As an employee, it’s essential to know one’s rights. As an employer, it’s important to see the danger of not respecting those rights. Not only is workplace discrimination ethically wrong, but as any economics damages expert knows, it can also be very, very expensive.
Nevertheless, workplace discrimination comes in many different forms, some readily apparent and simply dealt with, others more subtle and ingrained within existing power structures. Here are some things everyone should know.
Discrimination Or Harassment
The terms “discrimination” and “harassment” are not interchangeable. However, harassment is classified as a form of discrimination. It constitutes unwelcome behavior from an employer or fellow employee that creates a hostile work environment, i.e., an environment that makes it difficult for one or more employees to function normally and without offense.
A Short History Lesson
- In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act made it illegal for employers to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
- In 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act expanded anti-discrimination measures to include protections for workers aged 40 and over.
- In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act further expanded anti-discrimination measures to include protections for women who are or who become pregnant, or who are otherwise affected by childbirth or related conditions.
- In 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act expanded anti-discrimination measures again to include protections for individuals with both temporary and permanent disabilities.
- In 2009, Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act expanded anti-discrimination measures yet again to include protections for all other forms of genetic information, including family medical history.
- It has also been made illegal to discriminate against friends and relatives of those who have been discriminated against and to retaliate against those who have filed discrimination complaints.
Examples Of Discrimination
- By law, an employer may not make assumptions based on race, gender, or age-related stereotypes.
- An employer may not assume that any employee is incapable solely because he or she is disabled, and must be willing to make reasonable accommodation for disabled employees, so long as said accommodations do not create excessive negative consequences for the employer or other employees.
- No company may withhold employment opportunities from someone based on any protected traits. This includes stating preferences or biased towards one group or another in job listings, as well as excluding potential employees for these reasons during recruitment.
- Employers must provide the same salary and benefits to all equally qualified employees of equivalent positions. Additionally, employers may not lower the salary for one gender group to equalize pay with another gender group.
- All employees have the right to an environment free of unwanted sexual or romantic overtures.
- Employers must make accommodations for an employee’s religious beliefs, so long as said accommodations do not create excessive negative consequences for the employer or other employees, such as making reasonable allowances for religiously mandated hairstyles or clothing, the observance of religious holidays, and for personal prayer.
- When determining layoffs, bonuses, or promotions, employers may not use any of the protected traits as a rationale for their determinations.
- Employers must treat pregnancy the same way they would treat a temporary illness or any other non-permanent condition necessitating special treatment. Women who become pregnant must be granted adequate maternity leave and be reinstated to their previous position when returning, or one comparable
What You Can Do About It
If you believe that you or someone you know has been a victim of workplace discrimination, it is essential to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission as soon as possible. In most cases, complaints must be filed within 180 days of the incident.
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