Discrimination in the workplace refers to any disparate or preferential treatment of workers based on their membership in protected categories. Under federal and state statutes, these categories usually include the person’s age, race/nationality, sex, gender, religion, disability, and political affiliation. Some states may also include additional categories. 

Discrimination in the workplace is one of the more common employment-related lawsuits, along with harassment and wage-hour disputes. Most discrimination claims are resolved through government agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or state anti-discrimination agencies. These are also called employment discrimination claims.

What Are Some Examples of Discrimination in the Workplace?

Examples of discrimination in the workplace may include:

  • Terminating a worker based solely on their age
  • Denying benefits to one group of workers based on their race or nationality
  • Promoting one group at the expense of another group of workers
  • Unlawfully terminating a person based on their pregnancy or taking family leave
  • Failure to allow a worker to take leave on a recognized religious holiday
  • Forcing one employee to hide tattoos and piercings, but not other employees

There can be many other types of conduct that may be classified as discrimination in the workplace.  These may depend on the laws of each individual state, as they may be different from place to place. 

What Are Some Legal Consequences of Discrimination in the Workplace?

An employer or supervisor can often face legal consequences for conduct that amounts to discrimination in the workplace. These can include:

  • Firing or replacing the employer/supervisor who is responsible for the discriminatory conduct or decision-making
  • Requiring the company to take action in adjusting their work policies
  • Restoring the worker to their previous position, or allowing them access to benefits that they were denied
  • In serious cases, the operating license of the company may be affected.

Filing with the EEOC is usually necessary before the worker can file a private lawsuit against their employer. This is because the EEOC specializes in these types of claims. When filing, it is recommended that the affected employees keep any records or documents that may be used as evidence in the investigation.

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal, and can often be somewhat complicated to prove. You may wish to hire an employment lawyer in your area for help filing a discrimination complaint. Your attorney can review the documents and evidence that will be necessary for succeeding on your claim. Also, your attorney can provide representation during hearings in order to help you obtain the remedy needed for your situation.