Discrimination at the workplace is a big issue being faced by employers every day. Not treating a person fairly or demonstrating any form of prejudice towards an individual is known as discrimination.
Different types of workplace discrimination can make an employee feel insecure and uncomfortable. The feeling of prejudice or being discriminated can adversely impact the psychological well-being of the employee and can also affect the overall performance at work.
To prevent any form of discrimination at work, there are well-defined workplace discrimination laws
in place. The law directs employers to protect and safeguard their employees from any form of workplace discrimination.
However, most companies or businesses are not certain as to what can be termed as discrimination and what is not.
What is workplace discrimination law?
The Equality Act of 2010
protects individuals with protected characteristics like gender, marital status, pregnancy, maternity, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age from any form of unfair or biased treatment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees and job applicants from any form of workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, disability, national origin and age(age 40 or above).
Discrimination means treating an individual or a group of individuals differently or less favorably due to some reason.
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is responsible for protecting employees or potential employee candidates from any form of workplace discrimination or workplace harassment.
What are the types of Workplace Discrimination?
There are four main types of workplace discrimination:
When an individual is treated less favorably or with prejudice because of a protected characteristic, it is known as direct discrimination.
Which means that the individual claiming direct discrimination has to prove that he or she has been treated less favorably in comparison to a real or hypothetical person whose circumstances other than the protected characteristic are similar to theirs.
To prove pregnancy and maternity discrimination actual comparators are not required.
Direct discrimination also involves unfavorable treatment of a person because of his/her association or relation with a person having protected characteristics.
For example, a person being treated unfairly or harassed at work because their partner or family member is disabled.
Indirect discrimination happens when rules or policies are introduced which in themselves are not discriminatory but they present a disadvantage to people with specific characteristics.
For example, defining a minimum height requirement for a job where the height is not relevant for that kind of role. This criteria indirectly discriminates against women and individuals from some ethnic groups who are generally shorter.
Indirect discrimination arises from decisions or policies which are not formulated with the intention of treating anyone less favorably, however, which in reality are disadvantageous to a group or section of people with a specific protected characteristic.
When an individual is placed in a disadvantageous position because of their certain individual characteristics it is termed as indirect discrimination.
Harassment is any form of undesirable or unacceptable conduct towards a person or group of people because of their protected characteristic. Harassment involves violating a persons dignity or creating an intimidating, unfriendly, demeaning, offensive environment for them.
Moreover, harassment can also occur when the undesirable or unacceptable behavior is specifically of a sexual nature or a person is treated less favorably because they rejected or spoke against unwanted behavior of sexual nature or related to gender reassignment or sex.
Victimization happens when an individual or group is treated unfairly because:
they have made a claim or complaint or raised their voice against discrimination under the Equality Act
they have given evidence against any form of discrimination or have become involved in another employees discrimination case
They have said or reported against any unlawful activity by an individual or company
They have filed a workplace discrimination case against the employer
The Victimization provisions protect and safeguard the people who do or may bring on discrimination claims, complain about harassment, or become involved in another persons discrimination complaint.
How to report workplace discrimination?
If you are a victim of workplace discrimination or harassment the first step you should do is to file an official complaint with your employer.
However, if the company you are employed with has no specific workplace discrimination policies then it would be difficult for you to find justice in such an organization.
If your company does not have policies to protect you, then you will need to file a discrimination claim with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Workplace discrimination cases are handled by EEOC. Registering and filing a claim with EEOC is a stringent process. It involves strict documentation and fixed timelines.
As a victim of discrimination, you may be emotionally distressed and not in the right frame of mind to pursue a case and follow the set guidelines.
In a disturbed mental state, you may end up missing something important regarding your case. It is advisable to hire a professional lawyer
who can ensure all the guidelines and timelines are adhered so that you can get the justice you deserve.