5 Forms of Employment Discrimination You Should Be Aware Of

July 12, 2021

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You may already know some types of discrimination, especially in the context of employment: discrimination on the basis of race, age, and sex, which are all illegal in the United States. But there are five other forms of employment discrimination that – whether you are an employer or employee – you should be aware of. Employment discrimination can appear in many different forms, some of which are very subtle. Identifying employment discrimination can help you establish a case for wrongful termination, which you can read more about here.

Disability Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides a wide range of protections for individuals with disabilities, but specifically prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a nearly all-encompassing range of employment practices, from the job application procedure, to hiring, training, advancement, and more. In fact, it is even illegal to discriminate on the basis of a perceived disability.

In the workplace, disability discrimination can be more obvious (like in the form of harassment), or it can be insidious. Failure to accommodate reasonable requests for an accommodation are another example of workplace disability discrimination. When it comes to physical disabilities, failure to accommodate a disability may be more obvious; when it comes to cognitive disabilities (or disabilities that are not easily apparent to others), failure to accommodate reasonable requests is illegal.   

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are violations of the Civil Rights Act (this was recently confirmed in the Bostock v. Clayton County Supreme Court decision of 2020).

In the workplace, sexual orientation discrimination can look like using someone’s sexual orientation as the subject of a joke or ridicule, receiving unequal pay, or receiving poor work assignments.

Gender identity discrimination can look like an employer firing an employee because the employee was assigned male at birth but uses feminine pronouns and identifies as female. It can also look like one coworker refusing to refer to another coworker by the correct pronouns.

The victim of discrimination does not have to be the person being harassed – it can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. For example, if an openly gay or transgender coworker is being harassed at work, but the harassment causes another coworker to feel unsafe or unwelcome, both coworkers could have a claim for discrimination in the workplace.

Pregnancy and Status as a Parent Discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on pregnancy. This can look like refusing to hire an applicant because of an ongoing pregnancy or perceived likelihood of pregnancy, firing an employee for becoming pregnant, or harassing an employee for a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Pregnancy discrimination can sometimes be well-intentioned; if an employer, on their own accord, reassigns to a pregnancy employee to a less stressful or physically-demanding job merely because that employee is pregnant, that is workplace discrimination.

Executive Order 13152 prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s status as a parent. This executive order extends beyond biological parents to adoptive parents, foster parents, step-parents, legal custodians, and those actively seeking legal custody or adoption (but are not yet parents themselves). Discrimination based on one’s status as a parent is often closely entwined with sex discrimination. For example, if a male employee requests leave to care for his son, but the employer denies that request by suggesting that the employee’s wife can handle that care, this would be sex discrimination because of the employer’s perception that women (and not men) are the proper caregivers for children.

National Origin Discrimination

Most people are familiar with race discrimination, but national origin discrimination can also occur in the workplace. National origin discrimination occurs when an employer makes employment decisions based on an individual’s ancestry, ethnicity, birthplace, or traits linked to ethnicity (such as accent, cultural identity, and so on).

Discrimination on the basis of national origin can manifest in a number of ways in the workplace. For example, if a Vietnamese restaurant only hires people with Asian features and names to wait on customers, that can be an example of national origin discrimination – but it may also closely align with race discrimination. Some forms of national origin discrimination may only be illegal depending on the facts surrounding the circumstances. For example, if an employer transfers an employee with a heavy accent to a position that minimizes customer contact, that would be national origin discrimination, but would be legitimate if customers complained that they could not understand the employee.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, which is protected under the Civil Rights Act. Sexual harassment can manifest as a hostile work environment – like unlawful or inappropriate touching, sexual advances, or sexually charged comments that interferes with a person’s ability to do his or her job. It can also manifest as quid pro quo harassment, where employers offer an employment benefit in exchange for a sexual favor. 

Contact an Attorney Today

The attorneys at B|B Law Group have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate an employment discrimination claim. Our attorneys can help ensure that your legal interests are protected. Contact the B|B Law Group to schedule a consultation today!

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