Sapphire Legal discusses the most common types of workplace discrimination.

What Are the Most Common Types of Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination is much more common than we would like to believe, and certain types of discrimination are more prevalent than others. You may have observed examples of employment discrimination where you work or you may have experienced it yourself. Though both federal and state laws prohibit this misconduct, too many companies get away with it because: [1] they are able to hide behind statutes allowing “at-will” termination, [2] they use another reason to discipline or terminate an employee (“pretext”), and [3] employees are fearful they will lose their jobs if they complain to the company or to government agencies. 

If you are dealing with employment discrimination, you need a first-rate employment discrimination attorney to provide you with guidance while you are still employed and to give you options to make it stop. If you are no longer employed, an attorney may be able to assist you in obtaining compensation for the illegal discrimination you experienced, including reinstatement, lost wages, emotional distress damages and your attorney’s fees and costs. Additionally, an employment attorney can assist you in obtaining unemployment benefits, as well as provide information for other resources that may help defray the financial impact of your wrongful termination. 

At-Will Laws Do Not Allow Workplace Discrimination

Although most states have policies that permit employers to fire you for any reason or no reason at all, employees are still protected by federal and state anti-discrimination laws. This means that although you can be fired for the pettiest of reasons or for no reason at all, by law you cannot be fired for reasons associated with your protected status, such as age, gender, race, religion, etc.

Which types of workplace discrimination are most common?

The following are the most common types of discrimination in the workplace.

1. Retaliation Discrimination

Retaliation Discrimination is far and away the most common type of discrimination. This explains why employees are so often reticent to complain about mistreatment whether it involves wage and hour disparity, lack of promotion, unpleasant environment, bullying or harassment. Most employees believe that the human resources department is there to help employees and are shocked to later find out that human resources is involved in the later retaliation of them. The human resources personnel work for the employer and therefore, should not be trusted. When you fear that reporting unfair treatment will expose you to retaliation, it is important for you to contact an employment discrimination lawyer to support you. 

2. Racial Discrimination

Racial Discrimination is, tragically, alive and well in the United States. In the present political climate, it is rearing its ugly head more frequently and more blatantly. Those who discriminate at work, aware that they are breaking the law, typically do so subtly. Thus, a particular company may hire a “token” person of color but never give that person the respect he or she deserves—not giving earned bonuses or promotions, for example, or not including the individual in meetings. Shamefully, more than three-quarters of African and Asian Americans report experiencing discrimination, as do more than half of Hispanics. Discrimination at work should not be tolerated and should be reported. 

3. Disability Discrimination

Even though most people voice support for treating those with disabilities equally, disabled individuals generally find it more difficult to get jobs and often experience discrimination in the workplace. Though very rarely does a disabled individual apply for a job for which her disability disqualifies her, employers are frequently unwilling to make the small accommodations necessary if they hire someone who is mobility- or hearing-impaired. Employers also feel that having a disabled employee doesn’t fit their image — a cruel and incorrect assumption.

4. Sexual Discrimination (Sexism)

A hundred years ago, women were not allowed to vote; less than a decade ago, gay marriage was not legal anywhere in this country. Even though there has been a great deal of progress in the area of sexual discrimination, for most workers this is still an uphill battle. Female and LGBTQ individuals are still harassed in too many workplaces and the wage disparity between women and men remains a serious issue.

5. Age Discrimination (Ageism)

With longer lifespans, many seniors are not only able to work, but eager to do so. Unfortunately, many employers, particularly those involved in tech industries, practice ageism without even being aware of it. They often assume that people over a certain age, regardless of their credentials and proven abilities, will be unable to keep up with younger workers. They also may feel that having older workers in the workplace will brand their company as old-fashioned rather than innovative and inclusive. Many employers replace dedicated and loyal employees with longevity at the company because they can pay someone else a lesser salary and to defray the costs of health insurance benefits because premiums are higher for an older workforce. Employers often replace older employees with younger ones stating that the company wants “fresh” and “innovative” perspectives. Age discrimination is almost always subtle with the employer typically complaining about performance or production.

In the end, any kind of employment discrimination hurts not only the individual employee but the entire workplace. Turning away or mistreating capable, talented employees for reasons of prejudice is not only illegal, but it also tarnishes an employer’s reputation both as an employer and as a business. Employers know this and want to protect their public image, which is why it is important for employees who have been discriminated against to contact an attorney who knows how to get the employer’s attention and can help the employee recover the damages suffered due to illegal discrimination.