What is Discrimination?
Discrimination may be generally defined as any situation where a person is treated less favorably due to their membership or association with a particular group or characteristic, such as their sex, age, gender, political affiliation, religion, or disability. It can also refer to situations where one group is treated more favorably than another group, again based on certain characteristics or backgrounds
These characteristics or backgrounds are known as “protected classes” under anti-discriminatory laws). They usually include race, religion, sex, age, gender (often including a person’s status as LGBT), political affiliation, nationality, and disability status. Some laws may include other categories as well.
Federal, state, and local laws prohibit certain people from engaging in discriminatory behavior. Most commonly, this includes persons such as employers, landlords, lenders, and other parties. A very common situation involving discrimination is where an employer refuses to hire someone simply based on their race.
What is Discrimination in the Workplace?
Employment discrimination is one of the more common types of discrimination. It can include situations where one group of employees is treated better than another group based on their membership in a protected class.
It can also include other issues such as harassment involving discrimination (for instance, harassing a worker due to their age), termination, or denial of benefits, or other characteristics such as a person’s status as a temporary or seasonal employee.
Federal employment discrimination laws can create various legal consequences for instances of discrimination. Each state also will have its own laws regarding employment discrimination. These can vary by state, so it’s important to check your local laws before deciding what actions to take.
What are Some Other Examples of Discrimination?
Discrimination claims can be based on a wide range of claims and disputes. Some of the more common examples of discrimination include:
There may also be other cases of discrimination based on less common or less-well known characteristics and backgrounds. Many of the have to do with discrimination based on medical conditions. It is generally illegal to discriminate against a person solely because they have a legally-recognized medical condition.
Examples of these types of discrimination include:
- ADHD and ADD discrimination
- Discrimination against the deaf
- Genetic discrimination
- Medical leave discrimination (for instance, firing someone because they took a valid medical leave of absence)
- Pregnancy discrimination (usually covered under Pregnancy Discrimination Act laws)
What are Some Less Well-Known Discrimination Claims?
Besides these, there are still other less well-known discrimination claims, which may include:
- Accent discrimination
- Immigrant discrimination
- LGBT discrimination
- Sex discrimination (especially with regards to grooming and appearance)
- Transsexuality discrimination
- Wage discrimination
Also, some discrimination cases may involve multiple factors. For instance, it is possible for an employer to discriminate against a person because they are of a certain gender and a certain race.
Lastly, there may be some very rare exceptions to discrimination laws. For instance, religious organizations sometimes have a right to discriminate on the basis of religion (namely, excluding potential members based on their religious background).
Do Employees have Rights to a Discrimination-Free Workplace?
All workers have a general right to a discrimination-free workplace. As mentioned, there are many federal, state, and local laws that guarantee workers a right to be free from discrimination in the workplace.
This includes the right to fair pay, benefits such as medical and vacation, and promotions. Employers cannot deny workers these types of benefits if they qualify for them, based on their membership in a protected class. They also cannot terminate employees in a discriminatory fashion.
In particular, federal employment discrimination laws provide strong protections against discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, age, sexual orientation, disabilities, and other categories.
Many federal anti-discrimination laws also create administrative agencies or departments whose role is to investigate discrimination claims, and to provide a suitable remedy. An example of this is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If there is a complaint about discrimination in the workplace, say with regard to age, employees may file a claim with the EEOC. The EEOC will then investigate the claim and determine a suitable remedy (for instance, reinstating an employee to their former position if they were fired based on their age).
Federal and state laws also prohibit employers from retaliation against an employee who has filed a discrimination claim. For example, if an employer files a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, their employer is prohibited from terminating them in retaliation for filing the complaint.
What Solutions can People have if they Faced Discrimination at Work?
As mentioned, one of the main investigatory bodies for discrimination claims is the EEOC. If a person has a work-related discrimination claim, they will usually have to file with the EEOC first before they can file a private civil lawsuit. The EEOC will prescribe a remedy for the person’s discrimination case.
Depending on the exact nature of the case, remedies for employment discrimination may include:
- Being reinstated to a job after being terminated;
- Obtaining a promotion or other benefits that were denied due to discrimination;
- Obtaining a job hire if the person was not hired due to discrimination;
- Payment of lost wages due to not working;
- Requiring the employer and their company to rework their discrimination policies;
- Removing an employer, supervisor, co-worker, or other person who engaged in the discrimination;
- Various other remedies.
Usually, the employee can only file a civil lawsuit if the EEOC remedies were not satisfactory. Note that there may be some federal caps on employment discrimination remedies; there may also be similar state limits on employment discrimination damages.
Also note that employer discrimination laws may also be applicable to other parties, such as supervisors, managers, or even co-workers. However, employers may have some defenses to disability claims that might not always apply to other persons or parties.
What are Some Other (Non-Employment-Related) Types of Discrimination?
Discrimination can exist in various other types of settings besides employment. For instance, one can experience discrimination at a government job, a person can also experience discrimination by the government itself. Another common form of discrimination is in relation to health insurance applications.
Other broad applications of discrimination laws include:
- Discrimination from lenders (redlining)
- Gender and sex discrimination
- Real estate-related discrimination
- “Reverse discrimination”
- Small business discrimination
- Unintentional discrimination
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Discrimination Claim?
Discrimination claims can be complex and typically require the assistance of an attorney. If you are facing any type of discrimination claim, you may need to hire a lawyer in your area. An attorney can provide you with the guidance needed to succeed on a discrimination claim.