Discrimination in the workplace is unfortunately very common in America, and the state of Missouri has one of the highest percentages of reported discrimination cases in the nation. However, because workplace discrimination is typically underreported, there are many more cases that deserve attention and justice. One of the only ways to resolve workplace discrimination is by engaging the help of an employment discrimination attorney, who will advocate for your civil rights and help you come to a resolution with your employer.
What Qualifies as “Employment Discrimination” in Missouri?
When we think of workplace discrimination, two examples tend to come to mind – racial discrimination and discrimination on the basis of sex. However, discrimination in the workplace can look like a lot of different things and no two cases of discrimination are exactly the same. That said, employment discrimination is generally defined by the prejudicial treatment of an employee or an applicant that is less favorable than other employees on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, disability, or other circumstances.
Sex, Gender, or Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Sex and sex-related discrimination are some of the most common forms of discriminatory treatment that can be found in the workplace. Women and the LGBTQ community tend to face this type of discrimination more often than other groups of people. For example, people within the LGBTQ community may be treated unfairly by employers or harassed in the workplace because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Women may not be given promotions in certain industries simply because they are women, even if they are more qualified than their male peers. Women also face sexual harassment, which negatively impacts their ability to complete their jobs. Women may even be discriminated against for being pregnant or may even be denied employment because they are currently pregnant or are young enough to become pregnant while employed.
Disability or Age Discrimination
Although there are legal precedents that ensure fair hiring practices for people with disabilities, that does not mean disabled people are treated fairly in the workplace. Sometimes, people with disabilities are talked down to, not given healthcare benefits, assigned poor job tasks, or not given adequate training for their job positions. Similarly, older people may be discriminated against simply for their age, such as refusing to promote employees, limiting compensation, or changing benefits.
Racial or Religious Discrimination
Racial discrimination alone makes up for 34% of employment discrimination in Missouri. Racial discrimination often goes hand in hand with racial harassment. People of color may not be given promotions, job assignments, training, or fair wages because of their ethnicity or the color of their skin. This discrimination may also be accompanied by racial slurs, offensive remarks, or other derogatory treatment in the workplace.
Religious discrimination is when an employee or applicant is treated differently because of their perceived religion. This type of discrimination is, unfortunately, most common for people of Middle Eastern descent. Uniquely, this type of discrimination may also involve treating a person who is associated with a particular religion by proxy of a sibling, spouse, or other relation with unfair employment practices.
In Missouri, retaliatory discrimination makes up about 49% of all employment discrimination cases. Unlike other forms of workplace discrimination, this type of discrimination is not typically caused solely by characteristics about the employment – rather, this type of discrimination is caused by behavior from the employee that the employer does not like.
Most commonly, retaliatory discrimination happens when an employee speaks up for their civil rights, such as by filing complaints about harassment or other forms of discrimination, and the employer retaliates with further bad behavior, including firing an employee, cutting wages, or altering benefits.
Is Firing an Employee Considered Discrimination?
Sometimes, firing an employee or refusing to hire an applicant can qualify as employment discrimination, but only in specific circumstances. While employees are protected from unfair firing, the fact of the matter is that proving you were fired because of discrimination may be challenging.
The key to a workplace discrimination case is proving that you were treated differently than other employees based on characteristics about yourself that other employees do not have. An employment discrimination attorney will be able to better assess whether or not your circumstances qualify for employment discrimination.
Why Is Employment Discrimination Harmful?
Employment discrimination can sour any working experience in a variety of ways. One of the most poignant ways is undermining the employee’s sense of self-confidence, competence, and ability. Discrimination in the workplace can often make the victim feel as if they are not good enough, talented enough, or skilled enough at their job, which is generally a false idea reinforced by the employer or work environment, sometimes by workplace harassment.
More than that, employment discrimination can also have a devastating economic impact. To put it simply, discrimination often means that employees are not awarded higher-paying positions, so they lose out on earning potential. The inability to earn a decent living wage can snowball into other problems, such as not being able to afford healthcare. In fact, some employers may utilize discrimination as a way to deny full healthcare benefits; for example, employees who do not work a certain number of hours a month may not be qualified for a healthcare plan sponsored by the employer.
Is Discrimination the Same as Harassment?
Although some discrimination cases happen along with workplace harassment, these are two different concepts. Discrimination is about a group of employees are treated differently, meaning there is proof that employees within your minority group are also treated unfairly. Harassment is when you alone are targeted in your workplace and tends to involve specific unfair behaviors aimed your way, such as derogatory language or unwelcome touching. In legal terms, harassment is itself a type of discrimination – but these two concepts can happen at the same time for many employees.
How Can an Employment Discrimination Attorney Help You?
An employment discrimination attorney can help you navigate the complexities of workplace discrimination. The most important role of your attorney is to help you understand your rights and the legal precedents that can support your case. Employment discrimination can be difficult to handle by yourself, so if you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer, then seeking professional legal help is a good first step.
Your employment discrimination attorney will advocate on your behalf to secure fair employment or seek compensation for wages or benefits that were arbitrarily lost because of discrimination. This will involve gathering certain evidence, particularly documentation from your employment file, employee handbooks, company policies, pay stubs, healthcare benefits, employee contracts, and any memorandums or dated notes you have about your employment experience.
Discrimination in the workplace can be incredibly harmful, not just to your sense of self-confidence in your skills and abilities, but also in terms of lost wages, lost benefits, and other consequences of harassment. Whether you have been discriminated against because of characteristics about yourself or if your employer is retaliating against you for previous discrimination claims, you will likely need the help of an experienced legal team to resolve your case. For information about how an employment discrimination attorney can help you, please contact Holman Schiavone in Kansas City, MO today.