrimination exist. The first form is direct liability discrimination, which occurs when an employer engenders an organizational culture of discrimination, right from the top down. Several people will suffer due to such discrimination, and due to this, it can be easier to prove.


The second form of workplace discrimination is vicarious liability discrimination, which is more challenging to prove as there is usually a lack of hard evidence. This type of discrimination tends to take place when one employee is biased towards another employee.


Direct, indirect, intentional, and unintentional-all are forms of discrimination. In addition, it can even occur as a joke or offhand remark that may seem innocent to the perpetrator. There are various signs that you may be facing discrimination. Some common ones include:


Improper Discipline


An employer may discipline or criticize an employee’s work too harshly or unfairly if they are discriminating against them. This can be undertaken to develop a paper trail leading to the employee’s termination. The discriminatory employer may mistakenly believe that this will cover their tracks.


Fixed Roles


In a company that has discriminatory practices, there may be fixed roles at work. For instance, if management only comprises men while women are only in secretarial positions, despite some women being qualified and having applied for a higher position, it could indicate workplace discrimination.


Lack of Diversity


Intentional discrimination could occur if an organization consistently hires individuals of a specific gender, race, sexual orientation, or age, while other people are applying.


Disrespectful Communication


The manner in which a supervisor talks to employees can play a big role in discrimination. If an employee faces constant disparaging comments or offensive jokes, the supervisor could be held liable for discriminatory practices.


Adversely Inconsistent Workload


When discriminating against an employee, an employer may eliminate key responsibilities from their job profile or hand them tasks that are impossible to accomplish. This is usually done to have the employee terminated from the company.


Common Forms of Discrimination in the Workplace – Examples


Discrimination can occur in various guises, as discussed above. Some employees may not even realize that they are facing discrimination as they have dealt with such situations their whole lives. Our experienced attorneys can review your case and advise you on whether you should pursue legal action if you are skeptical about the treatment you are receiving in the workplace.


Some common employment discrimination practices include:


New moms may face workplace discrimination before taking maternity leave or after resuming work. A woman, say, has been working for an organization for over ten years. When she is five months pregnant, this employee applies for a senior position that has just opened up for applications.


While she is more experienced and qualified, she is not chosen for the role. Upon questioning her boss, she is told that they were seeking someone who could be dedicated to the specific position.


People with disabilities are also vulnerable to being discriminated against. Employers must offer accommodations for employees and potential employees with disabilities. For instance, if an employee in a wheelchair can accomplish the same tasks as their coworkers but finds out that they are making less money it could be a case of discrimination.


Prospective job applicants whose ethnic names reveal their cultural background may not hear back for the job despite being well-qualified for the position if the employer engages in discriminatory practices.


A workplace policy or practice applies to every employee, irrespective of color or race. If such policies or practices have an adverse effect on the employment of people of a certain race or color and are not necessary to the functioning of the business, they could be deemed discriminatory and illegal.


For instance, an employment policy of “no-beard” may be applicable to all employees regardless of race, but may still be illegal if it is not job-related and has an adverse effect on the employment of African-American males, who are predisposed to a skin condition that leads to severe shaving bumps.


Disparaging or offensive comments about an individual’s age can comprise harassment. The law does not prohibit friendly teasing, isolated incidents, or offhand comments that are not very serious. Harassment is deemed to be unlawful when it occurs so often or is so severe that it leads to an offensive, tense work environment or leads to a negative result in an employment decision, such as the victim being demoted or fired.


Consult a Skilled Employment Attorney for Legal Advice


The experienced employment lawyers at the law office of Kira Fonteneau have handled countless civil rights violation cases. Our attorneys can guide you on how to file a strong employment claim to hold your employer responsible if you have been discriminated against in the workplace. For a free consultation with an employment law attorney, call today at (205) 564-9005.


Coronavirus Discrimination Concerns in The Workplace

The Covid-19 pandemic has not only disrupted businesses, caused millions of job losses, and forced many employees to work from home, but it has also created unique workplace concerns related to employee discrimination. Many employees are wondering whether their employer is discriminating by asking them to take a reduced pay or laying them off.

Other concerns may relate to their changed work responsibilities and job profile if the employees are now working from home. Some workers may even want to know whether their employer has the right to take their temperature before they step into the workplace or send them back home if any apparent signs of fever or respiratory illness are present.

Guidance for Workers

Whether in normal times or in the present situation of the coronavirus pandemic, your employer usually has the right to send you back home if you present any obvious signs of sickness (not just Covid-19). But in the present situation, your supervisors must exercise restraint and show compassion while following all the necessary CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

If your employer overreacts on finding that you have symptoms of illness, acts in a way that makes you feel humiliated, or singles you out for taking temperature or other preventative steps, they could be committing discriminatory behavior against you.

Employment decisions as well as workplace safety policies and practices must be uniform for all workers, and your employer cannot rely on some generalities to presume that you are at a higher risk of infection than other employees.

The Law Protects Your Rights

Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), certain restrictions have been imposed on employers regarding what questions they can ask with regard to your medical status as an employee. Secondly, under the ADA provisions, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) considers taking a worker’s body temperature to be a “medical exam”.

