Workplace discrimination is illegal, but it happens in offices, hospitals, factories and schools every day. Being mistreated at work can be a daunting experience. Victims of workplace discrimination may feel vulnerable, afraid, angry or resentful. If you have been subject to discrimination at work, you know it can have a terrible effect on well-being.
As an employee, you have rights that need to be respected. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal workplace discrimination laws and investigating violation complaints. All employees have the right to file an EEOC complaint.
Employee rights and protections
Employment discrimination laws make it clear that discrimination in the workplace is unacceptable and illegal. The EEOC classifies employment discrimination in the following ways:
- Sex and gender. Sex and gender discrimination occurs whenever someone is treated unequally because of their gender. It is illegal for employers to have different working conditions, salaries, hiring or promotion standards for men and women. Florida state law prohibits discrimination based upon marital status.
- Race. Racial discrimination takes place when an employee is treated unfavorable because they are of a certain race or based on race or physical characteristics associated with race, including skin color, facial features and hair styling.
- Pregnancy. A woman can’t be fired or demoted due to pregnancy. Employers cannot penalize women for taking time off work after having a baby since it is illegal to restrict medical leave.
- Disability. An employer cannot take your disability into account when making decisions about hiring, pay, promotion or benefits. You also have the right to request reasonable accommodations that will allow you to do your job.
- Age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids discrimination against people who are 40 years or older. The law prohibits age discrimination during all phases of employment, including hiring, promotions, raises, benefits and layoffs.
- Religion. All elements of religious observance and practice are protected. Employers are required to provide accommodations for religious observances such as prayer and worship service attendance.
The burden and stress of being discriminated against at work can take its toll. If you believe you have experienced discrimination at work, a lawyer can help determine if your rights have been violated and if you may be entitled to damages.