From excluding certain job candidates from genuine consideration, to denying certain employees their justly owed benefits and compensation, to unjustified pay gaps, to wrongful termination — workplace discrimination can take many diverse forms. And the worst part is: many studies show that it is still surprisingly prevalent in the American economy.
Now for some good news: if you have been treated unfairly due to your race, religion, age, national origin, or other protected statuses, then you have legal recourses at your disposal in order to demand fair treatment, gain recompense for harm caused, and protect yourself and your fellow workers from further acts of discrimination. California Government Code section 12940(a) prohibits discrimination in hiring practices or treatment in the workplace based upon: race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, or sexual orientation of any person.
Of course, before making a case, it is prudent to consider whether you are truly the victim of unlawful discrimination. Some bosses are just jerks — and some bosses may even dislike certain employees. The fact that your boss is a jerk or dislikes certain employees is not illegal in itself, unless their hostility is based on one’s membership in a protected class such as sex, race, disability, etc.
Feeling a bit uncertain about your work environment? The following four points are all common yet subtle signs that you have or may be experiencing workplace discrimination:
- Suspicious interview questions. Sometimes, discriminatory managers give themselves away during interviews in an attempt to weed out members of groups that they do not wish to hire. For example, employers must not take a candidate’s nationality or ethnic origin into account when hiring — so if an interviewing manager seems intent on finding out where your family is from, this may be cause for suspicion. Family/marital status is another potential area where discrimination can take place, Employers may not take a candidate’s sions. So a question such as “how many kids do you have?” or “you aren’t married, are you?” should immediately raise red flags during an interview.
- Strategic duty assignment. Some managers opt to intentionally give difficult, frustrating, or humiliating jobs to members of certain minority groups systematically, in order to goad them into quitting. If you seem to notice a pattern with respect to the work that you or other employee members of a protected group are assigned, then you may want to look for other warning signs of workplace discrimination discussed in this article or contact an experienced employee rights attorney such as the Perrin Law Group.
- “Joking” remarks/stereotype references. Although it is not unlawful for your supervisor to be rude or a bully, his or her comments, even under the guise of lightheartedness, cannot be based on prejudicial stereotypes..If your boss is making comments or jokes about your gender, national origin, age, disability or other protected status, you may have a claim for discrimination or in fact harassment. Examples of such comments include complaints about a disabled employee’s body odor or referring to an employee over 40 as an “Old Timer” or that they seem to have lost the spring in their step. Furthermore, the employer may be found liable for failing to provide a discrimination free work environment if they fail to act after receiving a complaint about the discriminatory comments.(California Government Code §12940[k])
- Policy Violations. Most companies have written policies in place for issues involving discipline or how to handle workplace harassment. For example, an employer’s anti- harassment policy may require a thorough investigation of any complaint of misconduct or harassment. An investigation normally requires that all knowledgeable witnesses be interviewed. If a member of a protected class is fired by an employer before being interviewed, the employer’s failure to follow its own policy with respect to requiring a thorough investigation may be evidence of discrimination.