Discrimination can occur in many areas of the workplace, including job advertisements, assignments, the hiring process, the disciplinary process, promotions, terminations, compensation, and more. Under federal and state law, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees and job applicants—including firing, refusing to hire, and other discriminatory acts—based on protected characteristics.
Before we answer what illegal employment discrimination is, first, we need to define “discrimination.”
Generally speaking, “discrimination” is recognizing or acting on a real or perceived difference between things or people.
With that in mind, not all discrimination is illegal in the workplace. In fact, employers probably should discriminate in favor of better employee performance. Not doing so wouldn’t make much sense.
For example, an employer could give a bigger bonus to employees with perfect attendance compared to those with worse attendance. Is that discrimination? Yes. Is it illegal? Without more, probably not.
Discrimination becomes illegal when it is based on a characteristic of an employee that is protected under law.
Under federal law, your employer may not discriminate against you based on:
In addition to the identities enumerated under federal law, Ohio law protects:
Employment discrimination has many forms, some obvious and some subtle. For example, discrimination may take the form of being treated unfairly or differently from your co-workers, like being denied a promotion because of your age.
It might look like refusals to make reasonable accommodations for disabilities or religious beliefs. Additionally, discrimination may look like harassment by supervisors or co-workers due to other protected characteristics, like race or sex.
Discrimination has no business in the workplace. In fact, it is illegal under federal and state law, including the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Pay Act.
Familiarizing yourself with some of the common characteristics of discrimination can stop unfair treatment while holding employers accountable for unacceptable behavior.
The law seeks to correct discrimination by putting you in the position you’d be in had you never been discriminated against. Because of this, your available remedies may differ depending on your situation and the kind of discrimination you faced.
Depending on your case, you may be eligible to receive:
Complaints of employment discrimination often must be filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before being able to file a lawsuit seeking damages. There are strict time limits to file and start a claim, so you should seek legal advice as soon as you realize there is an issue.
Holding your employer accountable for illegal discrimination or harassment protects not only you, but also other employees. Unfortunately, the laws are complicated with procedural traps for employees, and employers almost always have sophisticated legal counsel ready to defend them.
But this doesn’t mean you have to stand up to your employer alone. Nor should you. An aggressive, experienced employment lawyer can help you. If you have further questions or believe you have been discriminated against by your employer or harassed for any of the characteristics mentioned, call the lawyers at Biller & Kimble for a free phone consultation: (513) 202-0710.