Groups » What to Do if You Feel Discriminated Against in the Workplace

Discrimination in the workplace is not an uncommon occurrence today. In 2015, almost 90,000 cases were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When an employer makes a judgment on an employee based on a range of factors other than the employee's quality of work, it could be considered discrimination. In the United States, there are several laws that aim to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace.

Anti-Discriminatory Laws

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, any employer engaged in interstate commerce with over 15 employees, any labor organization, and any employment agencies are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or country of origin. The discrimination outlined by the law is in relation to hiring, discharging, compensating, or providing the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. Even labor organizations are prohibited from basing membership on race, color, sex, religion, or country of origin.

Congress brought in the 'American with Disabilities Act' to protect the rights of those who face discrimination in the workplace based on their handicaps. According to the law, employers that work in interstate commerce and state governments cannot discriminate against an employee based on a physical or mental handicap.

Other laws that were created to prevent discrimination in the workplace included the 'Nineteenth Century Civil Rights Acts,' the 'Rehabilitation Act of 1973,' and the 'Equal Pay act of 1963.'

The 'Equal Pay Act' stops employers and unions from paying employees different wages based on their gender. A related law is the 'Fair Labor Standards Act,' which applies to all employees who are engaged in any aspect of interstate commerce.

Another law that prevents discrimination in the workplace is the 'Age Discrimination in Employment Act' (ADEA). This law prevents employers from discriminating based on the employee's age.

Subtle Forms of Discrimination

While employment discrimination law tries to cover all forms of discrimination and harassment, sometimes discrimination comes in more subtle forms. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are two of the more subtle ways that an employee can be discriminated against at work.

Steps to Take if You Feel Discriminated Against

Even though several laws exist to make sure that discrimination and harassment do not take place in the workplace, it is still something that occurs. If you are an employee and feel that you are being discriminated against by either a coworkers or your employer, there are certain steps you can take to strengthen your case for a future legal dispute.

  • Tell your employer: If you feel that you are being discriminated against in the workplace, or being harassed, you need to let your employer know. Often, acts of harassment and discrimination go unnoticed simply because the victim doesn't bring the issue to light in front of authorities. While most employers will not readily admit to discrimination in their workplace, it is your responsibility as the employee to bring the issue to the proper authorities.

  • Contact EEOC: If you have informed your employer that you are facing harassment or discrimination in the workplace, and you have still not received any response, you need to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is a government body that is responsible for making sure companies comply with anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. You could also contact your state's local equal employment agency.

  • Keep notes: To make your case stronger, make note of all incidents of discrimination or harassment that have taken place or that are still taking place. For each incident, try and note the date, time, location, who was involved or present on the scene, and any other details.

  • Check policy: Make sure that you read your employer's anti-discriminatory policy. If your employer has stated in writing that they will not act in a discriminatory way, it will only benefit your case.  

  • Check Federal and State laws: Go to your local library or a law library to get details on what exactly your rights are. The internet is also a great source of information for major federal anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. State laws vary between jurisdictions and terms may differ in different areas. Check statutes or legal codes for your state, paying special attention to fair employment laws, equal opportunities, and discrimination.


With the exception of the Equal Pay Act, the anti-discrimination laws require an employee who believes that he or she is being discriminated against to first pursue all "administrative remedies" before bringing the matter to court in the form of a lawsuit.

It is also important to note that anyone wishing to file suit under the 'Title VII' law must first bring the claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) so that he or she may take action or offer the appropriate advice for the employee to take further action. The deadline for bringing forth such a claim is often not more than 180 days, and if an employee does not do so in this timeline, the suit may be barred forever.

Since the 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement took place in the United States, federal and state governments have enforced a number of laws that tackle employers who discriminate against employees on any unfair grounds. Any factors that judge an employee apart from the quality of their work is considered unfair discrimination. If you feel that you have been the victim of discrimination, it is important to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and to seek help from an attorney.

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