Discrimination is a huge problem in American workplaces, and there’s a good chance that you’ve seen it or experienced it yourself. However, some people aren’t totally clear on the definition of discrimination – or when it’s illegal. So what is discrimination, when is it against the law, and what can you do about it? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Discrimination?
Discrimination is unjust or prejudicial treatment. In a legal sense, it’s unjust or prejudicial treatment against other people based on certain characteristics. Generally, workplace discrimination relates to:
When is Discriminating Against the Law?
In answering the question “what is discrimination,” it’s essential to know that it’s not always illegal – and that some things may look like discrimination, but really aren’t. Here’s a closer look at each type of illegal discrimination and how it can appear in the workplace.
|Age||This occurs when an employer uses age as a determining factor in any aspect of employment, including hiring or firing, benefits, job assignments, pay, promotions or training.|
|Disability||Disability discrimination occurs when an employer uses a disability to determine any aspect of employment, even if the disability is only perceived. A disability doesn’t have to be visible or physical for a person to be protected under the law.|
|Genetic information||This type occurs when an employer uses a person’s genetic information – like DNA – to make employment decisions. Even if you disclose your genetic information to your employer, it cannot use that information to make employment decisions.|
|Pregnancy||Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a pregnant person is treated unfavorably or unfairly due to pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to either. Employers cannot make hiring or firing decisions based on pregnancy or childbirth, either.|
|Race or color||This type may be one of the most prevalent in American workplaces. Employers cannot make employment decisions based on a person’s race or skin color, and if an employer finds out it’s happening, it must take action to stop it (and prevent it from happening in the future).|
|Religious||Religious discrimination occurs when an employer uses a person’s religion or religious practices while making employment decisions. Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs.|
|National origin||This type of discrimination occurs when an employer makes employment decisions based on where a person is from. That can mean a specific country or even a certain part of the world. It’s also national origin discrimination if an employer makes employment decisions based on a person’s perceived nationality or ethnicity (even if it’s wrong), or because of the way he or she talks.|
|Sex||Sex discrimination involves sex, gender and sexual preference. Employers can’t use any of these things in making employment decisions.|
Sometimes things look like discrimination when they really aren’t, though. Check out these examples:
- An employer declines to hire someone because he is unavailable to work Sundays because he has band practice.
- An employer fails to promote someone who has a series of bad performance reviews.
- An employer refuses to send an employee to training because she refused to complete the prerequisites for the training.
What Can You Do About Discrimination?
Discriminating against protected classes is illegal in the American workforce, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And even if you don’t see the type of discrimination you’ve experienced here, that doesn’t mean it’s legal. The bottom line is that U.S. laws protect people who belong to certain classes – and employers are not allowed to discriminate against them in any aspect of employment.
If you’ve experienced discrimination, or if you’re still asking yourself, “What is discrimination? Is what I experienced a form of discrimination?” we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-230-8380 to tell us what happened. If it’s easier, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you.