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Four potential signs of employment discrimination

Workers who are subjected to a hostile work environment are often fully aware that discrimination is taking place. When racial slurs, disparaging comments about age and other obvious discriminatory acts permeate a workplace, recognizing the underlying discrimination is fairly easy for most people. However, not every employer who engages in unlawful discrimination makes a public parade of his or her biases.

It is important for you to know that unlawful discrimination can occur at any stage of the employment process. New York and federal laws protect workers from suffering discrimination at the hiring stage, as well as in promotional opportunities, disciplinary actions, determining the rate of pay and in decisions related to termination. Often, a single business decision may seem appropriate on the surface, but when looked at in context of the overall culture of an organization, subtle signs of discrimination may lurk beneath the surface.

Recognizing some of the subtle signs of workplace discrimination

No list of possible discriminatory practices could address every issue in the workplace. We have compiled a list of four common problems that may indicate unlawful discrimination is occurring:

  • Odd questions about age, children or stereotypes in the job interview: Generally, an employer cannot make biased hiring decisions that adversely impact job applicants in a wide range of protected classes. Questions concerning when you graduated from high school may be aimed at determining your age. Questions about whether you plan to have kids in the near future or who will care for your children while you are at work may be signs of gender bias.
  • Unequal treatment in disciplinary actions: Being sanctioned instead of being fired as part of a disciplinary decision may seem like a reasonable outcome. However, if you are receive a greater sanction than other workers who have made the same mistake, discrimination may be a factor.
  • Unfair denial of a reasonable accommodation for a disability or religious beliefs: Workers with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to perform the duties of a job may need a reasonable accommodation. Similarly, New York and federal laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs. A dress code, for instance, may violate workplace discrimination laws.
  • The modified glass ceiling: Most people are aware of the glass ceiling. When members of a single class of workers receive all promotions above a certain level, the traditional glass ceiling may be in play. However, employers generally should assign work duties among equally qualified employees fairly. This includes the assignment of sales territories. Some regions may be more lucrative than others. If a single class of sales professional (such as white males) are assigned to the most lucrative territories when other equally or more qualified salespeople in protected classes are only given the opportunity to sell in less productive territories, there may be a bias problem in the organization.

Even businesses with full-service human resource departments can run afoul of anti-discrimination laws. Egregious acts of discrimination may seem obvious. But along the way, subtle discriminatory acts can add up over time to violate the rights of workers and create unfair policies in an individual business. . If you keep running into roadblocks despite your qualifications, you may be running into unlawful workplace biases. An experienced employment attorney can evaluate your circumstances and help you to understand your workplace rights.

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