Do You Have a Case for Discrimination at Work?


Margot Lester

Today, we’re answering a question from reader question our reader, Bruno, who writes: “What would determine discrimination at work? Not sure if I have a claim.”

Let’s take a look.

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How Does the Law Define Employment Discrimination at Work?

Under federal law, it’s illegal for an employer to treat a job applicant or employees “less favorably merely because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. It may also occur if an employer disciplines, terminates, or takes unfavorable actions against an employee or job applicant for discussing, disclosing or asking about pay.”

Employment discrimination can be against a single person or a group of people. It also doesn’t have to be intentional to be against the law.

How Do I Know if an Employer is Discriminating Against Me?

There are two types of discrimination at work:

1. Unequal Treatment

When an employer treats an applicant or employee less favorably than others who are similarly “situated,” and the different treatment is because of one or more of the factors above. There isn’t a universal definition for “similarly situated,” but in general it means there is one or more employee who:

  • Has the same or similar experience and skills as you do
  • Does the same or very similar tasks and has the same or similar responsibilities as you
  • Has the same supervisor as you do
  • Has received similar performance reviews and disciplinary history to yours
  • Is employed under the same policies as you are

2. Disparate Impact

When an employer’s policies or practices appear fair and are fairly applied but hurt members of a particular sex, race or ethnic group, individuals with disabilities, or other protected groups.

Working with an experienced employment attorney is the best way to determine if you have a case. Further, an attorney can help you gather all the documentation necessary to prove it if you do.

Examples of Discrimination at Work

  1. Firing an employee for discussing their pay with a co-worker.
  2. Teasing an employee who speaks with an accent on a continuing basis.
  3. Promoting only certain employees based on their sex or race.
  4. Requiring assessments like math tests or lifting prowess not related to the job in order to exclude applicants from particular groups.
  5. Paying women and female-identifying employees less than male employees.

What can I do if I Face Discrimination at Work?

You can take two steps if you feel you are experiencing discrimination at work:

  1. File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as well as your state labor office
  2. File a lawsuit

1. How to File a Workplace Discrimination Complaint

Not all employers are covered by EEOC laws and regulations. Requirements are different depending on the number of employees, the type of employer and the category of discrimination. In general, however, businesses, state, and local governments with 15 or more employees must follow most EEOC laws. Federal agencies must to abide by all EEOC laws, regardless of how many people they employ. You must lodge a complaint with the EEOC if you plan to file a lawsuit for a federal discrimination case. The EEOC will review your claim and then decide whether to launch an investigation into your case. To file a federal complaint, contact your EEOC field office.

You may also file a complaint with your state labor office. Some state laws provide protections beyond those outlined in federal law, such as prohibiting discrimination at work based on marital status, whether you have children or if you’re a nursing mother.

2. How to File a Lawsuit for Discrimination at Work

You may elect to sue your employer if your case doesn’t meet the requirements for federal or state violations. Remember, if you do plan to sue because you believe your employer violated federal anti-discrimination laws, you must file an EEOC complaint first.

Learn more about the benefits of working with an employment lawyer. Then, sign up for a free employment case consultation with an experienced local attorney to discuss your potential claim.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online employment case evaluation now!

Margot Lester
CEO at The Word Factory

Margot Lester is the CEO ofThe Word Factory,a content marketing agency based in North Carolina that provides services for international healthcare brands, tech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coachand organizational communications trainer,helping individuals and teams write more effectively.