Workplace discrimination is the unfair treatment of an individual or group of individuals based on a characteristic they share, such as their race, their gender, their religion, or their national origin. Discrimination can be directed solely at one group of individuals or it can be directed at any individual who is not a member of the “preferred” group. Discrimination in the workplace is illegal and when it happens, the victim has the right to seek compensation for his or her damages by filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Take the time to educate yourself about what workplace discrimination is, how it is harmful, and how you can recognize it if it occurs in your workplace. By knowing how to determine if you are a victim of discrimination and what to do about it, you can be an advocate for yourself and avoid having your career suffer as a result of discrimination.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes the following as “protected classes,” which means that discrimination against an individual or group based on any of the following is illegal:
Certain states, including Illinois, recognize additional protected classes. These include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Discrimination can also occur in many forms. For example, harassing an individual with invasive questions about his or her sexual past after learning his or her sexual orientation is a form of discrimination. Another form of discrimination is slating certain individuals as the first to be laid off in times of economic trouble based on one of the characteristics discussed above, rather than their level of seniority at the company or their job titles.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to recognize discrimination in the workplace. Not all acts of discrimination are as obvious as refusing to hire individuals of a certain race or sex, though this does happen. A few less obvious forms of workplace discrimination include:
If you feel you are a victim of discrimination in your workplace, always speak to your supervisor about it before escalating your claim to Human Resources or beyond. Document that you spoke with your supervisor to reference later if you do need to take these steps, but always try to resolve your issue within your department if you can.
If you cannot resolve the problem with your supervisor, the next step is to speak with Human Resources. Usually, companies can rectify discrimination issues internally. However, if yours cannot, work with an experienced employment lawyer to file a claim with the EEOC, the federal agency charged with investigating discrimination claims and upholding federal anti-discrimination laws.
If you have experienced or witnessed discrimination in your workplace, do not remain silent. Instead, take note of what you experience or witness and speak with your company’s Human Resources department. If your company cannot resolve the problem internally, work with an experienced employment lawyer to pursue a claim with the EEOC. Contact our team at The Law Offices of Mitchell A. Kline to set up your free legal consultation with an experienced employment lawyer.