For some Americans, discrimination is a daily occurrence. Regardless of who they are or what they do, people are discriminated against because of their skin color, gender identity, sex, age, religion, or disability in a variety of settings.
However, is discrimination illegal or just unfortunate? Federal law makes discrimination illegal when it occurs in the workplace or violates your civil rights.
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace or in other areas of your life, you may have cause for legal action. Contact a lawyer to help you evaluate your discrimination case or to learn more about discrimination and the laws that protect you from it.
What Is Discrimination?
Discrimination is defined as the prejudicial or unjust treatment of a person based on some kind of personal characteristic. In many cases, discrimination involves unfair social interactions that benefit more powerful and privileged groups while oppressing or damaging other groups.
According to the American Psychological Association, discrimination is a public health issue. People who experience discrimination report higher levels of stress than those who don’t. Even if you’ve never been discriminated against personally, you may feel the stress of being a member of a group that is often the subject of discrimination, like LGBT individuals or young African American males.
In legal matters, not all forms of discrimination are illegal. However, several federal laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace, where the vast majority of discrimination cases occur.
Laws That Protect You From Workplace Discrimination
Under different Federal laws, it’s illegal for discrimination to occur in the workplace. These laws are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The following Federal laws are some of the most frequently cited laws in litigation involving workplace discrimination:
- Equal Pay Act of 1963 — This law requires that men and women receive equal pay for the same or similar job roles.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 —This law protects people from being discriminated against because of their race, color, sex, religion, or nationality.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 — This law protects individuals who are age 40 or older from being discriminated against because of their age.
- Civil Services Reform Act of 1978 — This law protects people from being discriminated against because of their marital status.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 — This law protects pregnant women from discrimination.
- Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 — This law protects people from discrimination that’s based on their national origin or citizenship.
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 — This law protects people with disabilities, or a perceived disability, from discrimination.
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 — This law protects people from being discriminated against because of their genetic information.
Where Illegal Discrimination Occurs
Illegal discrimination can occur in a variety of settings, but most legal cases involve employer discrimination in the workplace.
However, illegal discrimination can also occur:
- during a job search
- during the homebuying or renting process
- at educational institutions
- at hospitals
- at banks or financial institutions
Types Of Workplace/Employer Discrimination
The majority of discrimination lawsuits revolve around the workplace. Workplace discrimination involves any action or decision that involes an employee and is based on some discriminating factor.
Employer decisions that could involve discrimination in the workplace include:
- promotion (or lack of promotion)
- job assignments
- any other condition of employment
Sex-Based Discrimination In The Workplace
This type of discrimination makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against an employee because of their sex. This can involve any of the actions listed above, as well as employment decisions that are based on stereotypes or assumptions of job performance because the employee is a man or woman.
Pregnancy-Based Discrimination In The Workplace
Sex-based discrimination also includes protecting pregnant female employees. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of childbirth, pregnancy, and any associated medical conditions.
Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
Workplace sexual harassment, a type of sex-based discrimination, is also illegal and grounds for a lawsuit. This involves a wide range of issues, from supervisors requesting quid-pro-quo sexual favors to hostile work environments that negatively affect any gender or sex.
Age Discrimination In The Workplace
Age discrimination makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees because of their age. This is only applicable for employees who are 40 years of age or older. People older than 40 are protected both in the workplace and during a job search.
Religious Discrimination In The Workplace
Employers cannot discriminate against their employees because of religious affiliation, beliefs, or practices. This includes the major organized religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism), as well as other sincere religious, ethical, or moral positions.
Religious discrimination can also extend to the employee’s spouse. An employer cannot treat an employee differently because they’re married to or associated with someone who practices a certain religion.
National Origin Discrimination In The Workplace
National origin discrimination makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees who:
- are from a particular country or place in the world
- are from a certain ethnic background
- speak with an accent
- appear to be from a certain ethnic background (even when they may not be)
- are married to someone from a certain ethnic background
Disability Discrimination In The Workplace
Individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination in the workplace. This type of discrimination also prohibits discriminating against employees because they have a history of a disability but are currently not struggling with it (such as being in cancer remission) and those who have a physical or mental impairment that lasts more than six months. The ADA protects employees who are regarded or perceived by their employer to have a qualifying disability, even if their condition does not actually qualify as a disability under the statute.
This form of discrimination also requires employers to provide accommodation for the employee’s disability, unless it’s an unreasonable expense for the employer.
Racial Discrimination In The Workplace
Racial discrimination occurs when an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably because of their race. This also includes any personal characteristic associated with their race, such as skin color, hair texture, facial features, or other traits. Racial discrimination can still occur when someone of the same race is responsible for inflicting discrimination on an employee.
Genetic Information Discrimination In The Workplace
This type of discrimination involves treating an employee unfairly because of their genetic information. Employers cannot request, purchase, or require the genetic information of their employees.
Genetic information is defined as a person’s genetic tests, their family member’s genetic tests, and any information about diseases, disorders, or other medical histories within the family.
The EEOC prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who take action against discrimination in the workplace, which is also called “protected activity.”
