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What is Discrimination in the Workplace?

Legal content fact checked by Charles E. Joseph

Your questions about workers’ rights, answeredwhat is discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace can mean not getting a job offer, losing out on opportunities at work, or even getting fired. Fortunately, workplace discrimination laws protect your rights at work.

Discrimination laws protect employees and job applicants from unfavorable treatment because of their race, gender, religion, and disability status.

Other protected classes include age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and national origin.

Keep reading to learn more about what is discrimination in the workplace, how to prove workplace discrimination, and what you can do about discrimination in the workplace.

Contact an employment lawyer to find out if you have a workplace discrimination case.

What is discrimination in the workplace?

Discrimination in the workplace means treating a job applicant or employee differently because of their race, gender, age, religion, disability, or other protected characteristics. Discriminating against anyone at work because they belong to a protected class violates the law.

Discrimination laws do not just protect employees. In some states, these laws also cover non-employees. For example, New York State’s discrimination laws apply to domestic workers, independent contractors, consultants, vendors, and subcontractors.

Workplace discrimination laws also address hostile work environments. Harassment based on race, gender, age, religion, or another protected characteristic violates discrimination laws.

Similarly, targeting people in the workplace because of their identity violates federal, state, and local laws.

How do you prove discrimination in the workplace?

If you experience workplace discrimination, you should keep detailed records of the discriminatory treatment. Also, record any reports you make to a boss or HR about the discrimination and the actions (or lack of actions) taken by the company.

Make sure to note the time and location for any harassing statements, and the names of any witnesses. These records will help strengthen your workplace discrimination lawsuit.

A discrimination lawyer can help you prove discrimination in the workplace and recover lost wages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

Where might discrimination in the workplace occur?

Discrimination in the workplace can take place anywhere — in the office, at a conference or networking event, during the hiring process, or outside of work completely. If, for example, an employee sends harassing email messages, this can create a hostile work environment even if the messages were sent outside of work hours.

The location of workplace discrimination matters less than the consequences: if a coworker, boss, or another employee of the company harasses or discriminates against you, you may have a claim.

What is considered discrimination in the workplace?

Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms. Under federal, state, and local laws, discriminating against employees because of their race, sex, gender, religion, or disability is illegal.

In many states, workplace discrimination laws cover additional groups. For example, in New York City, employees have are protected against workplace discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, caregiver status, and other protected characteristics.

Workplace discrimination can mean poor treatment during the hiring process, being denied raises or promotions for discriminatory reasons, or the creation of a hostile work environment because of offensive actions, behaviors, and words.

What discrimination in the workplace is unlawful?

Federal discrimination laws cover employees who fall into a protected class. These include race discrimination, gender discrimination, age discrimination, and more. In fact, every person falls into one of these categories, which protects them from discrimination.

Learn more about common forms of workplace discrimination:

What is age discrimination in the workplace?

Age discrimination occurs when an employee receives unfavorable treatment because of their age. It can include refusing to hire an older job candidate or laying off only employees over a certain age.

While federal law only protects age discrimination against employees over the age of 40, some state and local laws cover more employees. For example, New York City law protects all employees from age discrimination. Companies cannot refuse to promote a qualified 27-year-old to a management position, for example, because of their age.

Age discrimination can also occur if age-based harassment creates a hostile work environment.

What is gender discrimination in the workplace?

Gender discrimination means an employee is treated poorly because of their gender. Both men and women can be victims of gender discrimination, and both men and women can be guilty of causing gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination in the workplace can occur if a company treats female job applicants more poorly than male applicants, if they refuse to promote women, or if women receive fewer raises than men. It can also occur if harassment creates a hostile work environment.

What constitutes discrimination in the workplace?

Workplace discrimination means treating an employee or potential hire unfavorably because of a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, religion, or disability. It also includes hostile work environments, where harassment interferes with employees’ ability to do their job.

Regardless of what causes discrimination in the workplace, it is against the law. Employees have the right to work in a discrimination-free environment. Victims of workplace discrimination can file a claim to recover lost wages and to receive compensatory and punitive damages.

What defines discrimination in the workplace?

The law defines discrimination in the workplace as any action or policy that treats people unfavorably because of their membership in a protected class.

Discrimination can be direct, such as refusing to hire black job applicants, or it can be indirect, such as a policy that makes it difficult for women to meet the job requirements. Discrimination laws also protect employees from hostile work environments.

What does discrimination in the workplace affect?

Discrimination in the workplace affects your ability to get a job, receive a promotion or raise, and work in a harassment-free environment. Victims of workplace discrimination often feel scared, angry, or helpless because of their discriminatory treatment.

Laws outlawing workplace discrimination provide protections against harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. A discrimination lawyer can help protect your rights.

What does discrimination in the workplace mean?

Discrimination in the workplace means treating an employee unfavorably because of a protected characteristic. Discrimination in the workplace also means creating a hostile work environment with offensive actions or words that target a member of a protected class.

In New York City, workplace discrimination laws protect against mistreatment because of someone’s race, gender, religion, disability, age, sex, caregiver status, and other categories.

Why is discrimination in the workplace illegal?

Workplace discrimination is against the law because it targets members of historically vulnerable groups and hinders their ability to succeed in the workplace.

Discrimination laws encourage a fair, inclusive workplace. These laws make it illegal to refuse to hire someone because of their race or gender, to deny promotions to people because of their religion, or to withhold raises for employees because of a disability.

How many years do you have to file a discrimination lawsuit?

Workplace discrimination laws include a statute of limitations. That means you have a limited amount of time to file your lawsuit. The statute of limitations for a discrimination lawsuit varies depending on where you choose to file.

Federal laws limit EEOC discrimination claims to within 180 days of the discriminatory actions, while New York state and New York City laws provide up to 300 days. New York state law also allows people to file a discrimination lawsuit in state court for up to three years.

Why does discrimination in the workplace still exist?

Discrimination in the workplace exists because of stereotypes, prejudices, and bigotry.

When companies base decisions to hire, promote, or fire employees on these bigotries, they violate the law. A restaurant cannot, for example, refuse to hire a black hostess, and a daycare owner cannot refuse to hire men as childcare workers.

These actions violate workplace discrimination laws, and victims can sue the company for damages.

What can you do about discrimination in the workplace?

If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, you have legal rights.

Federal, state, and local laws protect employees from discrimination at work, including discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, transgender status, caregiver status, and marital status. You can contact a discrimination lawyer to learn more about filing a claim.

If you’re in the New York City area, contact discrimination lawyer Charles Joseph for a free consultation. You may have a discrimination claim against your employer.

Read more about workplace discrimination laws, how to file a claim, and potential damages.

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Legal content fact checked by Charles E. Joseph

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