It is no secret that discrimination in the workplace is prohibited under federal and Missouri laws. When egregious acts of discrimination are allowed on the job — whether in an office, in the service industry or in any other occupation — most people are able to recognize the harmful conduct. Anyone who has suffered racial, religious or gender-based slurs and overt acts of discrimination are able to identify the discriminatory behavior. However, not all acts of discrimination are overt.

Unfortunately, workplace discrimination continues to be a problem in small and large businesses alike. Even large corporations with in-house human resources and legal departments can run afoul of the law. At times, discrimination is not obvious. It may lurk underneath the surface. Not all adverse employment decisions are discriminatory. Managers and business owners are given a great deal of room to make hiring and employment decisions. However, at times, subtle signs may exist to show pervasive discrimination in the workplace.

Three Potential Signs Of Discrimination At Different Stages Of Process

Employment discrimination can occur at any phase of the employment process – it does not only involve wrongful termination. No list of potential signs of discrimination could ever cover every discriminatory act. However, we have compiled a short list of subtle signs that may indicate employment discrimination is at work.

Applying for a job — Anyone who has ever interviewed for a job knows that questions often seem odd or murky – but some questions may violate the law.

Some questions may be unfair under the law, such as:

  • “Do you plan to have children in the near future?”
  • Or, “who will watch your kids while you are at work?”

This blog discussed employee rights in job interviews in more detail last year.

The modified glass ceiling — Most people can spot evidence of the traditional glass ceiling, where one class of employee holds all of the higher-end positions regardless of talent. However, disparities in work or pay based upon discriminatory reasoning may infect a workplace.

For instance, a sales person may receive a promotion but receive disparate treatment in his or her assigned territory. Some sales territories may not be as lucrative. Current income opportunities and future promotions may be limited. In other jobs, disparities in job assignments, promotions, demotions or disciplinary results for workers with similar skills–based upon race, sex, religion or other protected classes — may be a sign of discrimination.

Workplace rules and dress codes — Many companies lawfully require uniforms or dress codes to promote their brands. However, the law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations in specified circumstances, including for disabilities and religious beliefs. At times, a dress code or new company rule may be based on discriminatory purposes. A dress code – imposed without reasonable accommodations — may violate the law if it interferes with a worker’s religious beliefs.