Although many people have heard the phrase, “workplace discrimination,” not everyone recognizes exactly what it is – and what it is not. It goes beyond simply having a boss or colleagues who are unpleasant or mean.
Employment discrimination occurs when either a job applicants or employee is not treated fairly because of his or her disability, gender, age, religion, national origin, skin color/race. It can also involve retaliation against an employee who attempts to assert his or her rights under these laws.
Employer discrimination is illegal under laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination and Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and it applies to any aspect of employment. That means it’s not just hiring and firing, but can apply to situations involving transfer/shift reassignment, disparate wages, demotion, promotion, benefits, reducing one’s hours or clipping one’s pay.
So for example, a company that systematically only offers white workers certain opportunities that lead to promotion, employees of color may have grounds to take action. Employers who consistently give younger workers the choice assignments, clients or travel opportunities may find themselves justly facing an age discrimination claim by an older employee.
If you work for a federal contractor who does more than $10,000 in business with the U.S. government, the company has the responsibility to take affirmative action in preventing workplace discrimination and/or harassment via Executive Order 11246. This can apply to subcontractors too. These entities also have to be careful not to prohibit employees from discussing personal pay rates (which might prevent workers from discovering disparate pay rates).
Discrimination v. Harassment
Although some people use the terms discrimination and harassment interchangeably, the truth is they are related but distinct. As our Riverside employment attorneys can explain, not all discrimination comes in the form of harassment, but harassment is one type of discrimination.
Harassment involves behavior or comments that are unwelcome, such as comments about a person’s body or faith. They can come from a:
- Anyone else in the workplace
The key to identifying illegal harassment is that it’s done on the basis of one’s color, race, religion, sex/gender (including pregnancy or parenthood), age (over 40), physical/mental disability, genetic information or nationality. It can also be based on one’s perception that a person belongs in one of these groups or because they love someone who belongs in one of these groups.
In both cases, workers may suffer from what is known as a hostile work environment, which is created when harassment or discrimination interferes with a worker’s job performance or creates a professional environment that makes it difficult for one group of employees (women, Muslims, older workers) to do their work.
The bottom line is that employers aren’t legally allowed to make assumptions on the basis of stereotypes or to assume an employee can’t do the work solely because he or she is disabled. They can’t withhold opportunity based one someone’s actual or perceived belonging in one of these categories.
By far the most common complaint received by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is retaliation, comprising nearly half of all charges. These are followed by discrimination allegations on the basis of race, disability, gender, age, national origin, religion and color.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.