What Can Be Considered Discrimination At Work

Jun 17, 2019 by

Discrimination is a term that’s thrown around quite a bit, but few people understand what it means. Even if you are not a discrimination attorney, it’s important that you have at least a basic understanding of what discrimination looks like in the workplace. These actions can take many different forms, but they all have a chilling effect on the ability of certain individuals to participate in the workplace. Below is some of the information that West Coast Employment Lawyers want you to know about discrimination in the workplace.

Direct and Indirect

For all the talk of discrimination, it’s best to start with defining how it can occur in general before talking about how it occurs in specific circumstances. A good discrimination lawyer will always point out that typical cases of discrimination take one of two forms – direct and indirect.

When most people think of discrimination, they think about direct discrimination. Though this might be the type of case that most think they need to consult an employment attorney about, it’s not always the most common. Direct discrimination is the type of discrimination in which a person treats a member of a protected class in an unfair manner. This might be due to many different reasons, but it’s the type of discrimination that is most easy to spot.

Indirect discrimination is much harder to see, but it’s something for which you might need to consult a discrimination attorney. Indirect discrimination doesn’t necessarily look like discrimination at first – it can be a policy that is, at least in a broad reading, meant to apply to everyone. When you look more closely, the policy seems to have a deleterious effect only on members of protected classes. As you might expect, this is the type of harassment that generally needs the help of an employment attorney to fight.

Specific Types of Discrimination in the Workplace

While it’s good to know the shapes that discrimination can take in general, it’s also helpful to know the specific types of employment that occur in the workplace. Though these categories are still evolving, the goal of most discrimination laws is to ensure that those in weaker social positions are not treated unfairly by those who have more power. Below are a handful of examples of what discrimination can look like in the workplace.

Gender Discrimination

Gender is a protected class in the American workplace. Gender discrimination happens when an employer or manager makes decisions in the workplace that are meant to keep out or to unfairly disadvantage members of that class. The typical example of gender discrimination comes in the form of salary discrimination, in which case women tend to be paid significantly less than men in equal positions and who have equal qualifications.

A good employment lawyer will note that discrimination can also occur in an active sense when employers refuse to employ one gender or another at all. While most discrimination suits have historically concerned women, gender discrimination can also occur towards men. Favoring or punishing one gender over the other simply is not legal and thus is considered harassment under the law.

Pregnancy discrimination can be a subset of gender discrimination. When this occurs, employers will either refuse to hire pregnant individuals or may fire individuals because they are pregnant. Employers may also commit this type of infraction when they penalize employees for taking guaranteed time off, or if they refuse to allow the employee to come back to their own job (or an equivalent) when maternity leave is over.

Age Discrimination

Age is another one of the protected classes in the American workplace, but it’s one that tends to be closely tied to economics. Generally speaking, older workers get targeted for discrimination when they have been working for a company long enough to gain significant benefits or to take up a higher proportion of the payroll. As such, protections have been put in place so that individuals aren’t punished for long careers.

Age discrimination also occurs during the hiring process. The average employment lawyer can point to any number of cases in which companies will not hire qualified candidates solely due to age. Unless there are demonstrable physical requirements that an individual is unable to personally meet, the courts have held that refusing to hire a person over fifty-five can also count as age discrimination.

Race Discrimination

Racial discrimination is perhaps the type of discrimination that comes to mind when most people think of this problem. In cases of racial discrimination, the most commonly cited incidents are those in which a business owner or hiring representative refuse to hire based on the racial background of a particular candidate. These cases are particularly common in many industries and are especially notable when a lack of diversity is part of the company’s culture.

With that said, racial discrimination can just as easily happen within a company. Policies might be put in place to stop certain individuals from taking on specific roles or being promoted. There may even be workplace rules in place that unfairly target characteristics that are associated with certain ethnicities. As always, a good discrimination lawyer is usually needed to point out exactly why these policies are frowned upon.

Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination is very similar to other types of discrimination. In many cases, employers will either refuse to hire people unless they belong to a specific religion or the employer may even require that individuals observe specific religious traditions in order to advance within the company. Policies can play a huge role in religious discrimination as well, as employers who refuse to make reasonable accommodations for the religious beliefs of their employees are often found to be in violation of various employment laws.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is generally considered to be an unwelcome action of a sexual nature. These actions can make individuals feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or even fearful for their jobs, and thus claims are expected to be taken very seriously. Sexual harassment claims are not limited by gender, and they can occur in many different situations. Harassment can happen due to actions or words, and companies are expected to take action to ensure that they do not develop atmospheres in which harassment is tolerated.

Retaliatory Discrimination

Retaliation is a subset of discrimination. In this case, employees are punished for reporting incidents of harassment to management. They might find their schedules changed, their hours reduced or even re-assigned to new areas to silence them and to force them out of the company. Businesses that retaliate against employees for following proper procedures are guilty of harassment and should have the full weight of the law brought against them.

Discrimination can come in more forms than you might assume. If a business takes any type of action to exclude or harm a member of a protected class, it’s good to consider consulting West Coast Employment Lawyers. Though not every case that seems like discrimination might be discriminatory, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional to determine whether a company has acted in a manner that’s against the law.

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