The sad truth about workplace discrimination is that it still occurs, even though it is illegal. Some individuals are even subject to discrimination on the job without realizing it. For this reason, it is vital to understand workplace discrimination and how it may affect you.

Examples of workplace discrimination

When someone is discriminated against at work, it hurts the entire company. However, it also affects the victim’s performance. The anxiety it causes can make it difficult to focus on quality workmanship, which may lead to further repercussions. In some cases, the effects of workplace discrimination even carry over into an individual’s life outside of work and affect everything from interpersonal relationships to physical health.

What Does Workplace Discrimination Mean?

Whether you are going through the hiring process, are a long-time employee of the workplace, or are being fired, discrimination is never acceptable. When an individual is targeted at work due to personal attributes such as sexuality, abilities, ethnicity, religion, age, size, or gender and judged on these factors instead of their professional merits, it is discrimination. This may be intentional or accidental, but it is illegal regardless.

Are There Different Kinds of Workplace Discrimination?

Understanding discrimination on the job begins with knowing the four main categories it may fall into. Those types of discrimination are as follows.

  • Disability discrimination. Employers are required to treat employees with disabilities fairly, providing a non-threatening work environment, equal pay, and equal work opportunities. Disabilities may be psychological or physical, including visual, hearing, and mobility problems.
  • Age discrimination. Individuals who are over the age of forty are included in a protected class that cannot be forced to retire, passed over for a promotion, or fired due to their age. Some employers may assume an individual’s level of ability is diminished due to their age and therefore treat them differently, but this is illegal. No one should be told they are too old to handle their job when they are capable of handling their responsibilities.
  • Gender and sex discrimination. This type of workplace discrimination is very common and may be based on an individual’s identifying gender, sexual orientation, or gender. Parental and pregnancy discrimination also fall under this category. An employer may not discriminate against a parent, whether they are male or female, and may not refuse to hire, promote, or fire anyone simply because they are pregnant.
  • Racial discrimination. Another common type of discrimination that must never be tolerated in the workplace is that which is based on an individual’s country of origin, ethnicity, skin color, or race. Whether this means the employer is creating or tolerating a hostile work environment, refusing to hire or promote an individual, or assigning undesirable work that the individual is overqualified for, any form of racial discrimination is illegal and unacceptable.

How Do You Identify Discrimination?

The best way to know if you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace is to recognize the following examples.

  • Taking desired shifts, or any shift at all from an individual without a valid professional reason
  • Making comments that are inappropriate, based on an employee’s personal attributes
  • Firing an individual based on their personal characteristics
  • Denying a candidate a job or a promotion based on their attributes
  • Showing preference to one individual over another due to characteristics or attributes
  • Denying an employee maternity leave, retirement options, or disability leave
  • Denying certain benefits and compensation to employees
  • Firing an employee because they belong to a protected class

No individual should accept being denied employment, losing out on a promotion, or facing off-color remarks simply because of their personal attributes.

Be Sure to Know Your Protected Attributes as an Employee

Workers are legally entitled to be treated fairly in the workplace based on the following protected attributes.

  • Trade union activity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Race or skin color
  • Pregnancy or potential pregnancy
  • Political opinion
  • Relationship or marital status
  • Gender identity
  • Family responsibilities
  • Intellectual, psychiatric, mental or physical disabilities
  • Country of origin
  • Age

How Can You Prove Workplace Discrimination?

It may seem like a challenge to prove workplace discrimination, but it is not impossible. A skilled workplace discrimination attorney can help you make a case to get the compensation you deserve. When you decide to pursue a discrimination case, however, you must first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is a vital step before you will be able to take your employer to court and should be done as soon as possible.

One of the most important parts of building a case against your employer is to document every incident that applies to your discrimination complaint. This may include any details about situations in which you felt discriminated against, no matter how small they may seem. Be sure to consider text messages and emails, as well as in-person conversations.

One of the best ways to determine the strength of your case is to use the McDonnell-Douglas test. This test is named for a Supreme Court decision and includes four simple questions. If you can answer “yes” to all four, your case may be able to include circumstantial evidence as well as any concrete evidence. The questions are as follows.

  • Are you a member of a protected class?
  • Are you (or were you) qualified for your job position? This includes having the proper credentials and licensing.
  • Did your employer take adverse action against you?
  • Was another individual who is not in your protected class selected to replace you?

Answering these questions is the best way to get started, but you will need to go a step farther if you want to build your case on circumstantial evidence. Consider the following questions to help determine the strength of your case.

  • Did your employer choose other individuals who are not in your protected class to replace you, even though they were not as qualified as you?
  • Did your employer violate company policies in your unfair treatment?
  • Do you have backup statistics for claims of bias toward a specific group?
  • Are there other employees in your protected class who have experienced mistreatment from your employer?
  • Is the concentration of individuals in your protected class significantly less than that of other classes at your job?
  • Have other individuals who belong to your protected class been singled out?
  • Does your employer have a history of bias towards members of your protected class?
  • Was your treatment unjust and egregious?
  • Have managers or supervisors made derogatory remarks specifically directed at members of your protected class?
  • During your employment, were you treated differently than other individuals in similar positions but not in your protected class?

Hire an Attorney You Can Trust

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace and don’t know where to turn, the compassionate attorneys at California Employment Counsel are here to walk you through every step of the process.