Your employer is prohibited from requiring you to take a medical exam or asking disability-related questions unless:

  1. The employer can show that the medical exam or inquiry is job-related and consistent with the needs of the business
  2. The employer has a valid reason to believe that the worker poses a “direct threat” to the safety or health of himself or others, which cannot otherwise be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodation

Your employer should apply discretion and analyze each case on its individual merit and make a non-discriminatory decision based on the available information. Even during the national emergency situation of Covid-19, your employer is still subject to all state and federal laws related to workplace discrimination and retaliation against workers.

Your employer may be in violation of these laws, if you believe that they are apply these rules and regulations differently to different classes of workers based on your national origin, race, or other protected classes.

In these situations, it is best to have an experienced workers’ rights lawyer by your side in Alabama. They can provide you the right legal advice and make sure that your rights are fully protected in the current challenging circumstances of coronavirus.

Discrimination against Ethnic Workers during Covid-19

The history of epidemics shows that there could be unwarranted attacks against people belonging to a certain nationality or ethnic origin. This has already happened in recent years in the case of Ebola and Swine Flu (H1N1) pandemics.

If you are an ethnic worker, you need to be vigilant in protecting yourself against any potential workplace harassment, discrimination or retaliation stemming from your employer, supervisor or co-workers. Workers of Asian descent (especially of Chinese origin) are at a particularly high risk to be made scapegoats as if they are individually responsible for causing Covid-19.

There are already calls on social media and elsewhere for boycotting everything Chinese, and discriminatory behavior could also occur at your workplace in Alabama. Your employer has a legal obligation to take the necessary steps to prevent such discriminatory actions at your workplace and take your complaints in this regard with utmost seriousness.

The CDC has already urged people to not show prejudice against individuals of Asian descent in the current fearful environment caused by the novel coronavirus. The CDC says that no one should presume that if someone is of Asian descent, they have a higher likelihood of being a carrier of Covid-19.

Recommendation for Employers

Employers in the current environment should focus on two things to avoid discriminatory actions against their workers: (a) Make sure that you are treating all your workers in the same manner during Covid-19, irrespective of their nationality or ethnic origin; and (b) Make sure that your employees are not indulging in direct or indirect harassment or discrimination against co-workers of Asian descent.

Employers need to make sure that they do not base a decision to remove or bar an employee from the workplace on their ethnicity or nationality. If as an employee, if you find that your employer only quarantining workers of Asian descent or knowingly ignoring hostile workplace conditions against ethnic employees, you should consult with a seasoned workers’ rights attorney in Alabama.

Speak to a Dedicated Workplace Discrimination Lawyer in Alabama

Attorney Kira Fonteneau has successfully represented countless workers in state and federal courts across Alabama. Kira is committed to helping you in your fight against the potential illegal actions of your employer or government misconduct. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 205-564-9005 today.    

What is the Value of My Discrimination Claim?

This is one of the most common questions from those who want to file an employment discrimination claim. Naturally, clients always want to know how much they can expect to recover in damages if they file a claim against their employer. Since each case is unique and is based on a number of specific factors, the short answer to this question is, “it depends”.

Specifically, it depends on factors such as the types and amounts of losses you have suffered, the strength of your case, the capacity of your employer to pay the damages that you are owed, and your risk tolerance.

Before discussing these factors in further detail, it is important to talk about how employment discrimination cases usually work. In most cases, the defendant (i.e., your employer) will bring a motion for summary judgment. Essentially, this is like a motion to dismiss the case, except that it is brought after the discovery phase.

In a motion for summary judgment, the defendant argues that, based on all of the evidence that has been gathered, you do not have a viable case, and therefore the judge should dismiss it without giving you a trial. If the motion is granted, this is basically the end of your claim. And unfortunately, summary judgments are granted in a significant number of employment discrimination cases.

The second thing to keep in mind is that most cases do not go to trial. Usually, a settlement is negotiated between the two parties, and hopefully the plaintiff ends up with a reasonable settlement that reflects full and fair compensation for their losses.

Defendants especially do not like to go to trial, because trials are very risky. Juries are unpredictable, and a defendant could end up having to pay a much larger damage award if the case is litigated.

For this reason, the value of your case goes up significantly if it survives summary judgment, or if the strength of your case convinces the other side that it is likely to survive summary judgment. In such cases, the defendant may be willing to pay a generous sum to avoid the prospect of going to trial.

Now, the risk of going to trial is a two-way street, and this goes back to the plaintiff’s risk tolerance. When you decide to litigate a case, you are rolling the dice. You could end up with a friendly jury that gives you a very large damage award, sometimes even far more than you are asking for. But on the other hand, the jury could find in the defendant’s favor, which means you end up with nothing.

During the process, you will work closely with your attorney to determine which course of action is best for you. For example, sometimes, it is worth it to push forward toward a trial if the other side does not appear to be negotiating in good faith. However, as litigation approaches, the defendant might face up to reality and start making reasonable offers, at which time you will have to decide if you are willing to accept a settlement or go to trial.

What Types of Damages can I Recover from a Discrimination Claim?

The general objective of an employment discrimination claim is to compensate you for your losses and restore you (to the extent which it is possible) to where you would have been had your employer’s misconduct not occurred.

