Discrimination in the Workplace: Know Your Rights and Legal Recourse

Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination remains an unfortunate reality across too many workplaces, undermining equal access, opportunity, and fair treatment for employees. By understanding their rights and potential legal recourse, employees can stand against workplace discrimination, secure just compensation, and help realize more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments for all. 

This article will provide an overview of core anti-discrimination laws, how to document unlawful practices when to file claims with the EEOC, key types of discrimination suits, and best practices for consulting employment attorneys when your rights have been violated. With knowledge of the legal safeguards and remedies in place, employees have the power to take action against workplace discrimination and bias.

The Role of the EEOC in Enforcing Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency tasked with enforcing laws against workplace discrimination. It investigates discrimination charges, works to resolve them through mediation, and may file lawsuits against employers. 

If you believe you’ve faced discrimination, the EEOC can provide information on filing a charge. It’s important to contact them promptly due to strict time limits. You can reach the EEOC by calling 1-800-669-4000 or visiting https://www.eeoc.gov. 

Individuals Protected Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC protect a wide range of individuals in the workplace. This includes not just employees but also former employees, managers, temporary workers hired through agencies, and job applicants.

Importantly, anti-discrimination protections also extend to union members and applicants for union membership. An employer cannot deny union membership or access to union-connected training programs based on race, gender, age, or other protected characteristics.

For instance, in Los Angeles, contacting a wrongful termination lawyer Los Angeles can help you understand your options and legal rights. These laws apply regardless of the individual’s immigration status. Undocumented workers also have legal protections against workplace discrimination.

Higher Unemployment Among Minorities

While the overall US unemployment rate was 3.9% in 2018, it was significantly higher for certain racial and ethnic minority groups:

  • American Indians and Alaska Natives: 6.6% 
  • African Americans: 6.5%

These disproportionately high unemployment rates for minority groups, nearly double the national average, are a troubling indicator of persistent discrimination in access to job opportunities.

Types of Organizations Covered Under Anti-Discrimination Laws 

Most private employers with 15 or more employees are covered under federal anti-discrimination laws. This includes state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees for training or retraining programs.

Educational institutions, like colleges and schools, are also generally prohibited from employment discrimination. Staffing agencies and organizations that receive federal financial assistance must also comply.

Comprehensive List of Illegal Discrimination Types

There are various forms of employment discrimination prohibited under federal laws enforced by the EEOC and here’s a visualization of data that shows the percentage of charges filed with the EEOC on the basis of discrimination:

Source: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

  • Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Employers cannot make decisions like hiring, firing, promotions, or compensation based on these protected characteristics.
  • Retaliation against employees or applicants who file discrimination charges, testify or participate in investigations, or oppose discriminatory practices. 
  • Harassment in the workplace based on protected characteristics like race, gender, age, etc. This includes offensive remarks, jokes, threats, intimidation, or other verbal or physical conduct.
  • Discrimination against pregnant women. Employers must treat pregnant employees the same as others similar in their ability or inability to work.
  • Failure to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities, pregnancy, or religious beliefs.

Wage Disparities Between Races 

Disparities in earnings among racial and ethnic groups provide stark evidence of discriminatory practices. According to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  1. Hispanics had a median weekly income of only $680. 
  2. For Blacks or African Americans, median weekly earnings were $694.
  3. In contrast, median income for Whites was $916 per week. 
  4. The highest earnings were seen among Asians, with a median of $1,095 per week.

These substantial gaps in wages point to discriminatory treatment in compensation, promotions, and access to higher-paying roles. For instance, Hispanic workers earned over 25% less than White workers.

Overall, the wage gap differences among racial groups can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earnings over a career. Tackling discriminatory practices is essential to ensure fair compensation for all workers regardless of race or ethnicity.

Additional Protections for Federal Contractors and More

Beyond the laws enforced by the EEOC, additional protections exist:

  • The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces non-discrimination and affirmative action requirements for federal contractors.
  • Title VI and Title IX prohibitions against discrimination apply to organizations receiving federal financial assistance, like grants, loans, or contracts. 
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs receiving federal financial assistance.

Key Takeaways

If you believe you’ve experienced discrimination that led to wrongful termination or firing, it’s crucial to take action promptly. In addition to filing a charge with the EEOC, you may want to consult with a wrongful termination lawyer in your area who specializes in discrimination cases. 

The key is to document any incidents of discrimination at work, be aware of time limits for taking action, and reach out to the EEOC as well as an experienced attorney. With the right legal help, you can challenge discriminatory practices, protect your rights, and seek just compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is the EEOC and what’s their role in workplace discrimination?

The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces laws against discrimination in the workplace. They investigate charges, attempt mediation, and may file lawsuits.

2. What organizations are covered under federal anti-discrimination laws?

Most private employers, state/local governments, schools, employment agencies, unions, and organizations receiving federal funds are covered.

3. What should I do if I’m facing discrimination at work?

Contact the EEOC promptly, document details of incidents, and be aware of strict time limits for filing a charge. Reach out to the EEOC by phone, email, mail, or visiting their office.

See Also: How Businesses Can Prepare for NERC-CIP Audits?

By James Turner

James Turner is a tech writer and journalist known for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and accessible way. He has written for several publications and is an active member of the tech community.

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