5 Signs of Workplace Discrimination You Should Look Out For

 signs of workplace discrimination

A lot of people assume that job discrimination is mostly a thing of the past. Thanks to state and federal anti-discrimination laws, it’s no longer so easy for employers to let racial, gender, or religious bias dictate whom they hire and fire.

But just because job discrimination is illegal doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Today, unfair treatment at work often appears in far less obvious forms than employees expect. Many workers may not even realize that they’re experiencing discrimination when it happens.

In this blog post, we’ll point out some common and easily overlooked signs of workplace discrimination that employees still face. We’ll also walk through how to get help if you think you’ve been the target of illegal discrimination at work. 

What Counts as Workplace Discrimination in California?

Put simply, discrimination happens when someone is treated unfavorably at work because of an aspect of their identity. California law makes it illegal to take into account certain identity characteristics in decision-making at work, including:

  • Race,
  • Gender,
  • Religion,
  • National origin,
  • Age (if over 40),
  • Disability,
  • Marital status,
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity,
  • Medical condition,
  • Veteran status, and
  • Citizenship status.

Anyone in the workplace may behave in a way that’s illegally discriminatory: employers, managers, coworkers, clients, and third-party vendors. We often think of discrimination as something that affects employees, but it can happen to people applying for a job too.

Workplace Discrimination: 5 Common Red Flags 

Discrimination at work can take many different forms. Some may be more obvious—for example, the expectation that female employees handle menial tasks, like getting coffee for their male coworkers. However, many other types of discriminatory behavior aren’t so blatant. Here are some signs that illegal and unfair treatment might be happening in your workplace.

1. Inappropriate Comments Passed Off as Jokes

Many employees understand that it’s not appropriate to use derogatory terms or racial slurs in the workplace. However, comments and jokes that disparage someone’s age, sex, race, or other protected characteristic often slide under the radar.

It’s never appropriate to make someone’s personal characteristics into a punchline. Someone may insist that it’s not a big deal and that they’re only joking. But this kind of language can still be demeaning. Even if they don’t seem not offensive, discriminatory comments about protected identity groups are off limits under California law.

2. Rewards Aren’t Based on Job Performance 

Another red flag is when employers make decisions about promotions or benefits based on reasons beyond performance. Have you noticed a pattern in who gets certain job opportunities? Do workers over 50 or non-native English speakers regularly get passed over for advancement or training—even when they’re qualified? Targeting a particular group for benefits and opportunities because of their identity could be a sign of illegal discrimination in California.

3. Discipline and Criticism Is Inconsistent 

Another sign of potential discrimination is an inconsistent approach to discipline. For example, your employer might punish you harshly for errors or slip-ups but let them slide when certain others make mistakes. Other types of unfair discipline to look out for include:

  • Punishments that don’t follow standard disciplinary procedures,
  • Sudden negative performance reviews,
  • Extensive micromanagement,
  • Constant interruption or undermining of your contributions, and
  • Repeated criticism in front of your coworkers or boss.

If you’re being targeted for discipline because you have—or lack—certain characteristics, that could be a sign of discrimination. 

4. Denied Leave Requests

An employer who refuses qualified requests for work leave for medical or religious reasons could also be perpetrating workplace discrimination. 

In California, certain employees have the right to take time away from work because of a disability or serious medical condition. Denying a reasonable medical leave request to an employee with a qualifying disability could violate both California anti-discrimination law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

National and state anti-discrimination law requires companies to accommodate employees’ reasonable requests for time off for religious observances. Unless your employer can prove that giving you leave would be an undue hardship for the company, they could violate the law if they simply deny your request without explanation.

5. Unplanned Changes to Job Duties or Hours

In certain situations, a sudden change to your work responsibilities could be a sign of discrimination at work. Unless you’ve requested an accommodation, it’s illegal for your employer to limit your hours or assignments simply because of a disability or medical condition, including pregnancy.

Your boss also can’t pressure you to take a leave of absence or cut back on shifts because you’re pregnant. If you’re hit with sudden changes to your work responsibilities after telling an employer about a pregnancy or other qualified medical condition, you could be experiencing discrimination.

What Should I Do If I’m the Target of Workplace Discrimination? 

If you feel comfortable, you can try to address the discrimination internally. Check your employee handbook to see if there’s a confidential procedure for reporting discrimination. This may involve filing a complaint with your company’s human resources department.

Depending on the type of prejudice you face, you can also report workplace discrimination to California’s Civil Rights Department or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

These are administrative agencies responsible for enforcing state and federal anti-discrimination laws. They will decide whether to investigate the case after reviewing your complaint and any supporting documentation. If they find evidence of discrimination, they may file formal charges against your employer. 

Before you take any action, it’s often best to seek legal advice. Because workplace discrimination is often subtle, it can be challenging to identify on your own.

Los Angeles workplace discrimination lawyer can listen to your story and assess whether your rights have been violated. If you decide to take action, an attorney can help you understand your legal options and support you as you build a case.

A Workplace Discrimination Lawyer Can Help You Get Peace of Mind

It’s incredibly isolating to face discrimination at work. You may feel unsure if you can trust your manager or coworkers with what you’re going through. If you’re experiencing signs of workplace discrimination, you shouldn’t have to bear this burden alone. 

The skilled employment lawyers at Starpoint Law understand how intimidating it can be to speak out about injustice at work. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to make top-level legal representation and personalized support available to the employees of Los Angeles.

Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with one of our employment lawyers. Whether you’re dealing with discrimination, wage theft, or wrongful termination, our attorneys can help you understand your rights and options for action. 

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Starpoint Injury Law Staff

Starpoint Law was founded on a number of core principles that allow us to help our clients and develop deep and meaningful relationships. If you have suffered injuries or facing an issue with your employer, reach out to our legal team and we can sit down for a free consultation and start the process immediately.

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