This is accomplished through compensatory damages, which can be grouped into two general categories:

  • Economic Damages: The two types of economic damages that are recoverable from discrimination lawsuits are back pay and front pay. Back pay is the amount you have lost from the time of your employer’s misconduct up to the present. Front pay is the amount you are projected to lose going forward because of the misconduct.
  • Noneconomic Damages: The stress and anxiety of being discriminated against, wrongfully terminated, being out of work, being humiliated, and having your reputation assaulted can take a major emotional toll on those who have to go through this. This is an intangible factor that is difficult to put a price on, but nonetheless, employers are responsible to compensate employees who suffer emotional distress due to their misconduct.

If there is evidence that the employer’s misconduct was willful, reckless or malicious, punitive damages may be awarded over and above those damages that are meant to compensate the harmed employee. Punitive damages are designed to punish the employer for their wrongdoing and help discourage similarly egregious conduct in the future. The threat of punitive damages can add significant value to a discrimination claim.

If you go to trial and win, the defendant may also have to pay reasonable attorney fees over and above your damage award. Litigation is time consuming, and attorneys typically put in hundreds of hours before the trial is over. This can be another strong piece of leverage during negotiations, because in many instances, an employer would rather settle at a premium than risk having to pay legal fees on top of an unpredictable damage award.

Can your Employer Afford to Pay Your Claim?

One final thing to consider in determining the value of a discrimination claim is whether or not your employer has the ability to pay it. If you are bringing a claim against a medium to large-sized organization, this might not be much of an issue. However, if your claim is against a sole proprietor or small business, it could definitely be a factor.

Taking a case to trial and winning a large judgment against a small business might seem satisfying at first, until you realize that they do not have the ability to pay it. This is an issue you will need to discuss with your attorney in deciding whether or not filing a discrimination claim is worth it, and if it is worth it, the best strategy for recovering the maximum amount of damages that is realistic under the circumstances.

Have you Experienced Employment Discrimination in Alabama? Contact Attorney Kira Fonteneau for Assistance

As you can see, the value of a discrimination claim depends on numerous variables, and it must be determined based on the specific circumstances of your case. If you are in Alabama and you believe you have a discrimination case, attorney Kira Fonteneau is here to help. Call our office today at 205-564-9005 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment.

We look forward to serving you!

Rentals & Housing Discrimination: What Kind of Housing Discrimination is Illegal in Alabama?

Under the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, housing discrimination is illegal if it is done based on one of the following:

  • Race or Skin Color: The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on someone’s race or the color of their skin. A generation or two ago, this type of discrimination was out in the open in many states (particularly here in the South), but today, it is much more subtle.
  • National Origin: Discrimination based on a person’s country of origin is also illegal, and landlords cannot ask for proof of citizenship or legal status from applicants of one ethnicity without asking for the same from all other groups.
  • Religion: Housing cannot be refused to someone based on their religious beliefs, and landlords are not allowed to show preference to one religious group over another.
  • Gender: You cannot be denied housing or have special rules imposed on you because you are male or female. Sexual harassment against someone seeking housing is also prohibited under this section of the Act.
  • Familial Status: Some landlords do not like renting to families with children because they fear too much noise or accelerated wear and tear on their properties. Regardless, this type of discrimination is illegal under the Fair Housing Act except in specific circumstances (more on this later). It is also illegal to deny housing to someone who is pregnant under this section of the Act.
  • Disability or Handicap: Housing cannot be denied to individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Examples may include mobility impairments, visual and hearing impairments, and mental illness.

The Fair Housing Act applies not only to landlords, but also to others who work in industries that are connected to the buying, selling, and renting of housing. These include:

  • Real Estate Agents
  • Mortgage Brokers
  • Banks and Other Lenders
  • Insurance Agents
  • Property Managers

Any individual that deals with tenants, homeowners, and those looking to rent or purchase a home are subject to the anti-discrimination laws within the Fair Housing Act. And even if the individual did not personally violate the Act, they may still be liable for any discrimination carried out against a protected class by one of their employees.

Are There any Exemptions to the Fair Housing Act?

There are some properties that are exempted from the Fair Housing Act:

  • If a property qualifies under the law as “senior housing”, they are allowed to rent or sell units only to individuals who meet their specific age requirements;
  • Owner-occupied properties where an owner lives in a building with four or fewer units;
  • An owner of a single-family home if they rent a room or part of their home out without the use of a broker or discriminatory advertising;
  • Private clubs and some housing that is owned by religious organizations.

What Kind of Housing Discrimination is Not Covered by the Fair Housing Act?

There are some legal reasons for discriminating against someone who is looking for housing, which we covered in further detail in this post. Here is a quick recap of some of the types of housing discrimination that are allowed:

  • Income
  • Credit history
  • History of not paying rent
  • Prior bankruptcies
  • Falsified housing applications
  • Pets
  • Some types of criminal convictions

By and large, the reasons listed above for refusing housing are generally considered valid. But the Fair Housing Act is also starting to show its age, and there are some gaps in the law that are becoming more glaring with each passing year. For example, the Act does not address housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status (whether a couple is married is a different question than whether or not they have children).

