Indianapolis Employment Law Blog

Breaking down workplace discrimination

What counts as workplace discrimination?

Workplace discrimination takes place when an employee is mistreated due to any of the following: race, skin color, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, mental disability, genetics, relationships, pregnancy, parenthood or age. It’s an illegal act to mistreat any employee or discriminate on hiring, firing, promoting, referring or any other employment situation based on any of those factors. Workplace discrimination is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.)

What is the advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) aims at protecting workers through illness, pregnancy and other such conditions. Essentially, it makes sure that companies recognize that workers are people with lives outside of work and thus have certain protections if they need to step away from their jobs for a short time.

That said, the FMLA does not guarantee that workers will get paid while off work for personal reasons. The time off can be unpaid, even when it's for weeks on end. If the Act doesn't protect your income, what does it do?

Can educational requirements be discrimination?

One of the most common things you will find on a job posting is an educational requirement. Most jobs require a high school degree; many require a college degree.

While you may not have thought twice about this before, consider the fact that not everyone has these degrees. If the company requires them, does that discriminate against potential workers who do not have them? Is that legal?

Would gender discrimination end with more equal representation?

Gender discrimination in the workplace happens for many reasons, but one of the biggest issues that women face is that they simply do not have the same representation as men. There are far more men than women in many professions. This doesn't mean that women can't do the job, but they face challenges trying to break into the industry.

Experts believe some of this discrimination would slowly end itself if the numbers for both genders were simply more equal than they are today.

Social media discrimination is real: How to protect yourself

It’s difficult to find a job. You could get lucky and secure the first or second position you apply for but often the process takes weeks or months. You display three versions of yourself in each application process: the resume version, the in-person interview version and the social media version. The in-person version and digital (social media) version can showcase the most drastic difference.

Some people use their social media pages (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat) like their own personal diaries. While in a delicate situation like trying to find a job or a professional situation, it is never wise to spout off about your personal problems to the masses on your social pages. We all need to vent, but why to hundreds of strangers when some of these strangers could be your potential or current employer?

Why your company can have a dress code

Your company gives you a dress code to follow at work. You don't like the restrictions, so you break the code and wear whatever you want. Predictably, they fire you. Is this a wrongful termination?

Some argue that dress codes discriminate against them, and this is a very real concern. After all, discrimination is illegal in the workplace.

Unconscious physical reactions to racial discrimination

When you experience racial discrimination and rejection, it impacts you in many ways. Some of these, you are probably well aware of. You feel angry. You feel frustrated. It makes you irate, as it should. Discrimination is not just illegal, but it is an attack on a personal level to things outside of your control.

However, did you know that your body responds in some ways that you may not even be conscious of? Researchers studied it, and one noted that "the race of the person who rejects you alters the responses to social rejection."

What does workplace retaliation look like?

One reason that employees sometimes fail to report things like safety violations and sexual harassment is that they worry about retaliation. If they make that report, is it going to negatively impact their career? Employees often feel like they have to choose between taking a stand and keeping a steady paycheck for their families. That allows a lot of issues to get swept under the rug as they pick their families and their careers.

That being said, retaliation is illegal. If you file a complaint, your company cannot take action against you. Employees still worry about it, and it does still happen, but those who experience it need to know that they have legal options.

Subtle forms of workplace discrimination

Many women face multiple forms of discrimination at work. You might think that this discrimination is glaring and bold, such as denying a woman a promotion or keeping them from executive-level positions.

While this is true in some cases, there are often more subtle forms of discrimination and undermining women face at work. The bigger, more clear forms of discrimination are wrong, but the smaller examples should not be ignored either.

Signs of sexual harassment for victims and harassers

If you're trying to keep an eye out for sexual harassment in the workplace, it can be a bit harder to identify it these days. Most people understand that it's illegal and that there are ramifications. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but they may try harder to hide it or to disguise it as something else.

To help you see what's happening, here are some signs that a person is being harassed:

  • They start missing shifts and failing to show up for work more often.
  • Employee turnover rates increase as people leave for new jobs.
  • They can't seem to focus on the task at hand.
  • They seem to have a low opinion of the job and low employee morale overall.
  • They wear clothes that cover up the physical signs of harassment.
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