What is Employment Discrimination in the Workplace?

Employment discrimination is simply getting treated differently at work because of one’s membership in a protected group. It could be because of religion, national origin, sex, gender, or any other protected group as stipulated by federal law. While it is a distinct category from sexual harassment, the two overlap whenever the employment discrimination involves someone being treated differently because of sex or gender.

Some of the ways this maltreatment manifests itself include:

  • Receiving poor job assignments because of one’s race
  • Being paid less because someone is transgender
  • Receiving fewer hours scheduled because someone is pregnant

The latter of these three also qualifies as sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All of these also qualify as aspects of a “hostile work environment” as defined by the same Act.

Employment discrimination isn’t just about denial of promotions, loss of benefits, or even termination. It can also encompass verbal abuse of someone else if the content of the abuse is because of someone’s protected class. For example, “You’re a dope,” is not employment discrimination. “You’re a dope because all [insert ethnic slur here] are dopes,” that is.

Disabled people, even if they’re otherwise not a member of a protected class, are currently considered a protected class after the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted. Aged people also were never a protected class until the enacting of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Persons who have rare conditions or genetic characteristics that are not considered “normal” or “mainstream,” such as Down syndrome, sickle-cell anemia in African-Americans, or Tay-Sachs Disease in Ashkenazy Jews or Louisiana Cajuns. Instead, the law requires that employers not consider some of the negative traits of these conditions for general employment.

When it comes to genetic employment discrimination, despite the overwhelming support of both Congress and the courts, many businesses and organizations dedicated to the advancement of business have continued to question the scope of the law, allegedly in an attempt to circumvent its protections. When this happens, having a lawyer in one’s camp whose focus is employment discrimination could be a game changer in one’s case.

In the State of New York, the protections are wider than the federal protections. Protected classes in New York include needing a service dog, being a victim of domestic violence, subscribing to one sphere of political thought or another, being accused of a crime, or whether or not one is serving, or has served, in the military. Therefore, “only hiring veterans” is an example of employment discrimination that is the same as not sending a Japanese employee to meet clients because that person doesn’t fit the company’s “brand image.”

As can be seen, the concept of employee discrimination is wide-ranging and involves not only multiple agencies but also hundreds of possible combinations of protected classes against which such discrimination can be leveled. Many victims of this discrimination are either unaware of their protections or are unsure whether a behavior directed at them is discriminatory in the first place. Here is another spot where an attorney with the right practice focus can give information and advice.

Should you require a free initial consultation with an employment discrimination lawyer for any reason, we stand ready to assist you. We aim to make the confusing understandable and the complex seem simple. While we cannot guarantee success, we will always endeavor to be your advocate in boardroom or courtroom, as necessary, to the best of our ability. You can contact us by phone, on our website, or by just coming into the office when you have the time. Do it today and protect your rights.

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