Discrimination in the Workplace: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve been the victim of discrimination in the workplace, the sad truth is you’re not alone. 

One shocking study in 2019 revealed that workplace discrimination is a lot more commonplace than most people think – a staggering 38% of the participants reported that it’s happened to them.

Because every person spends roughly a third of their lives at work, an unhealthy or unsafe workplace can have a dramatic impact on an employee’s health and well-being.

Read on to discover what constitutes workplace discrimination and when to get legal advice from discrimination dispute attorneys.

What is Workplace Discrimination?

Discrimination in the workplace is defined as any unfavorable treatment due to an employee or job applicant’s age, disability, pregnancy, sex, skin color, ethnicity, or religion.

Discriminating against an employee or job applicant for any of the above protected reasons is illegal according to federal law. Furthermore, employees are protected against retaliation when they assert their rights.

According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, religion, color, or national origin when hiring, promoting, discharging, or referring employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these laws.

 The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that any discrimination against LGBTQ employees due to their sexual orientation is unlawful.

How Does Discrimination Differ from Harassment?

Harassment is a form of discrimination.

Harassment includes unwelcome conduct or behavior by managers, co-workers, clients, supervisors – and indeed anyone else present in the workplace – due to color, religion, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, race, or ethnicity. 

The Types of Discrimination in the Workplace

As outlined above, discrimination can be due to many characteristics. However, job applicants and employers may also be discriminated against due to their personal relationships.

For instance, an employer may discriminate against an employee because they have a child or spouse with a disability and they fear that caring for them may affect the employee’s job performance. This kind of unlawful discrimination would fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act – even though the employee is not disabled.

 What is a Hostile Work Environment?

When the harassment and discrimination an employee faces in the workplace affects their performance at work or creates an unpleasant work environment, a hostile work environment is created.

What Qualifies as Harassment and Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination can occur in any aspect of employment.

The discriminatory practice of employers making assumptions about an employee due to their gender, age, and race is unlawful – as is assuming that an employee will not be able to perform their duties due to a disability.

Furthermore, employers may not withhold or retract job opportunities due to the employee or job applicant’s relationship with someone’s religion, ethnicity, or race. Discrimination and harassment based on legally protected personal characteristics (race, age, gender, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, or ethnicity) is also prohibited.

It may be necessary to check a candidate’s criminal background for the safety and security of other employees, customers, and the company. This step can also avoid legal liability for negligent hiring and  minimize other threats. However, employers must be careful when using criminal background checks during the recruitment process to ensure they don’t discriminate against suitable candidates because of their past.

What to Do if You Are Being Discriminated Against in the Workplace

If you feel that you are experiencing discrimination and harassment at work, seek legal counsel immediately.

An experienced lawyer will assess your situation, determine if you have a claim, and advise you on the best way forward.

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