Wrongful Conduct That Can Be the Basis of a Legal Claim
For most of us, work takes up nearly half of our waking life. When we are treated unfairly on the job, it can spill over into other areas of our existence. Fortunately, there are state and federal laws prohibiting employers many forms of discrimination. Let’s look at some of the most common. First, though, let’s identify what we mean by discrimination.
What Is Workplace Discrimination?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing employee rights, discrimination involves conduct that treats an employee or group of employees differently based on certain characteristics, such as gender, race, age, or religion. Employer conduct that constitutes wrongful workplace discrimination is described in state and federal statutes.
Under established law, you might have a legal claim based on discrimination even if your employer does not actually intend to discriminate against you. Even when an employer does not intend to discriminate against an employee, their actions can be the basis for a lawsuit if the impact or effect of those actions is to wrongfully treat certain individuals differently than others. For example, requiring employees to be a certain height may unlawfully discriminate against women unless there is a valid reason for the requirement.
What Are the Most Common Forms of Workplace Discrimination?
The types of discrimination most commonly investigated by the EEOC include:
- Race, ethnicity, color, or national origin—This type of discrimination denies certain individuals equal access to pay, promotion, benefits, and other work-related perks based primarily on their skin color, culture, or lineage. Such discrimination is banned by Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Disability—Unlawful discrimination may involve denying a person certain work-related opportunities or benefits based on a physical handicap, or it may involve an employer’s refusal to make reasonable accommodations so that a person with disabilities can be gainfully employed. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) addresses this type of discrimination.
- Age— The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits the disparate treatment of workers 40 and older based on their age.
- Sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation—Sex-based discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court of the United States has held that Title VII also protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The federal Equal Pay Act also guarantees women equal compensation for similar employment.
- Pregnancy or parental status—Many employers unlawfully give priority to men over women based on perceptions that fathers will work harder or that women will become pregnant and either take maternity leave or quit their jobs. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans most employment decisions or actions that treat women differently based on pregnancy or the ability to become pregnant.
As a general rule, discrimination in the workplace based on certain factors is prohibited. The most common violations include:
- Discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity or national origin
- Disparate treatment based on sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
- Wrongful treatment based on age
- Discrimination based on a worker’s disability
- Improper treatment based on a person’s parental status or pregnancy