Like all other employers in the United States, small-business owners have the responsibility to comply with federal laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring and employment. A small-business owner might believe ample information on employment law is available in one source, such as a government website or a how-to book for business owners, but the scope of employment law is broad. Therefore, it's important to consult many resources, especially to determine how recent discrimination cases affect your business.


EE stands for Equal Employment. It refers to a body of anti-discrimination legislation that affects employers in the United States.

What Does EE Stand For?

The term "EE" refers to equal employment. Employees in the U.S. are protected under many federal laws, and their rights are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The rights that protect workers are outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.

Equal Employment in Hiring

EE law does not just impact large business organizations and their employees. This body of law protects people who apply for jobs at a small business, as well.

It's important to avoid asking certain kinds of questions on a job application and during an interview to determine whether a person is suitable for employment. For example, it's not appropriate to ask a person to discuss her age, color, national origin, sex, race, creed, religion, disability, military discharge, marital status, maiden name or citizenship status.

You would also not discuss a female applicant's information related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. These are protected under the basis of a person's sex.

Impact on Employment Practices

A small business has the responsibility to examine its own internal practices, not just in hiring employees, but in administering HR programs.

For example, a small business of 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks is subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act specifically governs many aspects of employment, including an employee's compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, which includes employee benefit programs, seniority or merit pay systems and training programs.

However, EE laws in general prohibit discrimination in every aspect of employment.

Compliance is Key

Once an employee is hired and receives her training, benefits or other privileges of employment, she still is protected from discrimination by EE laws. For example, a small-business owner must avoid making decisions about assignment of employees to specific jobs and deciding who gets a promotion based on employees' protected kinds of information.

In a small business, it is possible for employees to feel that they are being discriminated against by the business owner. Therefore, whenever a business owner is not sure about the legality of an employment practice, he has the option to get legal advice from a licensed attorney.