This means that it is still not illegal to refuse to rent to someone who has a live-in boyfriend/girlfriend if they are not married. And it is also not illegal to refuse to rent to someone who is gay or transgendered. The Fair Housing Act was last amended in 1988 – more than 30 years ago – and it needs to be amended again soon to help ensure that everyone in our society is protected from unfair housing discrimination.

Are You a Victim of Housing Discrimination in Alabama? Find Out your Legal Rights

If you believe you have been discriminated against (when trying to obtain or maintain housing) based on being a member of a protected class, there are some legal recourses that may be available, and this may include monetary damages. If this happened to you in Alabama, call attorney Kira Fonteneau for legal help. Kira will thoroughly assess your case and inform you of your legal rights and options and the next steps to take.

Call our office today at 205-564-9005 or message us online to schedule a free consultation with attorney Fonteneau.

Are There Legal Reasons Why a Landlord Can Reject a Potential Tenant in Alabama?

Tenants (both prospective and current) are legally protected from various forms of discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act. Alabama does not have a state Fair Housing Act, so tenants in the Yellowhammer State must look to the federal Act for protection. Although tenants have protection from certain types of discrimination, there are some legal reasons why a landlord can reject them.

What Types of Discrimination are Prohibited Under the Fair Housing Act?

The federal Fair Housing Act includes prohibitions against housing discrimination on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Skin Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Familial Status
  • Gender
  • Disability (physical or mental)

These groups are known as “protected classes”, and it is illegal for landlords to reject a potential tenant because they are a member of any of these groups. Some examples of illegal practices landlords may engage in include:

  • Targeted advertising that is designed to shut out various groups (e.g., targeting a certain age group, gender, and other demographic information with Facebook ads);
  • Lying about the availability of a rental unit after learning that a potential tenant falls into one of the protected classes;
  • Stating in a rental ad that families with children are not allowed (unless the unit is part of an approved senior living facility);
  • Refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for a tenant that is disabled;
  • Unreasonably raising rent and other fees in order to force a tenant out (based on a protected class);
  • Refusing to make the repairs necessary to provide livable conditions to a member of a protected group.

Tenants have the right to have fair access to housing, and if a landlord engages in any of these or other illegal practices, there are various legal remedies available, depending on the circumstances. The best place to start is to speak with our experienced Alabama discrimination attorney to discuss your legal rights and options.

What are Some Legal Reasons a Landlord Can Reject a Potential Tenant in Alabama?

There are several reasons that a landlord is legally allowed to turn down someone who is applying for housing in Alabama. Here are some of the most common:

  • Inadequate Income: One of the most basic reasons a landlord could legally reject a potential tenant is for inadequate income. Clearly, landlords have the right to expect that their tenants will be able to pay the rent and cover the rest of their bills each month.  Generally, a tenant may be expected to earn at least three times the amount of monthly rent to have their application approved.
  • Unverified Income: Closely related to the first reason is the inability of the landlord to verify how much income the applicant earns. Income is usually verified with pay stubs and W2s, and for self-employed individuals, tax returns. A landlord may also ask for employer references if some of this other information is missing.
  • Falsified Housing Application: Maybe your application shows that you have adequate income and you have that documentation to verify this, but your documents are not real – they have been falsified. If the landlord finds this out, he/she has the right to turn down your application.
  • Pet Prohibitions: It is not uncommon for landlords to have rules regarding pets. Some do not allow pets at all, others allow only certain sizes and breeds, and still others may only allow cats and not dogs. Prohibiting pets is allowed in Alabama except in the case of certain service animals. Landlords must allow guide dogs that assist tenants who are partially or totally blind.
  • Criminal History: Although it may be very unfair, especially if you have a very old criminal conviction, there is no law that prohibits the landlord from denying a tenant because of a criminal history. The one possible exception to this may be a felony conviction for the use of drugs that may fall under the classification of a “mental disability”. In such cases, the discrimination would occur because the applicant is part of a federally protected class.
  • Credit Problems: A landlord is allowed to consider an applicant’s credit history in deciding whether or not to rent to them. Generally, a bankruptcy and/or a credit score of 620 or lower could create problems with your application. You may also have trouble obtaining housing if you have a history of not paying your rent, prior evictions, and doing damage to other units you have rented.

The above are all legal reasons a landlord can reject a potential tenant, but landlords have to be careful that they apply these (and other reasons) equally to everyone. Otherwise, they may find themselves in violation of the Fair Housing Act for once again discriminating against one of the federally protected groups.

Are you a Victim of Housing Discrimination in Alabama? Call Attorney Kira Fonteneau to Review Your Options

If you or someone you know has been denied housing or otherwise discriminated against in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, call our office today at 205-564-9005 to schedule a free consultation and case assessment. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.

Holding Governments Agencies Accountable for Race Discrimination

Each year, tens of thousands of racial discrimination complaints are filed against employers throughout the country. Under federal law, employers with 15 or more employees are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race or any other protected class. Sadly, more than a century and a half after the civil war, minorities still do not receive equal treatment in the workplace.

