As many as 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination were reported with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2015 and the details were recently released. A study of the report reveals:
- Roughly 44.5 percent of the claims involved employer retaliation allegations. The retaliation charges have increased by five percent and is one of the leading concerns among workers across the U.S.
- Roughly 34.7 percent of the claims involved race discrimination.
- Disability discriminations increased by six percent compared to the previous year. There were 26,968 disability discrimination claims filed with the EEOC.
However, on the brighter side, 92,641 cases of discrimination have been resolved by the EEOC in 2015 and more than $525 million has been secured for the victims of workplace discrimination belonging to the private sector, as well as state and local government workplaces.
What Qualifies as Workplace Discrimination
Workplace discrimination occurs when an employer takes (adverse) actions against an employee based on his/her race, color, age, sex, religion, or other similar factors. In simple words, the act of treating an employee (belonging to a protected class) unfavorably is defined as workplace discrimination.
The most common types of workplace discrimination are:
- Age Discrimination
- Religious Discrimination
- Pregnancy-Based Discrimination
- Gender Discrimination
Workplace discrimination can come in many forms; it can either be explicit or subtle. Even though the employers guaranteed equal employment opportunities for all employees irrespective of age, sex, color, religion, etc., not everyone follows the rules. So, if you or someone you know has been discriminated at the workplace, you can proceed to the court and demand compensation.
You can consider filing a workplace discrimination lawsuit against the employer under one or many of the following circumstances:
- Exclusion of potential employees during interview
- Specifying preferred candidates in a job advertisement
- Denying benefits or compensation to certain employees
- Equally qualified employees working in the same position but getting different salaries
- Denying use of company facilities
- Discrimination while issuing promotions, etc.
It is unlawful for the employers to discriminate against any employee. This includes full time, probationary employees, part time and casual employees, apprentices and trainees, as well as individuals employed for fixed periods of time or for tasks.
How to Handle Discrimination at Workplace
Dealing with workplace discrimination can be stressful and challenging. Employees often have no idea about how to react or the steps that should be taken to prevent discrimination against them. So, by knowing how to respond to a specific situation, you can take control and correct the problem.
There are laws that protect employees from being discriminated at workplace and it is a must that employees know their rights. Some laws that prohibit workplace discrimination are:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
If you believe that you have been a victim of workplace discrimination, here are is what you need to do:
1. Let Your Employer Know
Most cases of discrimination and harassments at the workplace go unrecognized or unpunished because the victims never raise their voices. It is necessary that you let the employer know what is going on within the workplace. Most employers would deny such charges, but it is necessary that you do this; in case you proceed to court, you can tell the judge that you informed management but no actions were taken.
The moment you feel you are being discriminated against, start documenting the acts of discrimination. Document the incidents, comments, or actions along with the approximate time, parties involved, witnesses, and location. Remember, you will need the information to prove your claims. Even if you hire an employment lawyer, he/she will ask you for the facts and details that made you feel you were be discriminated.
3. Get Legal Assistance
Even though there are many laws in place to protect employees from discrimination, it is necessary that you get legal counsel to prevent workplace discrimination. A lawyer will help you navigate through the complex laws and identify which laws apply to your case. Remember, there may be more than one law that applies to your case. A lawyer will help you protect your rights and get compensated for the emotional trauma you suffered due to discrimination.
Discrimination can be one of the most awful experiences in one’s life. If you believe you are being discriminated, you must respond quickly. Inform your employer and get legal counsel to secure your rights. It is often very tough to prove discrimination at the workplace, so only an experienced lawyer can help you file a strong case and prove what you claim.
Workplace discrimination is prohibited by the law, but it still happens. So it is a must that you prepare yourself in advance, if you believe you can be a victim of discrimination.
Karina S. Xart is an employment lawyer at Wilson McCoy, P.A., located in Orlando, Florida. At Wilson McCoy, P.A., they have over 25 years of combined experience in representing employees and employers in work-related matters and business-related litigation.