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What is workplace discrimination?

Most people know that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants, but what exactly is workplace discrimination? Workplace discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee or job applicant unfairly based on their race, gender, religion, national origin, disability or age. This discrimination extends beyond just the process of hiring and firing, and includes behavior targeted at people who are currently employed.

Discrimination can take many forms and harassment may also be a form of discrimination. Discrimination may take less obvious forms such as being treated unfairly due to a disability, genetic information, pregnancy or personal relationships.

Imagine a scenario where two equally qualified individuals are applying for a job, both are women in their thirties but one is married and is currently expecting her first child, while the other is single. The job is offered to the single woman because the company did not want to hire a new employee who would be out for maternity leave so soon after being hired. Is this workplace discrimination?

Yes, the law provides that job seekers have the same rights as employees not to be discriminated against, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects both applicants and employees from this type of discrimination. Other examples of workplace discrimination could include excluding potential employees from the recruitment process, denying certain employees equal compensation, benefits or opportunities for advancement.

If you believe you have been a victim of workplace discrimination, it is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against you in any way for filing a complaint about this discrimination. It may be best to start the process by filing a complaint with the EEOC. It is best to consult with an attorney experienced in employment law to assist you with filing any complaints and guide you through the process.

Source: Types of Workplace Discrimination with Examples, Alison Doyle, November 10, 2017.

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