Race discrimination is not only a problem with private employers. This practice is also widespread within federal, state, and local government agencies. In fact, a study by Government Executive published in 2014 found that over 15,000 complaints were filed against government agencies the previous year, prompting over 10,000 investigations and 8,000 hearings held by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A bit of sad irony about that study was the fact that the EEOC itself had the third highest percentage of discrimination complaints among all government agencies.

Last year, KSDK News St Louis reported on a study that uncovered years of racial discrimination at one particular government agency; the National Geospatial Agency (NGA). The internal study that was ordered by the NGA found that African-American employees had a harder time getting promoted within the agency than their white counterparts.

Carla Greene was an African-American employee who worked at the agency for 8 years. For the first couple of years, she was climbing up the ladder. But after a while, it all stopped. No matter the quality of her work, she noticed that she was not advancing within the agency while many of her coworkers were.

“I would see other equivalent co-workers that started off as the same rank as I did, but then they were somehow promoted into a higher position,” Greene said.

Greene asked for feedback from her supervisors about what she needed to do to be promoted to a new position. She received none. She also noted that others seemed to be receiving unofficial mentoring that she did not have access to.

The agency’s own internal study helps explain why this might have been happening. The study found that NGA supervisors had what is known as an “unconscious bias”. African-American employees received less honest feedback, less training, and fewer networking opportunities. During the past several years, NGA workers have filed dozens of discrimination complaints against the agency.

Unfortunately, the numerous EEOC complaints, investigations, and hearings each year show that the widespread racial discrimination that was occurring at the NGA is far from an isolated incident. Federal, state, and local government agencies need to do far more to clean up the inherent bias that seems to exist within their agencies. And those who have been subjected to race discrimination and other forms of discrimination as government employees should take steps to hold governments accountable for their actions.

Racial Discrimination in Local Government Services

Employment discrimination is not the only area in which government agencies are falling short. Access to public services is another major obstacle in addressing racial inequality. A few years ago, a team of economists conducted an email correspondence study by sending out over 19,000 emails to libraries, school districts, sheriff’s offices, treasurers, county clerks, and job centers throughout the country.

Half of the emails were sent using African-American sounding names (DeShawn Jackson or Tyrone Washington), and the other half with white-sounding names (Greg Walsh or Jake Mueller). The emails requested basic information such as “how do I register my child for school?” or “what hours are you open?”.

The study found that the emails with the African-American sounding names were 13% more likely to go unanswered, and those that were answered were less likely to have a cordial tone. This difference appeared in all regions throughout the country, and it was large enough to conclude that it was statistically unlikely that it happened by pure chance.

Local government agencies play a major role in providing equal access to essential public services such as housing, and employment opportunities. Racial discrimination within these public agencies is clearly a widespread problem that public policy makers need to do far more to address.

Contact Alabama Civil Rights Attorney Kira Fonteneau

Racial discrimination, whether it happens as a government employee or when trying to access essential public services, is illegal. If you believe you have been a victim of race discrimination, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal rights and options. Contact attorney Kira Fonteneau at 205-564-9005 for a free and confidential consultation or send us a message through our online contact form.

What are the Most Common Violations against Tip Earning Employees?

Waiters, waitresses, bartenders, delivery drivers, and many others in the hospitality industry depend on tips for their living. In fact, many tipped employees earn more in tips than they do with their hourly wage. These workers are typically paid no more than minimum wage, and in many cases, establishments pay them below minimum wage.

Federal law and the laws of most states (including Alabama) allow employers to pay tip-earning employees less than the minimum wage, as long as these employees earn enough in tips to at least make up the difference, and as long as the employer is in compliance with the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). When an employer counts an employee’s tips toward its obligation to pay minimum wage, this is known as a “tip credit.” In order to take a tip credit, an employee must earn at least $30 per month in tips.

Although employers are required to be in compliance with federal wage and hour laws, many of them engage in routine violations. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute of the 10 most populous states, wage theft by employers is rampant, and it costs employees billions of dollars each year. Wage theft can come in many forms; such as overtime violations, forcing employees to work off the clock, denying workers meal breaks, taking illegal deductions from wages, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, and many others.

Among tipped employees, there are several ways employers frequently violate the law. Here are some of the most common legal violations against tip earning employees:

Illegal Tip Pooling

Tip pools are common in many establishments. This is when an employee contributes all or part of their tips to a pool that is then divided among a certain group of employees. Federal law allows employers to implement tip pooling whether they pay their employees a full minimum wage or not. However, there are some strict guidelines about who is allowed to participate in the pool. Employers, supervisors, and managers are not allowed to be part of a tip pool under any circumstances.

There is another important distinction between employees who have direct interaction with the customers, and those who work behind the scenes, such as bus boys, dishwashers, and cleaning staff. The FLSA was clarified in 2018 to say that only employers who pay full minimum wage and do not take a tip credit are allowed to establish a tip pool that includes “back house” staff. If you work for an establishment that does not pay a full minimum wage (in lieu of your tips), and they have a tip pool with employees that do not interact with the customers, your employer may be in violation of the FLSA.

Forced Payment for Uniforms

Another area in which employers sometimes engage in violations against tip-earning employees is with their uniform. An employer is not allowed to force an employee to pay for a mandatory uniform. In many establishments, this is pretty straightforward. If you are required to wear a specific uniform that displays the company’s logo, colors, etc., you should not be forced to pay for it. There are some gray areas, however, when it comes to requirements of certain styles of dress that may be required. For example, if the entire wait staff is required to wear a tuxedo with bow ties, and the shirt and ties must be a certain color, this could be considered a uniform.

