Breaking the Bias: How Employment Discrimination Law Protects Workers
Employment discrimination is unacceptable and shouldn’t ever happen. The unfortunate reality is that sometimes it does happen. There are times it happens without someone realizing what they are doing and other times that it is intentional. Whether it’s an accident or not, an employee that experiences discrimination in any way should know what their options are and how the law protects them.
That’s where employment discrimination laws come in. The laws are in place and designed to protect employees from discriminatory actions, unfair treatment, or unequal workplace opportunities. In this comprehensive guide, we will share an overview of the law and what to do if you face discrimination.
What is Employment Discrimination?
The definition of discrimination refers to unjust or prejudiced treatment of a person that doesn’t meet a certain standard. In terms of employment discrimination, it is when any sort of discriminatory action happens to an employee. Discrimination is often thought to be related to skin color or cultural backgrounds, but in the workplace, it is a much broader category.
Any type of discrimination can be related to ethnicity, age, gender, disability, religion, and similar characteristics and this is true of an employer as well. The law is designed to protect employees and prospective employees from biases like these. The intent is to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and given equal opportunity. There are several laws in place that define these things.
Employment discrimination lawyers have experience with cases like these. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you should seek the guidance and support of a lawyer that understands the laws and can help you navigate the legal system.
Common Signs of Employment Discrimination
The challenge of employment discrimination is determining whether it is truly discrimination or whether an individual misinterpreted or perhaps even was extra sensitive. That is why the laws exist, though and there are legal processes to ultimately determine whether discrimination did take place.
There is no ultimate key that tells us if a specific action happened you have been discriminated against. That being said, there are common things that may point to discrimination.
Some of those common signs include:
- Derogatory Jokes
- Comments that are unfair towards a discriminatory purpose
- Unequal pay without certain justification
- Being denied an opportunity in the workplace
- Purposefully exclusion because of race, gender, etc.
- Unfair treatment specific to discriminatory factors
- Showing clear favoritism in the workplace
- Unusual job changes that just don’t make sense
You may notice things that just don’t seem right. When something seems off, don’t just brush it off. There really may be nothing unusual going on, but you don’t know if you don’t check it out in full. You should have the same rights, options, and opportunities that everyone else in your workplace has.
Of course, you also have to consider expertise, training, experience, and qualifications in these scenarios as well. If another person was chosen for a position that has specific qualifications you don’t have, this difference makes sense. Discerning these details may make a difference in whether your case is discriminatory or not.
If you are unsure, but you suspect discrimination, consider consulting with a lawyer to see what their perspective is on your potential case. They may be able to advise you further or give you additional insight as to whether or not you have a case.
Employment Discrimination Law is There to Protect
The law is meant to protect you. We mentioned earlier there are several different laws when it comes to employment discrimination. Each law addresses a different issue. Understanding the basics of these laws and how they protect you will be helpful in determining more for your situation.
Let’s take a look at some of the key protections covered by various laws.
- Civil Rights Act Title VII – Any employer with more than 15 employees is prohibited from discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act – Also known as ADEA, this act protects any employee over the age of 40 from discrimination based on their age. It is applicable to employers with 30+ employees.
- Americans with Disabilities Act – Also known as ADA, this act prevents discrimination in the workplace related to disabilities and providing equal opportunity in the event of a disability and applies to employers with more than 15 employees.
- Equal Pay Act – requires equal pay to be provided for equal work to all employees, no matter of gender
The EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency tasked with enforcing civil rights laws in regards to discrimination. They define what is required, what disclosures must be made, and would be the agency to handle a case should it come to that point. There are other provisional agencies and groups as well.
What to Do If You Have Faced Discrimination
If you suspect discrimination or know that you have been discriminated against, you have options. Don’t just sit by and let discrimination go unnoticed. You need to take action to protect yourself as well as other employees that may be facing similar problems.
Proving discrimination can be complicated, which is where hiring a qualified lawyer with experienced handling discrimination cases is very important. You need to know where to turn and who you can depend on for help.
There are many things you can do on your own as well. Take the time to document any incident that you witness or experience. Documenting right away is the best way to ensure no details get forgotten or left out later. You need to create a record of comments, actions, and any other detail that may be discriminatory. Describe the situation and what happened with facts.
When discrimination occurs, you also need to report it to your Human Resources department. They likely have some sort of process or procedure for handling these reports. They cannot ignore a report like this.
Once you have followed internal protocols, contact the respective government agency to proceed, particularly if you feel your report has not been handled or resolved. Complaints can be made and will be reviewed.
Finally, rely on legal support that can guide you along the way.
Employment discrimination laws were put into place for your protection in the workplace. Every employee has the right to be protected and feel as though their work environment is both fair and inclusive regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and more. If you have faced discrimination, don’t ignore it. Take the steps to protect yourself and make a stand for a positive workplace culture that supports equalities in all ways. Work with a lawyer to determine whether you have a case and to help you through the legalities associated with your experience.