female employee bringing up a topic at work where it wasn't appropriate and is being reprimanded by others

5 Common Forms of Employment Discrimination

By Douglas Lipsky

Employment discrimination violates federal, state, and local laws, but it still occurs in workplaces in New York City. The best way to stop workplace discrimination is to take legal action with the help of an experienced employment discrimination attorney. Let’s look at the most common types of workplace discrimination and what you can do about them.

Gender Discrimination 

Gender discrimination occurs someone is treated differently because of their gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Examples of gender discrimination in the workplace include:

  • Offering a promotion to a less qualified male employee rather than a female
  • Paying a woman less than a man for the same work
  • Not preventing or taking corrective action against sexual harassment 
  • Refusing to hire a job applicant who identifies as nonbinary

Regardless of how it occurs, gender discrimination is illegal under the following laws:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • New York State Human Rights Law 
  • New York City Human Rights Law

If you have suffered gender discrimination, an experienced employment lawyer can help you obtain just compensation.

Race Discrimination

Racism should be a thing of the past, but it remains a problem in society and the workplace. According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data, about one-third of charges (complaints) filed with the agency concern racial discrimination. Discrimination against  Black job applicants and employees, and other people of color may involve:

  • Refusing to hire a candidate because of their race or ethnicity
  • Offering lower wages based on race
  • Denying Black employees training and promotional opportunities
  • Enforcing a grooming policy that prohibits natural hairstyles (e.g. Afros, locs, twists, braids, cornrows) 

While individuals in New York who have suffered racial discrimination can file a complaint with the EEOC, they also have a right to file a civil lawsuit under the state and city human rights laws. 

Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination is one of the most common claims made before the EEOC. In 2020, over 36 percent of charges with the agency alleged disability discrimination or failure to accommodate a disability. 

Disability discrimination may involve assumptions about a disabled person’s ability to do the job, harassment, or unfair employment policies that have a disparate impact on disabled workers. 

Examples of disability discrimination include:

  • Refusing to hire a job applicant because of an actual or perceived disability
  • Denying a disabled worker the same opportunities (e.g. assignments, promotions) as other employees 
  • Not providing a disabled employee a reasonable accommodation
  • No-fault attendance policies that penalize workers for absences by utilizing a points system to monitor attendance

Disabled job applicants and workers have legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This federal law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees; however, state and city laws cover most employers. 

Age Discrimination 

Age discrimination is a growing concern for older employees, but younger workers can also experience discrimination. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers 40 and over but only covers employers with 20 or more employees. The state and city human rights laws apply to individuals 18 and older and cover most employers. 

In any event, applicable laws prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on age, such as:

  • Refusing to hire an older job applicant
  • Firing an employee who turned 50
  • Forcing an older employee to retire
  • Denying a younger employee a promotion or training
  • Treating an employee less favorably or differently

It is also illegal to harass a person because of their age. Because proving an age discrimination claim is challenging, working with a capable employment attorney is essential. 

Religious Discrimination

It is illegal under federal, state, and city laws to discriminate against someone based on their religious or sincerely held beliefs. Religious discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer:

  • Refuses to offer a candidate a job because of their religious or sincerely held beliefs
  • Disciplines an employee for taking time off for a religious observance
  • Does not allow a worker to interact with customers because of religious wear
  • Fails to accommodate certain religious practices, such as daily prayers
  • Prohibits religious wear (e.g hijab, yarmulke) or grooming customs (e.g. Sikh beard)

While religious discrimination is illegal, employees are not permitted to proselytize coworkers. 

The Takeaway

Employment discrimination is not only illegal, but it’s also bad for business. Research shows companies that embrace diversity are more innovative. Discrimination can also prevent employees from performing well and even force them to leave the company. If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, talk to an employment lawyer.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.