Discrimination in the workplace is not always easy to identify. You might wonder whether you or your co-workers are experiencing workplace discrimination or whether the treatment is simply unfair but legal. Even subtle forms of workplace discrimination can be upsetting and can have negative impacts on your well-being, mental health, and career. It is important to recognize that discrimination is illegal in the workplace and should not be tolerated. If you think that discrimination might be occurring at your job, you should speak to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to learn about your rights. Here are eight signs that discrimination might be happening in your workplace.
1. Your Employer Asks Inappropriate Questions.
All employers ask questions of applicants and employees to try to get to know them better and to learn whether they are a good fit for their jobs. While you should anticipate questions during an interview, employers should not ask certain types of questions of a personal nature. If an employer asks about your family status, children, race, age, religion, national origin, or disability status, those types of questions are not allowed because they can be used for discriminatory purposes. Similarly, if your boss asks you questions about your sex life or repeatedly asks you out on dates, those are signs that discrimination or harassment might be occurring.
2. Different Assignments Are Given to Older Workers.
Some employers might give older workers different assignments than younger employees to place less stress on their bodies. While this might be okay, it can be discriminatory when older workers are given fewer opportunities than younger workers or are placed in less desirable positions based on their age. Routinely passing over older workers for promotions in favor of younger, less experienced employees might be evidence of illegal age discrimination. When employers single out older workers for layoffs, that can also indicate a discriminatory motive. An employment law attorney can help to determine whether or not your employer has engaged in illegal age discrimination based on your age.
3. There is Little to No Diversity in Your Workplace.
Another indication that discrimination might be at work at your job is when most or all of the employees are of the same gender, race, age group, or other similar characteristics. This might indicate that your employer might be using discriminatory practices to screen out applicants from protected groups even though your employer might not make explicit statements about its intent. Even if there are some people with protected characteristics in lower-level positions, take a look at who holds leadership roles. If they are all white men or only include a single member of a protected group, this can indicate discrimination is occurring within the company.
4. Women and Men Hold Positions With Duties That Emphasize Gender Stereotypes.
In the past, women and men were expected to meet gendered expectations. For example, women in the workplace might have only been hired to work in secretarial roles while men held executive-level jobs. Similarly, members of minority groups were relegated to low-level positions and rarely were promoted to positions with greater authority. Unfortunately, placing employees in positions according to stereotypes about members of their protected groups still occurs today. In other cases, members of protected groups might be given large, difficult workloads beyond their abilities to try to cause them to fail.
5. Offensive Jokes, Comments, and Slurs Are Allowed.
In some workplaces, employees are allowed to tell offensive jokes, make offensive comments, or even use slurs targeted at people with protected characteristics. Supervisors might demur when the victims complain and tell them that their co-workers are only joking and they should “lighten up.” However, this type of behavior should never be tolerated and should be promptly addressed by management. If it is allowed to flourish, the workplace environment can quickly grow hostile and provide targeted employees with the legal grounds to file harassment and discrimination charges against their employers. In some cases, this type of behavior is more subtle. For example, a supervisor might address employees of a certain protected class in a hostile tone while treating other employees with respect.
6. Employees Wearing Religious Garb Are Made to Work Separately.
Some employees wear certain types of clothing as a part of their religious beliefs. Employers must allow employees to wear religious clothing unless doing so would place an undue hardship on the business’s operations. If your employer makes all workers who wear turbans as a part of their religious beliefs work in an area separated from their co-workers and out of sight from clients or customers, this could indicate discrimination based on religion.
7. Your Employer Has a Blanket English-Only Policy.
Employers can only institute an English-only policy when it is necessary as a part of an employee’s job. For example, if an employee is hired to take phone calls from customers, he or she might be asked to answer the calls in English. However, when an employer institutes a blanket policy that all employees are only allowed to speak English, including during their lunch or rest breaks, the policy might be inherently discriminatory and illegal.
8. Your Employer Only Hires U.S. Citizens.
Employers cannot discriminate based on the citizenship status of applicants. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire a qualified worker who is a lawful permanent resident or has another type of valid employment authorization document based on the fact that the applicant is not a citizen of the U.S. If an employer has denied you employment based on your citizenship status when you are legally authorized to work in the U.S., you should speak to an experienced employment lawyer.
Workplace discrimination can take many forms, and it can be difficult to identify when it is occurring in some cases. If you have noticed signs that discrimination might be occurring in your workplace and believe that you have been a victim of it, you should speak to the employment and discrimination attorneys at Swartz Swidler. Call us today for a free consultation at (856) 685-7420.