Understanding Employee Rights and Employment Discrimination

Have you ever been laid off or denied a job, promotion, or equal job treatment for a reason other than your qualifications or performance?

Sometimes it’s unclear whether you’ve been discriminated against, but suspicion of unequal workplace treatment means you may be a victim of employment discrimination. Your employment rights are protected by the law, and the first step toward combating employment discrimination is understanding which types of workplace discrimination are illegal.

employment discrimination
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What is employment discrimination?

When two equally-qualified employees or job applicants receive different treatment based on law-protected factors (such as civil rights), employment discrimination has happened. Illegal discrimination may take place during the hiring and termination processes, and it can also affect compensation, promotion, discipline, and job assignment.

Types of employment discrimination.

Discrimination is often equated with unequal treatment based on issues like race, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. But it’s also illegal to give an employee or job applicant unequal treatment based on age, disability, pregnancy, personal beliefs, and requests for family medical leave.

Employment discrimination can be difficult to identify, because many instances of discrimination are not overt or intentional. Cases of discrimination in the workplace generally fall into one of two legal classifications. Disparate treatment takes place when an employee is intentionally discriminated against for an illegal reason. Disparate impact takes place when an employer’s procedures or policies create unintended instances of illegal discrimination.

How to identify employment discrimination.

Remember that employment discrimination can happen at any stage of employment, from the recruiting process through the employment term and even post termination, through a negative job recommendation or comment. A major sign of discrimination is employee suspicion of unfair treatment based on one of the legally protected employment areas.

How to take action against employment discrimination.

There are a number of ways you can take action against discrimination on the job. You may simply wish to receive equal workplace treatment, but some victims want to seek legal retribution as well. Regardless of the end in mind, the process is the same:

  • Documentation. Keep a record of the date, time, and people involved in discriminatory actions against you, including as many details as possible.
  • Report internally. Report incidences of discrimination to your supervisor, manager, or human resources.
  • File a complaint. If the company doesn’t address the problem, file records with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as with the state-level department recommended by your state’s Department of Labor.
  • Hire an attorney. Even if your employer responded to the problem, you may wish to seek legal retribution. Hire an attorney that specializes in labor and employment law.

About the Author: Merritt J. Green, Esq., founder and managing partner for General Counsel P.C., is a contributing editor to the American Bar Association’s Treatise on Labor Law. He founded General Counsel P.C. in 2004. It has grown over the years into a full-service firm practicing in a number of areas, including business law, litigation, and labor and employment law. General Counsel works with both businesses and employees to prevent incidences of employment discrimination.