The 8 Most Common Forms of Workplace Discrimination

Even though discrimination in the workplace has been illegal for decades, it still happens. The only way to stop workplace discrimination is to speak up about these incidents, bring lawsuits, and shine a light on discriminatory practices. Most companies care about the bottom line—and they will only stop discriminating when big verdicts and settlements make discrimination too costly to permit. Below is a guide to the most common types of workplace discrimination and how to spot them.

1. Race Discrimination

It is no secret that racial discrimination exists both in society and in the workplace. Racial discrimination is so common that more than a third, of claims to the EEOC each year are based on racial discrimination. Certain minority groups are often passed over at all stages of the employment process—they aren’t hired, they aren’t mentored, they aren’t promoted, they’re subjected to coded and unfair scrutiny, and then, in some cases, they’re wrongfully terminated (especially when they complain about it). One study found that this discrimination cost the US economy $16 trillion over the past 20 years.

Even though the Civil Rights Act has protected minorities from race discrimination since the 1960s, race-based discrimination still is a major factor in the modern workplace, as we’ve written about before.

2. Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination has become one of the most common forms of discrimination claims made before the EEOC. For example, in 2019, a third of all discrimination claims alleged disability discrimination or failure to accommodate a disability. This kind of discrimination can take the form of assumptions about a disabled person’s ability to do the job, outright hostility, or unfair policies (for instance, so-called “no-fault attendance policies”) that have a disparate impact on disabled workers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has protected workers with disabilities for over 20 years, and California law provides even more robust protections for disabled workers.

3. Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination is discrimination against expecting or new mothers. Some employers refuse to hire a woman if she plans to become pregnant or is already pregnant. Other employers make excuses to discipline or terminate employees when they learn they are pregnant. Employers also “eliminate” positions while a pregnant employee is on leave or deny them leave altogether. Sometimes, employers aren’t aware of their obligation to provide leave or retaliate against women for exercising the right to leave.

Pregnancy discrimination can also take the form of discrimination against new mothers who return to work and need accommodations to breastfeed or pump. New mothers have the right to these accommodations.

No woman should have to choose between their job and their children, and the law doesn’t require you to: you have the right to a workplace free of discrimination and retaliation.

4. Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination occurs when you are treated differently because of your gender, and the evidence shows that it’s rampant in the workforce. Gender discrimination takes many forms: it can be failure to hire, but more often, women aren’t trained for leadership, they aren’t promoted, they are sidelined when they have kids, they’re paid less, or they are penalized for being “aggressive” or “persistent”—traits that most managers love in their male employees. To see that gender discrimination is alive and well, one only has to look at the country’s biggest companies to see that less than 5% of their CEOs are women.

Gender discrimination is likely to be an even bigger problem going forward. A study shows that women, especially women of color, were more likely than men to be furloughed or fired during the pandemic. Other women felt pressured to step back from work to take care of their children during school closures because they make less than their partners—a problem that is in part due to the wage gap and the fact that women are often underpaid for the same work.

5. Age Discrimination

Age discrimination—discrimination against someone over 40 years old—is one of the fastest-growing examples of discrimination in the workplace today. Each year, more and more age discrimination charges are filed with the EEOC as the “baby boomer” generation ages and faces financial insecurity into retirement.

Age discrimination has a few common patterns. First, it’s much harder for older job-seekers to get hired; they have to apply for more jobs and are typically unemployed for longer than younger workers. They also face harassment from younger bosses and pressure to resign or retire. They’re also wrongfully terminated: statistics show that more than half of workers over 50 lose a longtime job before they’re ready to retire.

6. Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Discriminating someone due to their sexual orientation or gender identity should never be tolerated in the workplace, yet it still occurs. We hear from clients who are harassed for their sexual orientation, who are made to feel unsafe at work, and whose supervisors deny them promotions because of who they are.

7. Religious Discrimination

It’s also illegal under both state and federal law to discriminate against someone for their religious beliefs. This kind of discrimination often takes the form of harassment at work about your beliefs, retaliation for taking off religious holidays or for observances, or “hiding” an employee from public-facing roles due to religious clothing.

8. Parental Status Discrimination

It is common knowledge that employers can’t ask an applicant about their marital status or if they have children. You might be surprised to learn that discrimination based on parental status isn’t actually illegal! However, parental status discrimination often violates other anti-discrimination laws—for example, an employer might think women with kids don’t prioritize work, but men with kids are likely to work harder. Similarly, an employer might think it’s fine for a woman to take maternity leave, but penalize a man for taking baby bonding leave. Both of these prejudices are based on gendered assumptions about what “mothers should do” versus what “fathers should do,” and both could support a discrimination claim.

Discrimination against parents is increasingly common during the pandemic, as those with childcare obligations may have to work different schedules or need other accommodations.

Contact Our Los Angeles Employment Law Attorneys Today

Hostile work environments are illegal. They also prevent employees from performing well and hurt employers by forcing talented, dedicated workers out of the workforce or the company. With compassionate and personalized services, we have the experience you need to help protect your rights and gain justice for the wrongdoing against you.

If you have experienced discrimination at your job, do not hesitate to contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 214-3757 to schedule a free consultation!

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