Over-Deducting for Credit Card Processing Fees

Many employers deduct a percentage of tips an employee receives by credit card to cover the cost of the credit card processing fee. Generally, employers are allowed to do this in most states as long as the amount deducted does not put the employee below the minimum wage, and as long as the employer does not profit from this deduction. Employers who engage in this practice are on very dangerous legal ground, however. This is because of the complexity of credit card processing fees.

With many merchant processing services, an establishment pays the interchange fees for a credit card transaction. These fees may vary from as low as under 1% on most debit cards to as high as 4% for credit cards with rewards programs (such as cash back and airline miles). If, for example, an employer automatically deducted 4% of the tips an employee received through electronic (credit and debit card) transactions, they may very well be illegally profiting from the deduction.

Excessive Non-Tipped Work

Tip-earning employees frequently engage in work that does not earn them tips; such as cleaning tables, sweeping the floor, washing dishes, and many others. If an employee spends more than 20% of their work day performing non-tipped activity, an employer may not take a tip credit for that employee. In addition, employers must pay at least the minimum wage for any non-tip work a tip-earning employee performs.

Contact Alabama Employment Law Attorney Kira Fonteneau

If you are a tipped employee in Alabama and you believe your employer has engaged in wage theft against you, it is important for you to speak with an employment law, so you fully understand your legal rights and options. Attorney Kira Fonteneau has aggressively advocated for working people in Alabama for the past 13 years. Kira was recently named president of the Alabama ACLU, and she has helped numerous workers obtain justice during an employment dispute. For a consultation with attorney Fonteneau, call our office today at 205-564-9005. You may also send us a message through our web contact form.

Alabama Housing Discrimination Lawyer

The Federal Fair Housing Act protects the rights of individuals to obtain access to housing without discrimination. Housing discrimination is also illegal under Alabama law. Building owners, landlords, homeowners, and others involved in the housing industry have an obligation to comply with federal and state fair housing laws. When these laws are violated, legal remedies are available to compel offenders to alter their policies and practices, and in some cases, pay monetary damages to victims of discrimination. If you were denied housing and you believe your civil rights have been violated, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options.

Since 2005, attorney Kira Fonteneau has stood up for individuals who have been denied housing and experienced other types of civil rights violations. Kira understands the frustration individuals go through when they are qualified to rent or purchase a home or apartment, but they are denied that opportunity through no fault of their own. Kira is an aggressive advocate for those who are victims of housing discrimination, and she works tirelessly to obtain appropriate relief for her clients, and to ensure that those responsible for this type of discrimination are held fully accountable.

Free Consultations – Call Now! (205) 564-9005

Housing Discrimination Laws in Alabama

Individuals can be denied housing for legitimate reasons such as inability to qualify for a home loan or inability to pay rent, but federal and state laws prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Skin Color
  • National Origin
  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • Religious Affiliation
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Familial Status
  • Sexual Orientation

Under the Fair Housing Act, discrimination is prohibited in the sale or rental of a home or apartment, obtaining a mortgage, obtaining homeowner insurance, and any other housing-related service. Some examples of housing discrimination may include:

  • Real estate agents or rental managers who steer their clients away from certain neighborhoods based on race or any other protected class;
  • A landlord or rental manager who imposes a “no pets allowed” policy on a disabled person who needs a service animal (e.g., guide dog) to obtain access to the home or apartment they want to live in;
  • A building owner who refuses to make any other type of “reasonable accommodation” (such as a wheelchair ramp) for a prospective tenant with disabilities;
  • A real estate agent or rental manager who uses stall tactics to avoid showing a home or apartment that is for sale or rent;
  • A landlord or homeowner who artificially inflates the rent or price of a home to make it unaffordable to a tenant or discourage a purchase offer;
  • A rental manager who selectively demands that a housing applicant produce a “green card” based on the individual’s accent or ethnicity;
  • A rental manager who fails to respond to an inquiry about an apartment or home for rent, or never gets back to an interested party after they have submitted an application;
  • A bank or mortgage company that refuses to provide financing for a home to a qualified applicant based on race or any other protected class;
  • A bank or mortgage company that imposes less favorable terms and conditions on financing, such as higher interest rates and/or closing costs;
  • An insurance agent or insurance company that refuses to insure a property based on the racial makeup of a neighborhood;
  • A landlord who asks for sexual favors in exchange for approving a rental application, or in exchange for payment of the rent;
  • A landlord who imposes an arbitrary “no kids allowed” policy to prevent an individual with children from renting a home or apartment;
  • A landlord who tries to intimidate a long-term tenant into vacating a property because of their race or another protected class;
  • A landlord who refuses to rent to an individual who has a certain disease or health condition, such as HIV/AIDS.

