Types of Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination unfortunately occurs on a daily basis in the country and these instances of discrimination in the workplace occur when an individual is treated unfairly in some way and discriminated against because of one a factor that is out of their control and that has no impact on their job performance. Discrimination in the workplace makes for not only an uncomfortable work situation it also makes for a potentially dangerous work environment for everyone involved, but especially for those being targeted.

“Whenever the topic of discrimination in the workplace is mentioned, most people in the United States tend to automatically think about sexual harassment of female employees by their superiors. This is but one type of discrimination that can occur in the workplace”(The Law Dictionary).

Here are some of the most commonly seen instances of discrimination in the workplace:



Age discrimination occurs if an employer discriminates against someone because they are deemed to be too old. The legal guidelines protect workers over the age of 40 and so long as they can do the tasks required by the job their age along cannot be used against them. Workers younger than 40 are not protected by these federal guideline, although many states have their own employment laws to protect younger workers. Harassment of any worker due to their age is in every way prohibited by the law.



Employers are legally required to offer any employee reasonable accomodations to workers with a disability in order to help them do their job. Employers cannot discriminate disabled employees in any aspect of employment. It means that an employer cannot pay someone less, bypass them for a promotion, fire them, refuse to hire them, or take any negative action against them simply because they are disabled in some way. It is also illegal to ask medical based questions during the hiring process or to require a medical exam for employment unless it directly related to the job’s duties.



The pay rate employers offer their workers is another area where instances of discrimination in the workplace are often seen. Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), male and female workers doing the same job for the same company in the same department should receive the same compensation. All compensation types are covered by this law meaning everything from overtime pay, salary and stock options, as well as bonuses, holiday pay, and work insurance rates all must be equal. It may seem odd in today’s modern era but this is still a huge issue in today’s job market.



Harassment of any type is strictly prohibited in the workplace and is consider to be unlawful when the following circumstances are presented:

  • The employee has to endure the behavior in order to maintain their employment or they have reasonable thoughts that they could be fired for fighting back or speaking out about the behavior.
  • The harassment reaches a level of frequency or severity that it causes the workplace to become a hostile, abusive, unproductive, terrifying, or intimidating place to work.

Employers are held accountable for harassment and there are any federal, state, and employer level laws and guidelines to protect against harassment.


Genetic Information

By law, an employee cannot be discriminated against and been put in a disadvantaged position because of their genetic information. This includes the medical and genetic information for the employee and their family members. For example, an employer cannot be discriminated against one of their employees because they are genetically prone to cancer or because cancer runs in their family.


National Origin

“It is illegal to treat an employee or an applicant unfavorably because of their country of origin, appearance, accent, or ethnicity. This law forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment” (The Law Dictionary). With the increased focus on immigration, nationalism, and the growing concern over xenophobia this is one of the instances of discrimination in the workplace that people are becoming more aware of.



Often going hand in hand with national origin discrimination, many workplaces experience some degree of racial discrimination during their history. This is the discrimination type that most people are familiar with and it involves treating an employee unfavorably due to their race or its connection to their race such as skin color or accent.


Other Forms of Discrimination

There are other instances of discrimination in the workplace that include:

  • Pregnancy- unfavorably treatment of a female employee due to a pregnancy or recent birth
  • Religion- discrimination due to religion that is practiced by an employee
  • Retaliation- unfair treatment of an employee who speaks out or challenge workplace issues
  • Gender- unfairly treating employees because of their gender or their identified gender
  • Sexual Harassment- discrimination because of the sex of an employee

The law defends employees from many instances of discrimination in the workplace and has provisions in place to help safeguard the rights of employees and keep the workplace a friendly and productive place, and also help to keep a level playing field when it comes to advancements, hiring, and compensation. If you have questions about any of the instances of discrimination in the workplace that you have faced, give us a call and let our team of experts help you with your case!