The average worker knows that there are rules against discrimination, but they may not truly understand them. Which is understandable because the law is complicated and ever evolving. Employees may believe that certain actions constitute discrimination when they do not, and they may overlook other forms of misconduct that could lead to a viable claim.
Those who have endured some kind of mistreatment or setback on the job may benefit from learning more about federal discrimination rules to more effectively evaluate whether their circumstances could justify a discrimination complaint against their employer.
When do workers generally have protection from discrimination?
When businesses make employment decisions
One of the broadest and most important anti-discrimination rules at the federal level prohibits employers from considering protected characteristics as a factor when making decisions about employment. When hiring workers, their race, sex, age disability or religion should have no bearing on who the company chooses for a position. Similarly, protected characteristics should not influence decisions about layoffs, terminations, raises, projects or promotions.
When a worker’s situation changes
One of the more common forms of discrimination involves discrimination based on medical needs or limitations after someone gets hired. Someone’s symptoms can flare up at work, making them think they have to choose between worsening symptoms or the loss of their job. Workers who suddenly develop a protected characteristic, like a disabling medical condition, may find that their employer’s attitude toward them changes and the trajectory of their career shifts as well. Workers have protection from discrimination whenever they seek a job, pursue a promotion or engage in protected workplace activities, like requesting disability accommodations.
When discipline occurs
One of the more common forms of discrimination involves retaliation or an employer punishing a worker for engaging in reasonable or protected workplace activities. Examples of conduct that might trigger employer retaliation include asking for unpaid leave, requesting medical accommodations, reporting misconduct or attempting to unionize with coworkers.
Businesses may punish or even terminate workers who engage in these protected activities, and those punitive actions may constitute actionable discrimination in some cases. Learning more about when workers have protection from discrimination on the job might help people fight back when their employer has unfairly considered their protected characteristics or activities when making employment decisions.