What is employment discrimination?

Employees shouldn't have to deal with work decisions that are based on something that doesn't have anything to do with their job performance. Unfortunately, people in this country deal with discrimination at work on a daily basis. There are state and federal laws that help to protect workers from discrimination, but some employers do not always follow these laws.

There are specific types of discrimination that are always forbidden. When a worker is subjected to them, the employee might choose to file a lawsuit against the employer. It is imperative that all workers know a bit about discrimination.

What is a protected status?

A protected status is one that is named in federal or state law. All of these can't be used as the basis of employment decisions:

  • Race or color
  • Ethnic background
  • Age for workers over 40 years old
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Sex or gender
  • Pregnancy
  • National origin or genetic information
  • Sexual preferences

One important factor to remember is that discrimination can issue from anyone who comes into contact with the victim in the workplace. This can include supervisors, owners, clients, vendors and co-workers. It doesn't matter if the person is employed by the company. The factor that matters is whether the victim was doing a work-related duty at the time of the incident.

What types of actions constitute discrimination?

Many different actions can be construed as discrimination. It is possible that discrimination and harassment might overlap. Statements that are based on a protected status can be discriminatory. Even if they aren't directed at a worker, they can be considered discrimination if a worker heard them.

Negative employment actions, such as termination, pay cuts, refusing to promote a worker, shift changes and similar events, can all be discrimination if they are based on one of these statuses. Because the possibilities are so broad, companies need to have a clear non-discrimination policy in place so that there is no question about what is permissible and what isn't.

The policy only helps if it is strictly enforced by the employer. Workers should familiarize themselves with these so that they can take appropriate action when the policy isn't followed.

It is imperative that you pay close attention to what's going on at work so that you understand whether you are discriminated against or not. If you are, you should document the incident and take swift action since there are time limits that apply to these cases in Tennessee.

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