Legally speaking, discrimination is defined as the unequal or prejudicial treatment of people or groups based solely on protected characteristics. These characteristics are personal traits that have nothing to do with merit or actions of the discriminated victim, such as age or gender or sex. Outside of the legal definition, to discriminate simply means to differentiate between two or more elements. Where it becomes a legal issue is when people are treated differently and unfairly based on their differences. This is what employment discrimination means in legal cases.
In a recent case, an employee who worked for a well-known aerospace company faced different forms of discrimination. The case is important because it indicates that workplace discrimination is still prevalent and must be addressed. In order to understand the effects of employment discrimination, one should be familiar with some important laws in the workplace and how illegal practices should be prevented.
Who is Protected Under the Law?
In cases of workplace harassment and discrimination, employees are sometimes confused about what constitutes as illegal discrimination. To fall into this category, the prejudicial treatment must be against a member of a protected group. A discrimination case must also show that the employee’s treatment was based on their inclusion in such a protected group. Essentially, this means that if an employee is terminated unjustly or does not receive a promotion over another worker, it does not meet the standard for discrimination unless the decision was based on a protected category, such as race or gender.
Discrimination can take on many forms in a work environment. It can include everything from discriminatory hiring processes to abusive treatment and prejudicial use of disciplinary actions. These examples refer to inappropriate conduct by an employer, but a discrimination case can also deal with other employees or the work environment itself.
When Discrimination is Perpetrated by a Person
The person discriminating could be a supervisor, co-worker, or even a customer. Cases involving other employees generally have to do with direct harassment based on gender or another protected class. Cases involving supervisors often hinge on unfair applications and the implementation of workplace policies.
Common examples of supervisory discrimination include the following:
- Firing or demoting an employee based on personal characteristics rather than job performance or skills.
- Paying an employee less than a co-worker for the same or similar job based on a protected characteristic.
- Basing promotions and raises on a personal characteristic.
What is a Discriminatory Environment?
A discriminatory environment may be less direct but involves a workplace that is hostile toward certain individuals or perpetuates systems that allow mistreatment based on protected statuses. A discriminatory environment might include:
- Policies that negatively affect one group disproportionately over another. For example, any policy that negatively impacts only women or only men.
- Disparities in benefits based on protected classes.
- Refusing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
What are the Responsibilities of the Employer?
Whether it is a case of harassment, a hostile work environment, or a policy and procedure that hurts employees, the employer is ultimately responsible for the illegal actions. Federal and state regulations not only bar employers from engaging in harassment and discrimination, but require them to take action if they receive reports of the behaviors or actions.
What are the Rights of the Victim?
Victims of discrimination are people whose rights are being violated. Discriminatory practices apply rights and privileges based on protected categories, but equal rights apply to everyone under the law. It is important for any employee to understand their rights and to know when to speak up when an employer violates them.
Why Did an Employee Recently File a Lawsuit Against an Aerospace Company?
A seasoned employee recently filed a civil rights suit against a well-known aerospace company in federal court, bringing allegations of race discrimination and religious discrimination. The civil rights claim includes two counts of race and religious discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, which indicates a hostile work environment. These claims paint a picture wherein the employer is in direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A spokesman of the aerospace corporation declined to comment because of the ongoing litigation.
What are the Claims of the Plaintiff?
The employee at the center of this case has worked at the same company plant for the last 17 years, working in the Human Relations department for the majority of that time, according to the civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Courts. The complaint states that the victim was the only African American out of approximately 15 employees, as well as the only Muslim. The plaintiff claims that although they hold a master’s degree, they have not been awarded a promotion since 2007. The victim further indicates that they worked under two Caucasian managers who showed racial intolerance. The claim goes on to say that discrimination increased once she converted to Islam. This discrimination led to isolation at work and perceived fear and prejudice of other employees and supervisors.
The victim claims that they were subjected to multiple forms of harassment, including threats of unwarranted disciplinary actions. The plaintiff claims to have been singled out in team meetings, criticized, and called names. In another alleged incident, a co-worker was said to have made a comment about African Americans and nooses. Other harassing behaviors include damage to personal property and disruption of the workspace. Allegedly, these events indicate that upper management failed to act appropriately. Failing to take action after these illegal events is a serious issue.
Why is This Case Important?
The above case is an important example of what workplace discrimination looks like. It also details both the duty of an employer to respond to allegations, and the steps to take as an employee falling victim to discrimination. Understanding the rules and recourse helps protect the rights of workers.
Why it is Important to Have Legal Representation?
Many victims of harassment and discrimination do not take action to seek justice. This may be out of fear. It may be from a lack of knowledge of the law, or a victim may feel like they will not be able to prove their case. An experienced lawyer can assist with all of these situations. Legal counsel can help a client understand their rights, gain confidence in their case, and utilize the resources to win. A victim may be entitled to compensation as a result of improper conduct of an employer. The only way to get this compensation is to follow the right steps in court. A skilled and knowledgeable lawyer can help a victim get optimal results.
Delaware County Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Confidently Protect Discriminated Employees
If you believe you were discriminated against at work because of your race or religion, contact one of our dedicated Delaware County employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. right away. Our lawyers help discriminated and harassed workers find the justice and compensation that they deserve. Call us at 215-569-1999 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.