Housing discrimination can be difficult to detect, because it is usually not done openly. However, there are some signs to look for that may indicate that you are being discriminated against. Here are some phrases that should make you suspicious:

  • “We just rented that apartment to someone else, but thanks for inquiring”
  • “The seller just pulled the listing off the market”
  • “If you have children, you will need to pay an extra security deposit”
  • “I’m not sure if you can afford to live in this neighborhood”
  • “I’m not sure if this neighborhood is for you”
  • “There’s a long waiting list for this apartment, but maybe something can be worked out to move you to the front of the line”

What to Do if you Believe your Right to Fair Housing Has been Violated

If you encounter suspicious treatment by someone in the housing industry, there are some steps you should take to help protect your legal rights:

  • Retain all Communication Records: Keep records of all communication between you and rental managers/landlords, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, insurance agents, and other contacts with parties that are in the housing industry. Note the dates and times of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings and document everything that was said during this communication. Also save copies of all written and electronic communication, such as letters, emails, and text messages.
  • Retain all Available Supporting Documentation: Retain copies of any other records, such as business cards, deposit receipts, and housing applications. You may also want to save any newspaper ads and/or take screenshots of all electronic advertising. This is especially helpful in cases when applicants are told that housing is no longer available, but the provider continues to run public advertising to the contrary.
  • Take Detailed Notes: Write down, in as much detail as possible, everything that has transpired during your experience dealing with a housing provider. It is best to do this while the process is ongoing, so everything is fresh in your mind.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Alabama Housing Discrimination Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been the victim of housing discrimination, attorney Kira Fonteneau is here to stand up for your rights. Kira understands the complexities of state and federal housing laws, and she has a successful track record obtaining justice for each client she serves. To schedule your free consultation with attorney Fonteneau, contact our office today at 205-564-9005. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

HR Employees can be victims of Retaliation, Too

Many employees view Human Resources as the enemy, helping management to carry out unfair or discriminatory policies.  Did you know that Human Resources employees who advocate for employees can be the victims of retaliation themselves?

HR Employees May Help Other Employee Victims of Discrimination

Recently, the Eleventh Circuit decided that Title VII protects HR representatives from retaliation in certain situations.  The Case, Gogel v. Kia MFG. of Georgia, Inc., involved an HR employee who received a complaint from an employee.  The employee reported that she felt another woman was being treated more favorably because of a romantic relationship with a senior manager.   When Gogel reported the complaint through her chain of command, she was discouraged from pursuing it.

Later when Gogel complained about being overlooked for a promotion, she concluded that the reason was her prior advocacy for the employee who complained and gender discrimination.  After Gogel filed her Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, management approached her to sign a document promising not to discuss her charge of discrimination, get other employees to give her information about her Charge, or to encourage other people to file Charges against the company.  Later Kia accused Gogel of working with another employee to further their Charges of Discrimination against the company because they had the same lawyer.  The company decided that the unproven allegation she was helping another employee with her Charge violated her duties as a Human Resources employee and terminated her employment.

The Eleventh Circuit decided that Human Resources employees can help the employees they work with sometimes.  The court explained that Title VII protects HR employees who try to resolve employee complaints internally if the employer fails to respond adequately and the HR employees actions were reasonable.

Get Help Before You Make a Decision

The bottom line is that Human Resources employees should not be afraid to advocate for their employees and not just co-sign unlawful behavior by their employers.  It is, however, a good idea to consult with an attorney to determine whether the course of action you propose to take is protected.  Kira Fonteneau is an employment lawyer with several years of experience helping Alabama employees level the playing field against their employers.  If you think you need to discuss an employment issue, call us at 205-564-9005.

5 Ways to Identify Age Discrimination in the Workplace

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) has been around since 1967. And while this law was a good step in protecting workers from age discrimination, this type of discrimination is still widespread among employers. In today’s workplace, employers do not come right out and say, “you’re too old”. Discrimination is much subtler, making it harder to identify and prove.

How Big a Problem is Age Discrimination?

The ADEA prohibits age discrimination among individuals who are 40 years of age and older, and this type of discrimination is most prevalent among workers between the ages of 45 and 74. Time Magazine reports that among this age group:

  • 20% say they have been turned down for a job because of their age;
  • Two-thirds say they have seen age discrimination occur at their place of employment;
  • 10% say they have been let go, passed over for a promotion, or otherwise denied career advancement because of their age.

Age discrimination is especially common in the tech sector, where the median age is 10 years younger than average of all sectors, which is 42. Here are the median ages at some of the large high-profile tech companies:

  • Google: 30
  • Microsoft: 33
  • Amazon: 30
  • Apple: 31
  • Facebook: 29
  • LinkedIn: 29
  • eBay: 32

Ways Employers Discriminate Against Older Individuals in the Workplace

Ageism can take numerous forms and can often be hard to spot. Here are five ways to identify age discrimination in the workplace:

Being Harassed because of Age

If an employer makes fun of you, calls you names, or makes demeaning remarks because of your age, they may be trying to get you to quit. If an employer wants to get rid of you, they would much rather see you quit than terminate you. Otherwise, they may have to pay unemployment, and they are risking an illegal termination lawsuit. Harassment may not always come in the form of employer remarks; this type of treatment could also come from co-workers. If an employer is not willing to discipline employees who engage in age-related harassment, they are contributing to a hostile work environment.

