How to identify and address employment discrimination

Many workers are regularly subjected to workplace discrimination without even knowing it. When it comes to acts of discrimination, most people take a very narrow view of the matter, envisioning a woman being told during a job interview that women are unsuitable for the advertised position, or an African-American man being forced to tolerate racial slurs while on the job. In reality, however, workplace discrimination is a far more insidious problem, and is often comprised of a number of subtle actions. Workers who are part of a protected class must learn to identify discrimination within the workplace, and how to respond.

What is a protected class?

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, several groups of people are protected from discrimination within the workplace. This means that workers cannot be treated differently based on their inclusion in the following groups. It is important to note that some people could fall into more than one protected class.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Race
  • National Origin
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Pregnancy

According to Title VII, an individual who falls under one of these classifications cannot be treated any differently than any other worker. Discrimination can take many forms, from the application and interview process through termination or retirement from a position. Workers must be alert to the risk of discrimination, and ready to take action if and when necessary. Some of the more common types of discrimination include being passed over for a position in favor of candidates who are not in a protected class, Failing to be properly promoted for position that the worker is fully qualified for, and being given less desirable assignments or work duties based on one or more of the factors listed above. One of the easiest ways to determine whether workplace discrimination is at play is to take note of how all employees are treated within the workplace, and to measure one's own experience against that of other workers who are not in the same protected classes.

What to do if workplace discrimination occurs

The most important thing for workers to do if they suspect that they are being subjected to workplace discrimination is to seek the advice of an attorney who focuses on employment law. It is also important to gather information and evidence to support one's claim. This includes documentation of pay, advertised job openings, the result of any employment reviews and more. Each individual worker will have a unique set of documentation, depending on the employment circumstances. Having that information can help the attorney determine the best course of action to ensure that the discrimination ceases, and that the employee is properly compensated for any losses associated with acts of discrimination.

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