The Different Types of Discrimination That Happen in the Workplace

Oct 07, 2016
By Peter Friedmann
discrimination attorney Columbus Ohio, workplace discrimination lawyer Columbus

Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws many forms of discrimination in hiring and employment. Since that law took effect, lawmakers in Washington, DC, and Columbus, OH, have expanded protections against getting skipped over for job interviews, raises, and promotions. State and federal anti-discrimination laws can also prevent employers from firing workers for reasons unrelated to performance.  If we determine a legal violation is likely, these laws allow workers to sue for damages when co-workers and/or managers harass and abuse them as well.

Currently, companies and managers are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on race and skin color, national origin and ethnicity, sex or gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, pregnancy, and military service.

The Columbus-based discrimination attorneys with the Friedmann Firm briefly discuss each type of workplace discrimination below. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of workplace discrimination in Ohio is invited to contact us online or schedule a consultation by calling (614) 610-9755.

Race or Skin Color

Many people view racial discrimination in the workplace as a literal black-and-white issue. In reality, any person can lose job opportunities or be subjected to insults and mistreatment because of the color of his or her skin. When a company does not comply with equal employment opportunity regulations, fails to enforce policies that prohibit racism, or does not allow employees of all races to take advantage of benefits and training, it is illegally discriminating.

In all cases involving discrimination, a company and its managers have the burden of proving that actions were taken for nondiscriminatory reasons.

National Origin or Ethnicity

Employers cannot rely on stereotypes when making decisions regarding hiring, assigning responsibilities, awarding raises and promotions, or terminations. Ideas about certain groups’ intelligence, work ethic, temperament, and trustworthiness unfortunately persist. Any company that acts or allows its staff members to act according to negative stereotypes about people from particular countries and ethnic groups is guilty of workplace discrimination.

Sex or Gender

Sex and gender discrimination remain serious problems, especially when it comes to offering equal pay for equal work and having senior staff members sexually harass subordinates. Examples of this type of discrimination include derogatory or sexually aggressive comments about an employee’s appearance; unwanted touching, assaults, or making career opportunities contingent on sexual favors; and setting lower pay rates for women who hold the same positions as men.

One of the most important things to understand about sex- and gender-based discrimination is that both men and women can experience discrimination based on their sex (i.e., body) and gender (i.e., actions thought of as male and female). Another is that federal and state laws guarantee only opportunities. For instance, a woman must be allowed to compete for a job that requires a certain amount of physical strength. As long as the assessment of job-related strength is fairly designed, administered, and judged, a woman can be disqualified for failing that test, just as a man could be if he failed the test.

Sexual Orientation

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers enjoy employment protections under the bans on sex and gender discrimination spelled out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Ohio’s Civil Rights Commission and Ohio case law closely follow the lead of federal regulators and judges on these issues, but consulting with a workplace discrimination lawyer in Columbus before filing a legal action related to LGBT discrimination in state court is wise.


Only organizations with explicitly religious missions can make holding and practicing certain religious beliefs a condition of employment. Also, the religious exemption from anti-discrimination employment laws usually only applies to specific positions. For instance, a Christian church can limit its search for ministers to Christian clergy, but a Catholic hospital cannot bar non-Catholics from working as doctors, nurses, and staff.


The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination against individuals older than 40. Companies and industries can enforce the retirement age for safety reasons, but no organization can act on the stereotype that a person is “too old” to do almost any job.


The Americans with Disability Act, or ADA, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for people who have the skills and knowledge to do a job. Examples of reasonable accommodations include wheelchair ramps, oversized keyboards, computer screens, and slightly redesigned equipment that permits use by people who lack full use of all four limbs. Extra time, instruction, and supervision can also be required for a person with a brain injury or intellectual limitation.


Managers cannot automatically reassign women who become pregnant, nor can women be terminated for taking FMLA leave due to pregnancy. Other provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protect women from being fired while on leave for childbirth and grant women the right to continue accruing pay and other benefits while dealing with medical issues related to their pregnancy.

Genetic Information

Passed only in 2008, the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prevents employers from taking any adverse employment action based on what it knows about an employee’s genetic conditions. For instance, a person with a family history of cancer cannot be denied insurance coverage that is available to other co-workers.

Military Service

Until the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) became law in 1994, employers could hire behind workers called to active duty. That is, keeping one’s commitment as a military reservist or member of the National Guard could cost a person his or her civilian job. USERRA also preserves an active duty military member’s ability to continue accruing seniority at their civilian job while on active duty.

Any type of discrimination listed above merits a call to a Columbus workplace discrimination lawyer.