Workplace Discrimination

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Workplace discrimination, sometimes referred to as employment discrimination, refers to unfair treatment of an employee - or a group of employees - as compared to another employee - or another group of employees.

As an employer you may break employment law provisions by discriminating against job applicants or employees based on:

  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion or belief, and
  • Age

Discrimination at work involves unfair treatment of workers. Some people divide employment discrimination into four major classifications, namely,

  • race,
  • sex (discrimination),
  • age, and
  • disability.

Know that as an employer, you are responsible for the acts of people answerable to you. You cannot plead ignorance.

The types of workplace discrimination that are not allowed depend very much on the laws of the country where your organization is carrying out its business activities. To avoid breaking the law, get to know existing laws. Keep up-to-date on the relevant legislation.

But remember that discrimination at work, sooner or later, will have negative impacts on your business activities.

Categories of workplace discrimination

These include:

  1. Direct and indirect discrimination
  2. As an employer, you cannot treat one employee less favourably than another employee because of any of the reasons stated above.

    An example is where you accept female only or male only applicants for certain types of job.

    This is trampling on people's or employee rights.

    On the other hand, you cannot treat some employees better than others.

    Indirect discrimination may occur if working conditions put one group of people at a disadvantage as compared to another group.

    For example, you cannot impose any condition that only people having a particular belief can apply for the advertised job vacancies. Or you will not accept any applicant belonging to a particular race.

  3. Harassment
  4. The law prohibits harassment at work, intimidation, humiliating remarks (including insinuations) or acts.

  5. Victimization
  6. Victimization occurs if you happen to treat an employee less favorably than another employee just because he or she complained about the discrimination.

    As another example, you cannot prevent an employee from attending an official meeting (such as a worker's union meeting) because he or she had questioned certain bad decisions.

Racial Discrimination
The law in many countries makes it unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for jobs because of race.

This also includes not discriminating against any employee in cases of promotion, transfer, wage determination, training, or termination.

Discrimination due to Age
The law specifies a certain legal age when a person can apply for a job. Other than this, the law protects certain groups, job applicants as well as employees, from discrimination because of age. For example, you are cannot discriminate against an older applicant unless a younger person is better than the former.

Ensure you check out what are allowed and what are not allowed under existing laws.

Sexual Discrimination
An example of sexual discrimination is paying female employees less than males although they do identical or similar job.

Enacted law may allow the existence of a government agency where the employees belong to one particular sex. This appears reasonable if done for the purpose of studying employee behavior under a certain working environment. Otherwise this is discrimination.

Discrimination based on Disability
Due to the presence of many qualified or skilled disabled people, some countries have enacted laws that protect disabled job seekers and employees.

"Disability" refers to either physical or mental impairment limiting one or more of a person's life activities.

If such a person applies for a job, you cannot discriminate against him or her due to the disability as long as he or she is qualified or skilled to do the job. This also applies with respect to people in service.

The law requires that you make arrangements that enable disabled employees to perform their jobs such as making premises easily accessible and conducting job restructuring.

Unfair or Wrongful Termination
Wrongful termination is an instance of workplace discrimination.

Discrimination can happen at the point of hiring people, while they are in service, or in termination.

Referral to Discrimination Attorney
Refer cases which may involve discrimination to an attorney who is well versed in discrimination law.

Discrimination lawyers will have up-to-date information on employment discrimination laws. They are better-able to handle cases of workplace discrimination which an in-house attorney may not possess.

This action is advisable as being reasonable since this is one area of employment laws that is complicated. An in-house lawyer can help but referring such cases to practising discrimination lawyers for confirmation will answer a lot of lingering questions.

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