discrimination and harassment in the workplace

Discrimination and harassment in the workplace aren’t always as obvious as we may think. There are many ways that individuals can be discriminated against in the workplace, and it’s important to understand when this is happening and what to do if you feel your civil rights are being violated. We break it down below.

What Is Considered Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently, in a negative way, because of a personal characteristic that is legally protected against discrimination. Protected characteristics include race, gender, national origin, religion, and many others. Illegal harassment occurs when bosses or coworkers say or do things to a worker based on that worker’s protected personal characteristics, and the harassment is severe enough to interfere with their ability to do their job.

Some examples of words or actions that may be discriminatory or harassing include the following:

  • Posing inappropriate questions in a job interview, such as, “Do you have a disability?”, “Does depression run in your family?”, “What church do you go to?”, “Are you biracial?”, or “Do you plan to have children within the next year?” 
  • Requiring that employees in a certain job have to pass to test to show that they can lift a certain amount of weight if lifting things is not an essential part of that job. This can be a subtle form of discrimination against women or people with certain disabilities. 
  • Subjecting an employee to harsh criticism from a supervisor, as can be discriminatory if it is directed unevenly toward employees of different races.
  • Forbidding employees from speaking languages other than English at work, can be discrimination based on national origin.
  • Making sexualized comments in the workplace.
  • Promoting a disproportionate percentage of people of the same race or gender.

What You Can Do If You Think You’re Being Harassed or Discriminated Against

1. Document what is happening by writing about it in a journal at home. Include details such as the names of the people involved and any witnesses, dates, and times.

2. If you are being sexually or racially harassed, notify a supervisor, manager, or human resources promptly.  

3. Be careful about signing anything you are not sure about without first consulting an attorney, especially if you are being asked to waive your rights.

4. File a grievance with your company if your employer has a procedure for doing so.

5. Try resolving the situation informally by talking with a supervisor, manager, HR, or union representative.

6. Talk to an employment lawyer to find out more about your rights and options.

6. If you haven’t been able to resolve the problem informally through your company, consider filing a complaint with the EEOC or your state’s human rights commission.

7. If the EEOC or state commission sends you a “right to sue” letter, you can file a lawsuit, but you have to do it within a short period or else you will lose the right to do so. Contact an employment lawyer immediately if you haven’t already!

Contact the Attorneys at Garmey Law

The employment lawyers at Garmey Law believe that every worker is entitled to a workplace free of unlawful discrimination and harassment. We are committed to achieving justice for employees who were held back at work because of unfair treatment. If you think you may have been a victim of discrimination or harassment, give us a call at (207) 481-4683, or contact us through our website for a free consultation. We’ll be glad to answer your questions and let you know if you have a good case for a discrimination claim or lawsuit.