Ways Your Employer Can Discriminate Against You

17 April 2017

In a perfect world, companies would only make hiring, firing, and promotion decision based on each job applicant’s and employee’s experience and performance. Since the work world we inhabit is far from perfect, a number of federal and state laws exist to ensure that employers do not discriminate against workers for reasons unrelated to skill, ability, knowledge, willingness, and potential.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the primary authority for administering most of those laws across the United States, and its guidance makes clear that no one can legally be denied a job or a chance to land a job just because of his or her:

  • Race
  • Skin color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • National origin
  • Age (if older than 40)
  • Disability, either physical or mental
  • Genetic information

Antidiscrimination protections also exist in various forms for sexual orientation, gender identity, active-duty military service, and veteran status. If a company or agency wants to use of these characteristics as a reason not to hire someone or to make an employment decision like denying a promotion, the employer has to prove, often in court while facing a Columbus employment discrimination lawyer, that the characteristic is directly related to proper performance of the essential functions of the job.

For instance, a company might be allowed to deny a pregnant woman a job that involves handling chemicals known to harm a developing fetus. Even in that circumstance, however, the company would need to show that it had no way to adequately prevent fetal exposure by, say, requiring workers to wear respirators and protective suits.

EEOC rules and regulations apply to all aspects of finding and holding employment. A partial list of these aspects includes

  • Job advertisements
  • Referrals
  • Recruiting practices
  • Application forms
  • Training materials and sessions
  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Promotions
  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Leave
  • Discipline
  • Firing/Termination
  • Recommendations

In practice — and, again, often enforced via a lawsuit brought with the help of an attorney from a Columbus employment discrimination law firm — a company or agency must treat all individuals the same by, for example, imposing discipline equally on white and black co-workers who violate the same work rule or corporate policy. Other major examples of unequal treatment include paying women less than men for doing the same work and holding the same position title, only approving younger workers for management training, and denying Family and Medical Leave without a proper reason.

When a job applicant or employee reports potentially discriminatory employment practices, the company or agency cannot retaliate. Illegal retaliation by an employer can take many forms, ranging from making a demotion and denying raises to firing or subjecting the person who filed a complaint to verbal or physical harassment. Retaliation also makes an employer subject to being sued by an employment discrimination lawyer.

All that written, laws and court decisions do recognize a handful of seemingly discriminatory employment practices as legal and permissible. Even when the characteristics are not completely related to job performance, a company or agency may get away with not hiring or giving the fullest employment opportunities to individuals who are deeply in debt, express strong political beliefs, have long periods of unemployment, and consistently dress or look in ways that do not reflect the organization’s image when those appearance factors are not related to religious observances or ethnic identity. Excessively long hair on men, obesity, and wearing too much makeup can all affect employment opportunities without imposing liability for discrimination on an employer.

When an employer cites an “allowed” discriminatory reason for making a decision about a job applicant or employee, it must still be able to defend its position. Contacting a Columbus employment discrimination lawyer to discuss legal options for holding a company or agency to its legal obligation for fair treatment can make sense. To schedule a free consultation with such an attorney at the Calig Law Firm, call 614-252-2300 or fill out this online contact form.


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