If you either know or believe that you’ve been unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace, you’re certainly not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by Glassdoor, more than three out of every five American workers indicates that they have either witnessed or have been personally discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of gender, age, race or sexual orientation. These are also not the only protected classes who experience employment discrimination either. Other common forms of employment discrimination involve mistreatment based on disability, pregnancy, nation origin, color, ethnicity, ancestry, genetic information, age, religion, marital status, and gender expression.
The fact that discriminating against individuals based on such immutable characteristics is illegal in the U.S. has not ended the phenomenon of unlawful workplace discrimination. Therefore, it is important for workers to understand their rights for two primary reasons. First, having a solid grasp of one’s rights under the law better ensures that one will accurately spot when those rights are being infringed upon. Second, understanding when one’s rights are being infringed upon helps to empower victims of discrimination to seek legal guidance and stand up for their rights when doing so is possible and prudent.
As an experienced Oregon civil rights injury lawyer – including those who practice at Andersen Morse & Linthorst – can explain in great detail, employment discrimination manifests in many forms. When discrimination results in personal injury, individuals may be able to sue offending co-workers or employers directly for the physical harm they’ve suffered. In cases that don’t involve physical injury, other remedies for legal and financial recourse are available.
One of the most common kinds of workplace discrimination involves harassment. Harassment is broadly defined as unwelcome language or behavior directed at someone as a result of their membership in a protected class. For example, repeated racial slurs or trying to squeeze the breasts of a lactating mom would be considered harassment.
When harassment is either so egregious or so pervasive that it renders a workplace abusive or unreasonably intimidating, harassment can create a “hostile work environment.” If that work environment becomes so unmanageable that it causes a victim of discrimination to quit, this scenario is commonly referred to as “constructive discharge.”
Individuals with protected immutable characteristics also commonly suffer retaliation. Employers may engage in retaliation for any number of reasons, but most frequently do so when workers exercise protected rights. For example, whistleblowers may be retaliated against for speaking up about rights violations and women may be retaliated against for taking legally-protected leave after giving birth.
Very broadly, workplace discrimination occurs whenever a member of a protected class is mistreated during any stage of the employment process – from hiring to firing – as a result of their immutable characteristics. If you’re unsure of whether you’ve been discriminated against, connect with an attorney who can clarify your situation and advise you of your rights and options under the law. Don’t suffer alone. Get the help that you deserve.