Types of Employment Discrimination

There are many types of discrimination covered by the civil rights laws the EEOC is charged to enforce. Some of them include:

  • Discrimination on the basis of race or color: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits race discrimination.
  • Discrimination on the basis of sex: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Title VII prohibitions against sex discrimination also prohibit sexual harassment (practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender, including same sex harassment). In addition, the federal Equal Pay Act, which the EEOC also enforces, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits, where men and women perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions.
  • Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy: Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated in the same way as other temporary illnesses or conditions.
  • Discrimination on the basis of national origin: Title VII of the Civil Right Act makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group. For example, a rule requiring that employees speak only English on the job may violate Title VII unless an employer shows that the requirement is necessary for conducting business.
  • Discrimination on the basis of religion: Title VII prohibits religious discrimination. An employer is required to reasonably accommodate the religious belief of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.
  • Discrimination on the basis of age: The ADEA prohibits any discrimination in regards to age. Among the acts covered by the ADEA are: statements or specifications in job notices or advertisements of age preference and limitations; discrimination on the basis of age by apprenticeship programs, including joint labor-management apprenticeship programs; and denial of benefits to older employees.
  • Discrimination on the basis of disability: The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all employment practices. An individual with a disability under the ADA is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. The employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for such an employee, unless the employer can prove such accommodation would impose undue hardship on the operation of the employers business. Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to, making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; job restructuring; modifying of work schedules; providing additional unpaid leave; reassigning to a vacant position; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters. An employer may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability, though applicants may be asked about their ability to perform job functions.

Under all the major civil rights laws, it is illegal to discriminate in any aspects of employment. The EEOC lists the following as examples of functions in which it is illegal to discriminate:

  • Hiring and firing
  • Compensation, assignment, or classification of employees
  • Transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall
  • Job advertisements
  • Recruitment
  • Testing
  • Use of company facilities
  • Training and apprenticeship programs
  • Fringe benefits
  • Pay, retirement plans, and disability leave
  • Other terms and conditions of employment
  • Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age
  • Retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices
  • Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities
  • Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group

All employers within the United States are required to post notices advising workers of their rights under the EEOC, and the notices are required to be accessible and posted so all workers can see them.


Inside Types of Employment Discrimination