Experiencing discrimination in the workplace can be distressing and frustrating, in addition to having detrimental effects on your career, benefits, and promotions. However, it’s not always easy to identify signs of discrimination, especially if they’re subtle. Workplace discrimination is illegal under both federal and California state laws, and it is important to be able to recognize the most common signs of illegal discrimination.
- Inappropriate Jokes or Banter In some workplaces, humor is used to cover up discrimination and harassment. Inappropriate jokes and banter can be used to exclude and alienate people in the workplace. You may notice that certain people are spoken to differently than others or that jokes are consistently made at their expense, sometimes under the guise of banter or friendly ribbing. These types of jokes can create a hostile work environment.
- Inappropriate Prying Questions It’s common for your employer to ask questions about your work history, experience, and skills related to your job. However, if these questions become uncomfortable because they go too far, prying into your personal life or otherwise encroaching on professional boundaries, this may be a sign of discrimination. Although some questions may be innocent, inquiries into your marital status, age, and religion may be used to discriminate against you. These types of questions should not be ignored.
- Harsh Criticism Various workplaces handle criticism and feedback differently, but if you notice that you receive feedback that’s harsher than the feedback your peers receive, or if it seems out of proportion to the situation, it may be a sign of discrimination. Harsh criticism creates an unpleasant and unwelcoming work environment. Criticism and standards must be applied equally across the entire workplace.
- Lack of Diversity It’s rare for workplaces to be completely homogeneous. If you notice that your workplace exclusively or near exclusively hires people of a certain age, gender, race, or nationality, this could be a sign your workplace engages in discriminatory hiring practices.
- Favoritism Favoritism isn’t always easy to identify. If other employees receive preferential treatment when it comes to promotions, assigned work, or other areas despite your hard work and qualifications, it may be possible that you are being discriminated against at work.
- Unequal Compensation Not all workplaces are open about compensation, which can make unequal compensation difficult to identify, but it can be used to discriminate against certain employees. Talking about compensation is a federally protected right for employees. If you find you are being paid less than your coworker, especially if you have equivalent or greater qualifications, it is possible that your employer is discriminating against you, especially if the other person is of different age, gender, or race.
- Unfair Workload Workplace discrimination may be apparent in the division of labor among employees. If certain employees are consistently passed over for important projects despite being qualified, this could be a sign of discrimination. Additionally, you may notice the division of labor is gendered in your workplace, with women expected to take on secretarial duties they’re overqualified for. Employees may also be given impossible workloads with the expectation that they’ll fail or be unable to perform their work efficiently.
- Unfair Disciplinary Action Discipline takes a different form in every workplace. Disciplinary action can be used to discriminate against certain employees. When disciplinary action is applied unevenly, this may be discrimination. Sometimes this is due to unconscious bias, while other times, it can be documented and used to unjustly terminate an employee. Disciplinary action must be applied with equal standards in the workplace.
- Sexual Harassment Sexual harassment can take many different forms, from verbal to physical. This type of harassment creates a hostile and offensive work environment, and it can be highly distressing. Sexual harassment isn’t necessarily based on sexual desire. Rather, it includes any kind of offensive contact based on an employee’s sex, gender expression, pregnancy, or sexual orientation, whether real or perceived.
- Retaliation If you’ve experienced any of the signs of discrimination on this list, you may have filed a complaint of discrimination at work. If you try reporting this discrimination, and your employer takes adverse action against you, this is considered retaliation. Complaining about discrimination or filing a harassment case are protected activities, and your employer cannot punish you for engaging in them.
How do I know if I’m being discriminated against at work?
If you receive adverse treatment in the workplace due to being a part of a protected class, you’re being discriminated against. Discrimination takes many different forms, such as inappropriate comments, unequal compensation, and unfair hiring practices.
What is considered discrimination?
Discrimination is when someone is treated differently, typically unfavorably, for some reason. California has some of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country. You may not be discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, age, and many other factors. Discrimination can take many different forms, however, and all workplace discrimination is illegal.
How do I prove discrimination at work?
Every case of discrimination is different. As a general rule, you must first prove that you suffer adverse treatment in the workplace. You must also prove that this adverse treatment was because you’re a member of a protected class, such as discrimination based on age, gender, or race.
What signs might indicate someone has been discriminated against?
Some common signs of workplace discrimination are inappropriate comments or jokes, unequal compensation, and receiving unfair disciplinary action. Workplace discrimination takes many different forms, and it can be difficult to identify discrimination, especially when the signs are subtle. If you think you may be discriminated against, contact an employment lawyer to understand your options and identify the best path forward.
Nobody deserves to be discriminated against in the workplace. If you are experiencing discrimination or harassment at work, the Law Offices of Miguel S. Ramirez can help you understand your options. With our experience and resources, we can help you hold your employer accountable for unlawful workplace harassment. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or get more information.