In an ideal world, everyone feels safe, respected, and equally valued in their workplace. This isn’t always the case in the real world, and workplace discrimination can severely impact an employee’s ability to work. More importantly, it affects their physical and mental health. It is up to business owners, employers, supervisors, and other higher-ups to evaluate the workplace environment constantly and ensure it is safe and fair. To aid that process, let’s review the different types of discrimination in the workplace and how they may appear in a work environment.
Discrimination is the act of treating someone unfairly or unfavorably based on a characteristic they possess that belongs to a protected class. This includes race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy status, disability, age, and/or genetic information. Many different kinds of discrimination and discriminatory acts occur in the workforce. While they are all equally harmful and egregious, some occur more often than others. Below are some of the most common types of discrimination that occur in the workplace.
When someone is discriminated against based on their ethnic origin, skin color, or race, it falls under the category of race discrimination. The original goal of Title VII was to protect employees from discrimination, with the outlawing of racial discrimination being the main goal of its origin. However, this has been a double-edged sword. While race discrimination in the workplace has become less overt, callous individuals attempt to disguise their racism, making it harder to spot. What does this look like?
In the workplace, race discrimination may appear as offensive comments under the guise of jokes and stereotyping. However, it can also appear as groups of people of a similar race, color, or ethnic background being passed over for promotions or praise who are perfectly qualified. If something seems like a pattern, it probably is.
The Age Discrimination Act outlaws age discrimination against people 40 or older. Age discrimination is one of the most common forms of workplace discrimination, as many ageist beliefs and practices are widely accepted. Employers and business owners alike may avoid hiring older workers because they believe these workers are too inflexible or can’t learn new skills. Fortunately, spotting age discrimination is rather simple when you know what to look for.
New learning opportunities and promotions are offered to younger workers instead of older ones, even if the older worker is qualified. They may also be overlooked for challenging assignments, especially ones that involve new technology. This can appear as a pressure to retire.
Disability discrimination can get tricky, as employers may use a bona fide occupation qualification (BFOQ) as an excuse for their discrimination. BFOQ allows employers to legally discriminate against certain workers if there is reason to believe their protected characteristic impedes them from doing an essential part of their job. For example, if the job requires you to lift 50 lbs. every day, and you don’t have the ability to do so, the employer may not hire you or bar you from doing certain jobs. It’s easy to see how this can quickly turn into cases of unlawful disability discrimination.
If you’re unsure if what you’ve witnessed qualifies as workplace discrimination or need help protecting your employees and your business, contact Northern Legal today. We’ll connect you with one of our experienced and dedicated business attorneys to provide you with the professional legal counsel you need and deserve.