Workplace discrimination is an unfortunate reality that many people still face to this day. But what exactly is workplace discrimination? This is a type of discrimination that happens when an employee or job applicant is treated unpleasantly or unfavorably because of their age, sex, marital status, race, color, national origin, and religion.
This form of discrimination can be done towards any type of employee, from full-time, part-time and casual employees, probationary employees, apprentices and trainees, to individuals employed for fixed periods of time or specific tasks. While a certain level of authority must be instilled between an employer and its employees, you need to be able to identify where the line is drawn between having an authoritative or abusive employer.
Workplace discrimination can come in two types which all employees must watch out for. One example is a direct liability, where the employer is actively engaged in the discrimination being done and promotes a culture of discrimination as a result of his or her actions. This form of discrimination can make the workplace have an unpleasant atmosphere, making it a hostile workplace environment. The other type of workplace discrimination is a vicarious liability. This happens when an employee discriminates against another employee, and the employer turns a blind eye and does not take the necessary actions to penalize this behavior.
What Laws Protect Employees from Workplace Discrimination?
It was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-352) that outlawed the unequal treatment of employees based on superficial traits in the process of employment. Title 7 guaranteed equal opportunity in employment, making it unlawful to discriminate in hiring, discharge, promotion, referral, and other facets of employment on the basis of color, race, religion, sex, or national origin of the applicant.
This act also established and is being enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which has the purpose of promoting equal opportunity in employment through administrative and judicial enforcement of the federal civil rights laws, education, and technical assistance. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), on the other hand, enforces Executive Order 11246, in which federal contractors and subcontractors are required to take affirmative action to guarantee equal employment opportunity to all.
When Does Workplace Discrimination Happen?
Workplace discrimination does not exclusively happen in the middle of employment. It can also occur during the hiring process. There are scenarios when employers refuse to take in a candidate due to the personal attributes or superficial traits of the applicant that are unrelated to the qualifications or requirements of the job. Individuals can also file complaints about workplace discrimination if they are terminated solely because of their personal attributes.
Unlawful workplace discrimination happens when an employer takes a negative action against an applicant or a current employee because of the following attributes:
- Race / Color: Employers may not base workplace or hiring decisions like giving an employee additional work based on his or her race or skin color.
- Sex / Sexual Orientation: This is also known as sexual discrimination. Many women from around the world face the problem of wage gaps between people in the same position just because of their sex and gender. On the other hand, businesses are also not allowed to lower salaries to equalize pay between men and women. Doing so might be grounds for a sexual harassment case.
- Age: An employer may not treat individuals unfairly because of their age. Discriminating against older workers is also against the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, which makes it illegal to discriminate against workers who are over age 40. This means things like employee benefits and apprenticeship programs are supposed to be open to all individuals in a work environment regardless of his or her age.
- Physical or Mental Disability: An employer is mandated by law to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability unless doing so would cause significant expense or difficulty to the employer. They must entertain the person with a disability if he or she is qualified for the job, and if his or her disability will not hinder his or her performance.
- Marital status: An employer may not discriminate on an employee based on his or her marital status or his or her spouse or choice to be single.
- Pregnancy: An employer may not discriminate against women who are pregnant. Pregnancy must be dealt with like any type of nonpermanent illness.
- Religion / Political Opinion: A strictly-professional environment will not tolerate unfair treatment of employees because of his or her religion or political belief. Businesses are required to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees appropriately as long as it does not negatively affect the employer, his or her co-workers, or the workplace.
- Nationality / Social Origin: An employer must treat all employees equal, from hiring considerations to employee benefits, regardless of their nationality and social status.
A Few Examples of Employment Discrimination
Employment discrimination can occur anytime and anywhere and can happen to anyone in the workplace. The following scenarios are just a few examples of how individuals from around the world are experiencing workplace discrimination:
- Preventing particular employees from gaining compensation or benefits because of their race or sexual preference
- Rejecting a job applicant without reviewing his or her credentials and instead based their decision on their appearance
- Blatant selection when it comes to promotions or terminations
- Barring the use of company facilities
- Paying similarly-qualified employees in the same position different salaries
- Stating preferred candidates during the recruitment phase
One needs to know the difference between discrimination and harassment because there is a fine line that separates the two. Discrimination occurs when an employee is not getting the same treatment that his or her colleagues are receiving because of a nonwork-related aspect. This can occur even when the act is not directed to a singular person. Harassment happens when an employee or a group of employees are forced to endure offensive, intimidating, threatening, or humiliating actions due to their personal attributes, making the workplace have a stressful environment.
Know and Fight for Your Rights
Workplace discrimination has been prevalent for as long as the concept of hiring individuals for labor existed. This treatment can result in an employee to underperform and not use the best of his or her abilities, which can adversely affect fellow workers and the whole company.
Fortunately, thanks to the Civil Rights movement, employees are now more protected at work and have more rights in the workplace than ever before. However, despite these rights, most cases go unreported as employees decide to not air their complaints or grievances due to a lack of knowledge of their rights as employees or out of fear of retaliation from their employer.
According to the Washington Post, employees involved in 82 percent of work discrimination cases do not receive any form of compensation or relief from the party at fault. Relief from employment discrimination can mean monetary compensation, either through a settlement or court action, or a change in work conditions.
It is never easy to assert these rights with your employer due to the fear of being retaliated against. If you think you have a strong case against your employer, do not hesitate to hire an experienced workplace discrimination attorney to guide you in what is going to be a tough time ahead. Having a competent workplace discrimination attorney by your side not only will ensure that you get the compensation you deserve but also makes sure this form of discrimination stops happening in your workplace.