Arizona Employment Discrimination Statute

Arizona Employment Discrimination StatuteBoth federal law and state law protect employees against discrimination.  While the federal law is the “floor” of the law, states can add greater protections on top of federal law.  The below blog post discusses Arizona employment law in regards to discrimination.

Arizona Revised Statutes Section 41-1401 codifies the Arizona Civil RIghts Act.  The Act prohibits employment practices which discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age (40 and over), disability, national origin, or genetic test results.

Arizona also protects employees from retaliation by employers who retaliate or attempt to retaliate against employees for complaining or participating in discrimination complaints.

Who is the Act applied to?

The Arizona Civil Rights Act applies to employers that employ 15 or more employees for 20 or more weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.  This includes part-time employees in the calculation.  The Act excludes tax-exempt private membership clubs, the United States federal government, and businesses completely owned by Indian tribes.

Unlawful Employment Acts

The Arizona Civil Rights Act makes a variety of employment practices unlawful if they are used to discriminate against a protected class. These employment acts include:

  • Refuse to hire or discharge an individual or to discriminate against an individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment
  • Discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because he or she has opposed any practice that is unlawful or has made a charge, testified, assisted or participated in any manner to an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the Act (retaliation)
  • Limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants for employment in any way that would deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the individual’s status as an employee

Exceptions or permissible practices

An employer may have a bona fide seniority, merit, or quantity/quality production system.  This means an employer is allowed to apply different standards of compensation or different terms or conditions of privileges pursuant to a bona fide seniority system or merit system.  This is only allowed as long as the employer’s actions are not based the intent to discriminate against a protected class.

An employer is allowed to give an ability test to employees or applicants for employment. The intent of the test or the design must not be based or used to discriminate on the basis of a protected class.

An employer may refuse to hire or employee a person for a position that must be in compliance with any statute or presidential executive order that is for the purpose of national security of the United States.

An employer may use a bona-fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for employees or applicants. A BFOQ quality must be a characteristic that is absolutely essential to performing the job in question and go to the essence of the position. Note that these qualifications tend to be narrowly interpreted. Arizona limits an exception to religion, sex, and national origin.  Race or color is never a BFOQ under the Act.

Discrimination complaints in regards to employment or hiring are serious complaints.  To file a complaint, an individual should consider whether to file a federal claim, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or with the state of Arizona Civil Rights Division.  Remember, the federal law sets the floor for discrimination law.  Each state may provide additional protected classes.  Timing of complaints are important as well, so it is crucial to speak with an attorney and get legal advice on how you should proceed with your claim of employment discrimination.

Click here for FAQs regarding discrimination lawsuits in Arizona.