Personal Development
Discrimination in the Workplace: A Complete Overview

Discrimination in the Workplace: A Complete Overview

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Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace: Know Your Rights

Discrimination in the workplace is an unfortunate phenomenon in which individuals or groups are treated unfairly or unequally due to particular characteristics. This includes, but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and national origin. Whether intentional or not, all forms of discrimination are illegal and can have long-term effects on those who experience it.

Despite the presence of laws that prohibit discrimination, this issue still remains a major concern in the workplace. In fact, according to a 2020 survey, nearly 60% of Americans have experienced age-based discrimination in the workplace, while Black human resources professionals and Black workers are several times more likely to experience discrimination than their white counterparts.

Various organisations are dedicated to upholding the rights of everyone, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Office of Civil Rights, and the State Labor Office. Discrimination is when an employee is treated unfavourably due to a particular characteristic, while harassment is when someone experiences unwanted and unpleasant behaviour, either verbally or physically. This may even be sexual in nature and includes unwelcome sexual advances, offensive remarks, requests for sexual favors, and/or any sexual verbal or physical contact.

Consequences of Discrimination and Harassment

  • Treating a job candidate or employee unfairly due to their race or any related characteristics is illegal.
  • Adverse action taken against qualified candidates or employees with disabilities is prohibited.
  • Harassment is considered an illegal and hostile environment.
  • Color discrimination is forbidden.
  • Employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations for employees who need time, space, or other amenities to observe their religious practices.

Legislation Guidelines

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit discrimination in federal employment against people with disabilities and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978 to protect employees, jobseekers, and expecting parents. Additionally, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 forbids discrimination against people 40 years of age or older.

Discrimination in the workplace is a serious matter and multiple laws have been put in place to ensure the rights of employees are protected. It is the duty of organisations like the EEOC, Office of Civil Rights, and State Labor Office to protect and uphold the rights of everyone.

Overview of Employment Discrimination in the United States

In the United States, certain federal and state laws ensure that individuals are not discriminated against in the workplace. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects employees over the age of 40 from discrimination, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit employers from discriminating in pay based on gender. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court also determined that discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited.

Signs of Discrimination in the Workplace

Identifying workplace discrimination may not always be straightforward, but there are certain signs to look for. A lack of diversity in the workplace may be indicative of discrimination, and hostile behavior or language in the workplace is often minimized. Additionally, employers who punish or retaliate against individuals who speak out against discrimination or unfair treatment may also be engaging in discrimination.

How to File a Discrimination Complaint: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you believe you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, you can file a complaint with either your state department of labor or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Here is a step-by-step guide to filing your complaint:

  • Collect information: You will need to provide the name, address, and phone number of both the person who was discriminated against and the business. You should also obtain contact information for any witnesses to the discriminatory act.
  • Document your experience: Include a detailed description of the incident, including names, time, date, and location.

Once you have collected the necessary information and documented your experience, you can file your complaint with either the state department of labor or the EEOC. It's important to take action if you believe you have been the victim of discrimination.

Preventing Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal and employers are required to abide by many state and federal laws which prohibit discrimination based on protected characteristics like race, religion, national origin, color, sex, marital status, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Evidence of discrimination in the workplace may take various forms, including unequal pay, unequal access to training or promotion opportunities, or preferential treatment or mistreatment of employees based on their protected characteristics.

Employees should be familiar with their rights and be aware of the differences between discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Discrimination involves unequal treatment of an employee based on a protected category, while harassment is unwanted, unwelcome, or offensive behavior that creates a hostile work environment. Documenting relevant incidents and presenting it to the appropriate organization, like a state's labor office or local EEOC office, is the first step to fighting discrimination in the workplace.

Employers should take proactive steps to create an inclusive, equitable workplace, such as diversifying their workforce, hiring a DEI officer, investing in employee training, and providing fair wages and benefits. Creating a respectful, welcoming environment is essential for preventing discrimination in the workplace and ensuring employees feel valued and appreciated.

Creating a Supportive and Equitable Workplace

Managers have an important role to play in creating a supportive and equitable work environment. This work is especially important during the current global pandemic, as many working parents are struggling to balance their work and family life. Juneteenth offers a fitting opportunity to reflect on how we can build a gender balanced work environment. Celebrating Black authors and artists is a meaningful way to kick off both Black History Month and Shiken's first annual Inner Work Day.

To combat discrimination in the workplace, managers should foster courageous conversations about social justice, race, and privilege. This will help build safety and trust among all employees. Additionally, it is important to show empathy towards those with invisible disabilities, which can often go unnoticed.

Meaningful change takes time and resources. It is essential to recognize that employee rights are human rights and that a win-win situation for all is the ultimate goal. To prevent discrimination in the workplace, steps need to be taken to ensure that legal nightmares are avoided. Despite the challenges it presents, discrimination, stereotyping, and bias can be addressed.

The American Psychological Association has published research outlining the impacts of discrimination in the workplace, emphasizing the necessity of action. Investing in an equitable workplace is work worth doing, ultimately yielding a more positive working environment for everyone involved.

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