Receiving an Employee Improvement Plan

Improvement plans are common in today’s workplace for employees that are struggling in certain areas and need some extra guidance to get up to par. Unfortunately, some employers misuse employee improvement plans by using them as a way to harass an employee. If you have had strong employee reviews in the past and suddenly end up on an improvement plan for some nitpicky standard that younger employers in your organization are not held to, this is a strong indication that your employer wants to get rid of you because of your age.

Being Passed Over for a Promotion

As mentioned earlier, about one in 10 older workers have been passed over for a promotion or let go because of age. If you applied for a promotion and it was given to a younger worker who is less qualified than you are, this may be a clear sign of age discrimination in the workplace. Your case is even stronger if there is a pattern at your company of older workers being turned down for promotions in favor of younger workers – with little regard to qualifications for the position.

Being Encouraged to Retire and/or Having your Job “Eliminated”

Many companies offer early retirement packages to older workers. And when a worker turns it down, they often resort to the all-too-common practice of eliminating the position. In a large number of cases, after the position is eliminated, a new position with a different title and similar job description is created and given to a younger worker.

Seeing only Younger Employees Hired

If you start noticing a trend of only younger workers being hired at your company, this may be cause for concern. Many employers today discriminate against older workers during the hiring process by not posting positions in places where seasoned workers are likely to find them, such as newspaper classifieds. Some employers have taken this even further by using algorithms such as those in the Facebook job posting tool to micro-target applicants based on their age, gender, and other factors. An ADEA class action lawsuit was recently filed against T-Mobile, Amazon, and Cox Communication for engaging in this illegal practice.

Contact a Knowledgeable Alabama Age Discrimination Lawyer

Age discrimination is alive and well in today’s workplace. If you are over the age of 40 and believe you have been a victim of ageism, there are legal remedies available. Be sure to retain as much documentation as possible regarding what happened to you and get in touch with an employment discrimination attorney right away.

For almost a decade and a half, attorney Kira Fonteneau has successfully represented clients in Alabama who have been victims of discrimination in the workplace. Kira has extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and what it takes to prevail with these types of cases. For a consultation with attorney Fonteneau, call our office today at 205-564-9005, or send a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.

Types of Discrimination Explained

When a worker is terminated, demoted, or denied a promotion, it is often frustrating and can be quite unexpected. In other situations, there may be obvious and inappropriate reasons for the negative employment action. In Alabama, employment is considered at-will, meaning an employer can take adverse employment actions for just about any reason, so long as the reason does not violate federal law.

If your employer has an unlawful reason for taking actions against you, then you need to call an Alabama employment discrimination lawyer today to protect your rights.

Types of Discrimination


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hears disputes involving various types of discrimination. If you believe that your employer took a negative action against you due to any of the following reasons, you may have a potential discrimination case against the employer.

  • Age: It is unlawful to discriminate based on age in most circumstances.  The Age Discrimination Act protects workers over 40 years of age.  Of course, there are exceptions, such as law enforcement, public safety, and military positions that may have upper age limits. If in doubt, speak to a lawyer right away.
  • Gender: It is illegal to make employment decisions based on gender or gender identity. All workers have a right to be judged on the character and quality of their work and abilities, not their gender.
  • Ethnicity/Race/Color/Nation of Origin: Ethnicity, race, color, and national origin are all different but often overlapping social dynamics. Ethnicity is, to put it simply, a shared social background that often includes a similar language, religion, or ancestry. Ethnicity may not always be obvious on the surface. Race is a social characteristic that is identifiable among a particular group, most notably due to physical features and characteristics. Color is simply skin color. Nation of origin is simply the country from which someone originates. These are often subtle but key distinctions. Nevertheless, all are improper reasons for making hiring, firing, or promotion decisions in the workplace.
  • Genetic information: Genetic discrimination occurs when an employer or even a health insurance company attempts to discriminate based on unique genetic information. This was made unlawful by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (or GINA).
  • Disabilities (mental or physical): Some disabilities are obvious, like amputations, while others are invisible, like depression, ADHD, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Regardless of the disability, this should not be a ground for discrimination in the workplace.
  • Veteran status: There are some who actually view military service negatively or who fear that veterans are somehow less able to perform jobs. This is also unlawful discrimination.
  • Members of the Armed Forces Reserve: Reserve members cannot be treated in a discriminatory manner for attending scheduled drill or otherwise having to miss work to perform military service, including training or deployment.
  • Pregnancy / Parenthood: Being a parent, having a child, and adopting are personal decisions that should not be considered in an employment context.
  • Relationship to a person who has been the victim of discrimination: Employers should not make employment decisions based on the fact that a person’s relative is involved in a claim of discrimination.
  • Reporting or acting as a witness in a discrimination case: Your employer should not discriminate or take adverse actions against you for speaking up and reporting discrimination or acting as a witness in a claim of discrimination against the employer.

Get Help With Your Discrimination Case


If you suspect that you have been the victim of discrimination, or you know someone who has, it is important to contact a lawyer right away. Time is limited to take actions to protect your rights. At Fonteneau & Arnold, LLC, we pride ourselves in aggressively fighting for our clients and counseling them through challenging and complex situations involving wage disputes, sexual harassment, discrimination, and other labor disputes with employers. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and get answers.