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Workplace Discrimination
When All People Are Not Treated Equal

Workplace discrimination, while a prevalent workplace issue, is difficult to establish in court. Factors like the burden of proof required by discrimination and harassment laws along with the continuing, national, pressure of tort reforms gives a discriminatory workplace power over an employee of protected status.

Protected status is any of the protected characteristics that, while it may set the employee apart from the workplace norms, should not be a consideration in employment practices. A number of federal and state laws protect employee rights against workplace harassment and discrimination. Those areas which are most likely to be actionable (will “stand up” in a court of law) are documented cases of

Age Discrimination
Sexual Discrimination
Racial Discrimination
Religious Discrimination
Orientation Discrimination
Disability Discrimination

Employment discrimination occurs regularly during the hiring process. This kind of employment discrimination is rarely pursued. Actionable discrimination cases come from an employer's pay and other policies instituted during the time of employment or for employer discriminatory practices that led to wrongful termination (firing).

Compensation for employment discrimination, whether caused by a specific employer's intentional acts or by corporate policies or practices with a discriminatory effect (see the Supreme Court case under Age Discrimination), may include back pay, reinstatement, promotion, accommodations, and compensatory damages (including “front pay,” or the money an employee would have earned if he/she were able to continue working for the discriminatory company).

If you believe that you are a victim of employment discrimination, contact the Consumer Justice Group to speak with a discrimination lawyer in your area. We provide free legal consultation and only charge when you collect.

Legal Protections Against Workplace Discrimination
On-the-job discrimination is forbidden by a number of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin); the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (prohibiting sex-based wage discrimination); and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (prohibiting age-based employment discrimination for persons 40 years of age or older).

Each individual state also has its own provisions for protecting its employees, such as California's Unruh Civil Rights Act that adds additional protections to the above federal laws and also includes sexual orientation and gender identification discrimination. In addition to the District of Columbia , the 17 states that prohibit workplace sexual orientation discrimination in both private and public employment are:

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island

Additionally, U.S. citizens employed by an U.S.-based company outside the United States are covered under EEO laws against discrimination.

Discriminatory Workplace Practices & Harassment
Harassment is the most direct, severe, and mean form of workplace discrimination. Harassment is defined as unwelcomed conduct based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and/or age. Psychological damage is not enough to establish workplace harassment. Rather, to qualify as unlawful, the harassment must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people or if the conduct becomes a condition of continued employment.

Not all discrimination takes on the severity of harassment. Some discriminatory practices bear no malice but may have the unintended effect of privileging one group of people over another for reasons other than work performance.

Whether malicious or a result of unintended consequences of instituted policies, it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:

  • hiring, compensation, or assignment
  • transfer, promotion, individual termination, or group layoff
  • job advertisements, recruitment, or testing
  • use of company facilities
  • pay, retirement plans, and disability leave
  • other terms and conditions of employment

Additionally, EEO prevents your employer's retaliation when you oppose discriminatory practices or if you file legal action on a charge of discrimination.

Proving Workplace Discrimination
You can be fired for a bad reason, a good reason, or no reason at all—just not an illegal reason. If your employer can offer in court even a weak reason for your termination, the burden of proof becomes yours and your attorney's to prove discrimination occurred. “Feeling” that you have been discriminated against is not enough.

Unfortunately, a single instance of discrimination to just one employee is rarely strong enough to prove discrimination.

In the majority of actionable cases, direct evidence is required. This can be in the form of verbal comments or written statements (letters, memos, or notes) that directly indicate that your being a member of a protected class caused you to be treated with bias. Circumstantial evidence can add weight to your claim. Such evidence includes your employer's lack of other employees of your protected class, your employer previously treating your protected class in a discriminatory manner (passed over for promotion, unequal pay, assigned to dead-end jobs, etc.), and violations of company policy that single you or your class out.

Part 2 of Workplace Discrimination


Lawyers for Change.
We spend a good portion of our lives at work. The Consumer Justice Group believes that the workplace should include people of all walks of life and should treat these employees fairly. If you have protected status and you have proof that your employer has discriminatory practices affecting your protected status and you would like the power of a nationwide network of workplace attorneys working to maintain workplace diversity, contact the Consumer Justice Group.


The Workers' Rights News is a service of the Consumer Justice Group.

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