What Is Workplace Discrimination? Examples & What You Should Do About Next

Dec 10, 2022 | Employment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines workplace discrimination as different or less favorable treatment from a supervisor or superior on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information. Despite several state and federal laws put in place to protect California employees from workplace discrimination, it is regrettably something that occurs often anyways.

Workplace discrimination has many negative consequences. It creates a hostile work environment that can feel unsafe for employees. It can build feelings of shame, anger and even resentment towards a place of work. It can also result in a loss of motivation to complete work responsibilities, can decrease employee engagement, and even lead to a lack of opportunities to grow within a company. 

Unfortunately, many employees are unaware that they are being discriminated against because they aren’t familiar with what workplace discrimination looks like and whether or not it is actually happening to them. Some of the obvious signs of workplace discrimination can look like but are not limited to the following:

  • Inappropriate interview questions
  • Unequal pay to that of another employee
  • Unfair promotions
  • Harsh communication
  • And more! 

Examples Of Workplace Discrimination 

The 4 most commonly occurring forms of workplace discrimination consist of the following: 

  1. Age Discrimination

Age discrimination, which is more recently known as ageism, involves an employee being treated less favorably because of their age. This occurs either during the hiring, working, or even termination process against people who are 40 years of age or older. Age discrimination typically includes harassing remarks or jokes making fun of one’s age. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission makes it clear that simple teasing or off-hand comments are not illegal, but frequent or severe harassment that makes a work environment hostile or offensive is. Between 1997 and 2020, 453,000 U.S. workers filed age discrimination claims with the EEOC. And these are the ones who spoke up – not all employees have the courage or opportunity to. 


An example of age discrimination would be an employer telling an employee that a certain article of clothing is inappropriate for work, but then allowing a younger employee to dress in that specific type of clothing. 

Another example of age discrimination would be a company that is only hiring younger groups of people, and not allowing or seriously considering applicants over the age of 40. 

  1. Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination includes jokes or remarks about a person’s disability or need for a workplace change because of their disability. The Americans With Disability Act of 2008  clarifies what classifies which disabilities are covered by law. Some of the disabilities that the EEOC explain are easier to identify include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Major Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • And more!

An employer cannot refuse to hire an employee for a present or past disability. Inappropriate verbal or physical misconduct in regard to a person’s disability is illegal in a place of work. 


An example of disability discrimination would be demoting someone for being unable to complete a task due to their disability.

Another example would be if an employee is refused reasonable accommodations because of a disability that they have, and because of this is unable to perform their duties to a certain level of quality and is denied a promotion. 

  1. Sex/Gender Discrimination

Sex/gender based discrimination is treating an employee unfairly or unfavorably because of their sex (this includes because of the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy). This means that an employee cannot be hired, fired, paid, laid off, promoted or otherwise treated differently solely on the basis of their sex. Any form of harassment because of sex is also illegal. Again, minor teasing isn’t against the law, but harassment that creates a hostile work environment is. 


A victim of workplace discrimination and their harasser can be of the same sex, or different sex but many employees don’t realize that what classifies as workplace discrimination can come from a co-worker or superior who is in the same class as you. In the case of gender/sex discrimination, a female supervisor could harass or make fun of a female employee simply because she is a female, though this is not the norm. One example of sex discrimination would be only promoting male employees in a company, for example, or making consistent remarks about women’s bodies or professional inferiority.

Another example would be a supervisor, co-worker or superior harassing an employee because they are transgender. 

  1. Racial Discrimination

The EEOC classifies racial discrimination as unfavorable treatment because of a person’s race or characteristics associated with their race like hair texture, skin color or certain facial features. It is forbidden in a place of work but is still prevalent, sadly. 

One example of racial discrimination could be racial slurs being used in the workplace. It could also look like failing to include an employee in a work outing or gathering because of their race, or like failing to promote an employee, despite their high performance, because they are a certain race. 

You’ve Been Discriminated Against At Work – What Do You Do Now? 

Being discriminated against at work is not okay. You deserve to work in a hostile-free environment where you are not treated differently than your peers based on anything other than the quality of your work! State and federal laws require it. If you’ve realized that you’ve been discriminated against in your workplace, you can file a complaint with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs either online or in person. However, this can take a long time to resolve – the department is often inundated with claims, and you may not hear from anyone for a while…. You may not have a dedicated contact, and there’s lots of paperwork/red tape to sort through. 

You can also take matters a step further by pursuing legal representation to guide you in holding your employer accountable; retaining a lawyer may be in your best interests because an attorney is only working for you and has a financial interest in securing you compensation! 

What Southern California Attorneys, A.P.C. Can Do For You

At Southern California Attorneys, A.P.C. we have 60+ combined years of experience standing up for the rights of employees across the state of California. We believe in justice and fair treatment, which is why we are dedicated to ensuring employees are treated with the dignity they deserve and are protected by the rights that state and federal laws cover! 

Not only are we a highly reputable, and multilingual firm, but we’re concerned about people more than we are the money we make. That is why we charge on a contingency fee basis. We don’t get paid unless we win your case. If we do, your employer pays our fees! If you’ve experienced discrimination based on your race, gender, disability, age or more, Southern California Attorneys, A.P.C.’s aggressive employment lawyers can help you take action against unlawful employers. Call today to schedule a free consultation where we can investigate your claims, explain your legal options,  and guide you in what steps to take next! 

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