employer racially discriminating employee

What Kinds of Unfair Treatment Can Qualify as Discrimination in the Workplace?

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

It’s easy to feel slighted at times in the workplace — maybe you’ve been passed over for a promotion you thought was definitely yours, or perhaps another coworker was given the prime sales territory. 

Sometimes, such slights are just part of the job, but other times, especially if you’re consistently being treated unfairly compared to your peers, you may be the victim of discrimination.

A New Jersey employment lawyer can help you determine whether you’re being discriminated against in the workplace and help you understand your rights to file a complaint or take legal action.

What is discrimination in the workplace?

It’s not always easy to recognize workplace discrimination. Some of the questions to ask yourself could include:

  • What kind of negative act did your employer allow to happen or overtly commit?
  • What demographic characteristics of yours motivated this act?
  • Do you have evidence that the act was committed because of this characteristic?

You don’t have to have ironclad evidence of discriminatory practices to file a complaint, but if all other things are equal between you and your peers, and you aren’t getting the same treatment they are, then it could be due to demographic differences.

What are protected characteristics in the workplace?

Protected characteristics are immutable qualities about you that place you as a member of a federally protected class of people against discrimination. These characteristics include:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Veteran or military status
  • Medical condition (including pregnancy)

Several federal acts protect workers from being discriminated against because of these characteristics. Some of these acts include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967

These are just a few of the federal laws protecting you from discrimination in the workplace.

Negative Actions that Qualify as Workplace Discrimination

Suppose that you aren’t given a promotion, but a younger coworker is, even though you have been with the company longer and have all the requisite experience to do the job. In this scenario, you may be a victim of age discrimination in the workplace.

Or perhaps you are consistently given the worst sales territories, despite your performance warranting being given bigger or better accounts. If you are the only person of color in your sales department, and your other coworkers are given prime territories even though they have similar performance metrics as you, you may be a victim of racial or color discrimination.

Other actions that could be discriminatory in the workplace include:

  • Not hiring someone because of a demographic characteristic
  • Denying a transfer or promotion
  • Being denied educational or training opportunities that others receive
  • Being given unfavorable job duties or an unfair job assignment
  • Denial of work-related benefits or perks
  • Termination without cause

Examples of these discriminatory actions could be a supervisor demonstrating a certain pattern of behavior against all women in the IT department, or an employer regularly denying career-enhancing, employer-paid training for people of a certain race. 

Similarly, if you perhaps wear a hijab and are not being given an opportunity to work in client-facing departments, this could also constitute workplace discrimination.

These actions may not be the only ways you have been discriminated against in the workplace.

Your Next Steps if You’ve Been a Victim of Workplace Discrimination

If you suspect you are a victim of discrimination, you need a knowledgeable employment attorney who can spot patterns of behavior on your side. Employers know the law; they will likely give you another reason why you aren’t getting promoted or given better assignments aside from your membership in a protected class.  

To understand more about your legal options to fight workplace discrimination in New Jersey, schedule a consultation with a dedicated employment lawyer at NJ Employment Lawyers today.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.