Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces - California Employment Attorney

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces

There are several forms of discrimination that take shape in workplaces all over the country – but what are they, and would you know how to recognize them if you saw them?

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces

The most common forms of discrimination in California workplaces – and across the rest of the country – include:

  • Age discrimination
  • Disability discrimination
  • Sexual orientation discrimination
  • Gender discrimination
  • Religious discrimination
  • National origin discrimination
  • Race and color discrimination

Here’s a closer look at each.

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces - Age Discrimination

Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 prevents employers from discriminating against workers and job applicants who are over the age of 40, as does the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA. Thanks to these two laws, it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person due to age with respect to any term, condition or privilege of employment.

Age discrimination can look like:

  • A supervisor asking when you’re going to retire because you’re getting “old”
  • An employer wanting to hire recent high school graduates because it believes they’ll work for less money
  • An employer firing a person and replacing him or her with someone younger but less-qualified

Related: Age discrimination: What every worker over 40 needs to know

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces - Disability Discrimination

Disability Discrimination

Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits employers from discriminating against persons with disabilities. These laws also require employers to make reasonable accommodations so that a person with disabilities can safely perform the functions of a job.

Disability discrimination can look like:

  • An employer refusing to move a worker’s desk to a location near the elevator or out of a set of cubicles that’s difficult (or impossible) to navigate in a wheelchair
  • An interviewer refusing to hire someone because of a perceived or actual disability
  • A hiring manager asking an applicant to take a medical exam before making a job offer

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces - Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Sexual orientation discrimination is against the law. Employers are not allowed to make any employment decisions – favorable or unfavorable – based on a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation discrimination can look like:

  • A supervisor giving workers of a certain sexual orientation poor performance reviews when workers of other orientations performed the same way and got favorable reviews
  • An employer showing preferential treatment to workers of a certain sexual orientation, such as offering more desirable jobs or additional benefits
  • A supervisor, coworker, client or customer harassing a person of a certain sexual orientation to the point that it creates a hostile work environment

Gender Discrimination

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits gender discrimination in California. This type of discrimination, which can apply to gender, gender identity or gender expression, occurs when an employer treats someone differently because of that person’s gender.

Gender discrimination can look like:

  • An employer offering more money to job applicants of a certain gender
  • A supervisor penalizing a woman for taking time off for childbirth or pregnancy-related conditions
  • A manager promoting one gender over the other because the company wants more people of that gender in leadership positions

Related: Gender discrimination laws in California

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces - Religious Discrimination

Religious Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating against a person because of that person’s religion or religious beliefs. It also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with religious beliefs that may conflict with the performance of a job, such as wearing a specific garment or making time to pray.

Religious discrimination can look like:

  • An interviewer refusing to hire someone because the person belongs to a specific faith
  • An employer refusing to make reasonable accommodations, such as allowing a person to wear a symbol of her religious faith when that symbol is part of the practice of that faith
  • A supervisor denying a worker the opportunity to switch shifts with an equally qualified worker (such as in a restaurant) to avoid working on religious holy days

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces - National Origin Discrimination

National Origin Discrimination

National origin discrimination occurs when an employer discriminates against someone based on that person’s birthplace, ancestry, culture or linguistic characteristics that are common to a specific ethnic group, and it’s against the law. Additionally, ethnic slurs and other verbal conduct are illegal if the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, interferes with the worker’s performance, or negatively impact the worker’s employment opportunities.

National origin discrimination can look like:

  • A coworker consistently mocking a person for characteristics associated with that person’s national origin – particularly to the point where it creates a hostile work environment
  • A supervisor moving an employee from a customer-facing position because of the person’s accent
  • A manager firing a person after alleging that customers don’t like to see people of that person’s ethnicity working in that location

Forms of Discrimination in American Workplaces - Race and Color Discrimination

Race and Color Discrimination

Race and color discrimination is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it still occurs. Race and color discrimination occur when employees and job applicants are treated differently – favorably or unfavorably – based on unalterable characteristics such as physical features related to their race (such as skin color or facial features).

Race and color discrimination can look like:

  • A manager moving a worker to a different location where the person will not interact with customers because of his or her race or features associated with a certain race
  • A supervisor firing a worker due to false stereotypes about a particular race
  • A coworker, supervisor, manager or customer using ethnic or racial slurs that create a hostile work environment

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About One of These Forms of Discrimination?

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, whether as a job applicant or as an employee, we may be able to help you. You can contact us by calling 818-230-8380 or filling out the form below. We’ll be happy to schedule a free consultation with you, so get in touch with us today.


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