As far as women have come in the workplace in the 21st century, one could be forgiven for thinking that the business landscape is still very much a man’s world. Whatever skills and experience we bring to bear, discrimination is rife in the workplace, and while in some cases this may be actionable, there are occasions when it is not. Employee law is far more complicated than many realize and there are many occasions when employees assume that they have rights when they do not. Perhaps the rights they refer to are not federal and apply to a state in which they do not live, or in some cases they may never have existed.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against in the workplace, the harsh reality is that the form of discrimination may or may not fall within the parameters of employee discrimination that is guarded against by federal law. An employment discrimination attorney should always be your first port of call. However tempting it may be to react with emotion, storming out or even quitting on the spot, try as hard as you can to compose yourself and take a mental note of everything that is done and said then relaying it all back to your legal counsel and determining whether it’s worth taking your boss to court.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of what do and don’t constitute protected employee discrimination…
Does: Discrimination on the grounds of gender
Thankfully, your employer is unable to dismiss or otherwise discriminate against you as a woman if he feels that a man could do your job better. This also applies to gender reassignment so transgender women can rest assured that their employer is not legally allowed to discriminate against you post-op. This also applies to your sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. You’re also protected against discrimination on the grounds of race, skin color, or religion.
Does not: Discrimination on… pretty much any other grounds
Unless you live in Montana, your boss can discriminate against or even fire you for whatever arbitrary reason you want, so long as it doesn’t impinge on your human rights. If you miss your target, don’t dress to what your employer deems an acceptable standard or even refuse to laugh at your employer’s jokes, these are all federally protected grounds for dismissal. It’s immoral and it’s absurd… But it’s legal.
Does: Inappropriate sexual behavior
It’s deeply unfortunate how many women are expected to endure inappropriate sexual behavior in the name of “harmless banter”. If your employer tells sexist jokes, makes lewd comments or even makes sexual advances to you or a colleague then this behavior is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Does not: Bullying in the workplace
This will make your blood boil but there is no federal protection from workplace bullying. Neither workplace bullying or harassment are illegal in any state unless it can be proven to be on the grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation etc.