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Workplace Discrimination: A Guide for Employees

As an employee, you have the right to work in a safe and comfortable environment free from discrimination. Unfortunately, no matter what job you do or where or the company you work for, workplace discrimination can exist.

The team at Nichols Kaster PLLP breaks down the types of workplace discrimination prohibited by federal and Minnesota state laws and employees' rights in these situations.

What is Workplace Discrimination, and What Types are Prohibited by Law?

Workplace discrimination is the unfair or unequal treatment of individuals based on their status in a particular social group. It is illegal under U.S. federal and state laws, with enforcement varying from state to state.

Types of workplace discrimination prohibited by law can include:

  • Age;
  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Gender identity and expression;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Disability status;
  • Marital status;
  • National origin; and
  • Military service.

Discrimination in the workplace can manifest itself in various forms, such as:

  • Unjustified termination;
  • Unequal pay for equal work;
  • Lack of promotion opportunities;
  • Hostile working environment; or
  • Harassment based on any of these protected characteristics.

Employers and employees alike must understand the types of workplace discrimination prohibited by law and work together to create a safe and inclusive work environment for all.

How to Recognize Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination can take many forms and can be subtle or overt. One way to recognize workplace discrimination is to pay attention to how people are treated. Are they being excluded from meetings, promotions, or social events? Are they receiving negative comments about their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability? Another way to recognize workplace discrimination is to look at the policies and practices within the organization. Are there policies that appear to be biased or unfair?

Ultimately, recognizing workplace discrimination requires us to be aware, observant, and willing to act when necessary to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all.

What are the Consequences of Workplace Discrimination, and Who Can be Held Liable?

Employees who experience discrimination may feel demoralized, anxious, or even physically ill, affecting their ability to perform their job. Discrimination also creates a toxic work environment that can lead to turnover and lost productivity, ultimately negatively affecting the company's success.

Those responsible for workplace discrimination, including employers and individuals who engage in discriminatory behavior, can be held liable. Legal action can result in costly lawsuits, fines, and tarnished reputation for the company.

Tips for Responding to Workplace Discrimination in the Moment

Workplace discrimination can be a challenging issue to navigate, especially when it happens at the moment. However, responding swiftly to discrimination you experience or witness is essential to prevent it from becoming a more significant problem.

You can start by calmly addressing the issue and letting the person know their behavior is inappropriate. Don't let emotions take over, and avoid retaliating, as it can escalate the situation. If you feel uncomfortable confronting the person, consider notifying your supervisor or human resources representative. Remember that everyone deserves to work in an environment free of discrimination, and by standing up against it, you are helping to create a more inclusive workplace culture.

A Voice for Employees and Consumers When They Need it Most

The impact of workplace discrimination can be immense and long-lasting. Fortunately, there are laws in place that protect employees from certain forms of discrimination.

If you feel like you have been discriminated against or subjected to hostile behavior in any capacity, contact Nichols Kaster PLLP for help with your discrimination case. Our experienced employment lawyers can help by reviewing the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged discrimination and determining whether it is a defensible claim against your employer. We can also represent you in negotiations with your employer, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and represent you in court if the case isn't settled beforehand.

Let Nichols Kaster PLLP fight for your rights — reach out online or by phone for a free consultation. (877) 344-4628