A Guide to the Different Kinds of Employee Discrimination

Diversity in the workplace is rising as many companies seek to offer an equal opportunity environment. Despite this, employment discrimination cases are on the rise, stemming from a variety of reasons.

How do you know you are a victim of employment discrimination? There are many types out there, and understanding the differences may help your case if you feel you are being targeted.

Related: Things You Need to Consider While Hiring an Employee

Race and Color

Racial discrimination is prevalent in society as a whole, as well as the workplace. In fact, it’s so common that more than one-third of claims submitted to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission are based on racial discrimination. One study found that this discrimination cost the economy $16 trillion over the past 20 years.

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Race discrimination is defined as unfair treatment of an applicant or employee due to race or characteristics linked to race, such as facial features or hair texture. Color discrimination is the unfair treatment of an applicant or employee due to the color of their complexion.

Age

According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, age discrimination against people 40 or older is illegal.

Some instances are more apparent, such as being passed over for a job in favor of a younger person or harassment while employed by younger workers, such as pressure to resign or retire.

Oftentimes an employment policy or practice appears to apply to people of all ages, but it negatively affects an applicant or employee 40 or older, making it illegal. 

Gender and Sexual Orientation

Discrimination against a person on the basis of gender identity, including transgender status, or sexual orientation is illegal. People may be employed and not trained for leadership positions or in ways to enhance their skills, they are not promoted, or are paid less. The pandemic has driven gender discrimination up, as studies show that women are more likely to be furloughed or fired than men, and many women felt pressured to take care of children during school closures due to their making less money than their partners.

Pregnancy

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits negative treatment of a job applicant or employee because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to either pregnancy or childbirth. This can happen when a woman who is already pregnant or even expresses the plan to become pregnant is passed over for hiring. Employers may also seek out excuses to discipline or fire employees upon learning they are expecting a child.

This type of discrimination can also go beyond the baby’s birth: Some new mothers may be harassed over breastfeeding or pumping needs and accommodations in the workplace.

Disability

The Americans with Disabilities Act limits employers from asking a job applicant disability-related questions, requesting a medical exam, or identifying their disability. However, once an employee is actively working, the employer can ask disability-related questions or request a medical exam to support an employee’s request for reasonable accommodation.

Religious

The law requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so is more than a “minimal burden.” An employee also cannot be coerced into participating or not participating in a religious activity as a condition of their employment. 

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