How to handle discrimination at work?


Employment discrimination occurs when the employer treats the job-seeker or employee unfavorably because of the person’s age, race, gender, or other traits. Some common examples of discrimination include paying women less than men for the same work, promoting employees based on their race or gender, or hiring employees of a certain age. 

Below, we will explore the statistics of discrimination and discuss the strategies you can use if you encounter employment discrimination of any kind. 

Employment discrimination: Key statistics 

Let’s look at the history first. After WWII, the proportion of women in the labor force increased, however, women were still considered secondary workers. Wages of women were not considered central to family income, and employers kept women’s wages below men’s. Measured by hourly earnings, the wage gap was 31% in 1955 and widened to 35%-37% by the 1960s (O’Neill, 1985). 

After the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, the wage gap started to shrink. However, it still persists today. 

According to research by Hive, more tasks overall (54.5%) are assigned to women, and women contribute 10% more completed tasks. This shows that women not only perform as well as men, but work harder in today’s offices. 

Unfortunately, this contribution is not reflected in their paycheck, and the pay is not equalized. In 2024, women are paid 84 cents for every dollar a man earns. This wage gap persists in all 20 of the largest occupations for men and women. Men tend to earn more even in professions dominated by women, and the situation is worse for women of color. 

Examples of employment discrimination

Here are some examples of what can be considered employment discrimination: 

  • Refusing to hire or promote a person based on race, gender, pregnancy, or religion
  • Paying women less than their male counterparts and offering a lower salary to African American women 
  • Assigning an employee to less desirable projects or tasks based on the above characteristics 
  • Promoting employees based on their sex, ethnicity, or religious beliefs 
  • Creating a hostile work environment through offensive or intimidating behavior 
  • Making assumptions about the employee’s abilities, skills, or traits based on their ethnicity, age, political views, and more. 

Other forms of discrimination exist, too. Keep reading to learn what to do if the employer discriminates against you. 

How to deal with discrimination at work? 

If you believe that the employer discriminates against you, here are some actions you can take: 

Ask them to stop 

If you are facing harassment or another form of discrimination, ask them directly to stop. This will show the perpetrator that you see their conduct as wrong and are ready to take action. Your request may lead to an escalation of discrimination – unfortunately, this happens sometimes. However, the fact that you directly objected to their behavior will not let them claim that they were not offending anyone. 

Document the discrimination 

To prove the fact of discrimination, you need to collect the evidence. Make notes and keep a record of all discriminatory incidents. Include dates, times, locations, and witnesses of each action. Save any emails, voice messages, texts, and other communications related to discrimination. The more facts you collect, the easier it will be for you to prove the fact of discriminatory actions. 

Review the company’s policies

Take the time to review the anti-discriminatory policy in your company. Study the procedures for reporting discrimination. You can find them in HR handbooks or employee manuals. Be sure to follow these procedures precisely as you file a complaint. Report the discrimination to the HR department and provide all documents you have. 

Moreover, the fact that your company has such a policy may work as a benefit for you, so keep the copy of the policy in a safe place. 

File a formal complaint 

If you are not happy with the response from your employer, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or similar organization. They will investigate your complaint and decide if there is evidence of discrimination in it. 

Speak to an attorney 

If you believe the employer discriminates against you, speak to an experienced employment attorney first. They can inform you about your rights and explain what options you have. An attorney will help you navigate complex legal issues and represent you in court if necessary. 

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