Protected activities that make it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees include:
- filing an EEOC complaint, charge, investigation, or lawsuit
- communicating with a supervisor about harassment or discrimination
- participating in an employer investigation regarding discrimination or harassment
- refusing to follow orders or take part in an activity that could result in discrimination
- resisting or protecting others from sexual advances
- filing a request for disability accommodation
- requesting accommodation for a religious practice
- participating in any formal complaint process involving discrimination
Other Types Of Illegal Discrimination
Although workplace discrimination involves the majority of discrimination lawsuits, complaints, or investigations, other forms of illegal discrimination exist. Several federal laws protect individuals from discrimination in other areas of life, including in housing and educational institutions.
Educational institutions are responsible for protecting a student’s right to learn without unlawful discrimination or unjust actions that deprive them of this right. The Office for Civil Rights under the U.S. Department of Education enforces federal civil rights laws that make it illegal for discrimination to occur when students apply for financial assistance.
Like workplace discrimination, students are protected from unfair acts related to race, sex, age, color, national origin, and disability. The varying civil rights laws can apply to discrimination in elementary and secondary school systems, universities and colleges, state education agencies, and other institutions that receive financial assistance from the Department of Education.
Some anti-discrimination laws apply to consumers in certain situations. For example, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of national origin, marital status, age, race, color, or religion. This act also prohibits credit discrimination if you receive public assistance. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces these laws.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is in place to protect people from discrimination in housing. Like other anti-discrimination laws, the FHA prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, family status, and disability.
This law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which protects housing rights for both renters and home buyers.
Federal law protects patients from several forms of discrimination regarding healthcare services. Patients with Medicare or Medicaid coverage cannot be discriminated against because of their national origin, race, sex, or other discriminating characteristics. Hospitals across the country are required to establish processes for patients who believe they’ve been discriminated against.
Hospitals may have a Patient Bill of Rights or Patients Relations Department that can act as a liaison between the hospital’s administration and patients and their families. Patients can also file an online discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Civil Rights division.
LGBT individuals frequently experience discrimination. Compared to heterosexual individuals, LGBT people report more day-to-day and lifetime experiences involving discrimination. However, in over half of America’s 50 states, there are no explicit statewide laws that protect LGBT individuals from discrimination.
There is also no federal law that protects LGBT people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. However, some state laws do protect LGBT people from discrimination. As an LGBT person, you may want to contact an attorney in your state to determine your legal options regarding discrimination.
How To Deal With Discrimination
Discrimination can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. By increasing stress levels, discrimination, or perceived discrimination, can lead to substance abuse, anxiety, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression.
Although some cases of discrimination are obvious, like not getting a job because of your race or gender, others are more subtle. You could receive poor services at a restaurant, be treated with less respect or common courtesy in public places, or be seen as less trustworthy or intelligent overall.
Day-to-day discrimination can make you feel like you don’t belong or your experiences are not important.
However, you can deal with discrimination in healthy ways by:
- seeking support systems
- focusing on your strengths
- getting involved with like-minded groups or organizations
- doing breathing exercises to help you think clearly
- coming up with plans for how to react, feel, and cope should another incident occur
- seeking professional help or counseling
- seeking legal guidance
What To Do If You’ve Experienced Discrimination
If you’ve been the victim of discrimination in any setting, you can assert your rights as a human being and citizen of the United States. Depending on the circumstances of the discrimination, you may have cause for legal action.
Besides consulting with a lawyer, there are a few steps you can take:
- file an internal complaint with your employer or the organization responsible
- keep notes, documents, or detailed records of the discrimination
- gather any other evidence of the discriminatory act
File A Complaint With The Relevant Government Agency
If you’ve experienced discrimination, you can file a formal complaint with the government department responsible for enforcing any relevant anti-discrimination laws.
For example, if you’ve experienced workplace discrimination, you can file a complaint with the EEOC. Other federal government departments, like the FTC and HUD, can also help you file a discrimination complaint. You may also have other options for filing a complaint with your state or local government, depending on where you live.
Hire A Qualified Discrimination Lawyer
Although federal and state agencies can help you get the process started, it may be in your best interest to hire a lawyer. A qualified discrimination lawyer can help you sort through the complicated issues associated with your claim. Your lawyer should be aware of any state laws that apply to your situation, as well as help to make sure you meet legal deadlines for filing a complaint or lawsuit.
Discrimination Lawyers Serving The U.S.
Discrimination can occur in different situations, so it’s important to consult with a lawyer to better understand your rights and strategy moving forward. At Florin|Roebig, our team of workplace discrimination lawyers can sift through the complex details of your case and consider all your legal options.
Our team of qualified discrimination lawyers includes:
- Wil H. Florin, B.C.S.
- Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S.
- Shaun M. Cummings
- Taylor D. Roebig
- Luca G. Esposito
- Nicholas S. Costantino
- Jordan A. Kolinski
- Parker Y. Florin, LL.M.
- Matthew L. McMullen
- Michael A. Ossi, O.C.
- Lawrence J. Najem, O.C.
- Andrew M. Leone, O.C.
- Nollys R. Solarte, O.C.
- Brian R. Dettman, O.C.
Contact Florin|Roebig To File A Discrimination Lawsuit Today
If you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, at a hospital, in school, or in other settings, it can be worth considering your legal options to collect damages. Since it can be difficult to know if you should move forward with your case, we offer free case evaluations at Florin|Roebig to help you better understand your options.
To learn more about discrimination lawsuits, or to start your free case evaluation, reach out to the offices of Florin|Roebig today.