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Defining Discrimination: Have You Been a Victim?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. These federal laws include laws protecting against discrimination based on:

  • Race, ethnicity or national origin
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sex or gender
  • Genetic information

Employers violate these laws when they treat you differently from other employees based on:

  • Personal characteristics that you cannot change such as your ethnic background
  • Characteristics you could only change with great personal sacrifice and difficulty such as your religion

Employers also violate these laws when they mistreat all of their employees based on immutable personal characteristics all of the employees share. For example, if a male employer refuses to promote any of his female employees based solely on their gender, he has violated the law.

Discriminatory behavior by employers can include:

  • Refusing to hire, firing or failing to promote based on a protected category
  • Failing to provide equal pay for equal work
  • Targeting a class of individuals for layoffs when workforce reductions become necessary
  • Using discriminatory recruitment or testing policies
  • Denying certain groups the use of company facilities like cafeterias, gyms, break rooms, etc.
  • Denying reasonable accommodation for disabilities
  • Failing to offer the same fringe benefits like health insurance or pension plans

Firing in retaliation for whistle-blowing or for using Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits also often qualifies as employment discrimination. Workers who feel they have been subject to discriminatory treatment like that outlined above should consult with an employment law attorney to discuss filing discrimination claims against their employers and other possible forms of legal redress.

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