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Workplace Discrimination: Understanding Types Of Discrimination And Legal Options Available



Most people are at least vaguely aware that discrimination in the workplace is illegal. However, fewer people are aware that the term discrimination covers many types of illegal conduct. The legal options available to you vary widely depending on which type of discrimination you experienced. Here are some of the most common types of discrimination:

Racial Discrimination

Race is one of the five protected classes covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of ethnicity, race or national origin. This prohibition includes all types of negative action, including:

  • Hiring decisions
  • Salary adjustments
  • Internal promotions and demotions
  • Disciplinary actions

If you were targeted by an employer because of your race, you may be entitled to back pay, court-ordered seniority or reinstatement.

Gender Discrimination

Employers may not target employees because of gender. They may not pay lower salaries, award fewer promotions or charge more for benefits. Courts consider discrimination based on pregnancy to be a form of gender discrimination. In some situations, employers may fire a female employee if her pregnancy interferes with her work, but they may only do so if they would have fired a male employee suffering from a comparable interruption in his work.

Age Discrimination

Employers are also forbidden from singling out workers based on their age. Elderly employees may only be terminated if their age prevents them from doing their job effectively. Companies usually may not adopt policies that treat employees differently based on their age. There is an exception to this rule that permits companies to discriminate if that is the only way to identify a desired attribute. This is known as using age as a proxy for another quality.

Contact an Attorney

There are many types of discrimination that are not covered on this page and many forms of legal recourse that are too complex to describe here. Only a qualified employment lawyer can adequately assess your case and determine if you have a valid claim. Employers are not above the law, so if you believe your rights have been violated, you should call an attorney today.