Workplace Discrimination in the US: From Myths to Statistics

Workplace discrimination law refers to several federal and state laws that are there for the U.S. citizens. These laws do not allow employers to discriminate against their employees just because they are different from others. Under current laws, employees are protected against discrimination based on:

  • Race, origin, nationality, skin color and citizenship status
  • Gender and pregnancy
  • Religion and beliefs
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation and marital status
  • Political views
  • Military service or affiliation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Genetic information

Different types of conduct can seem discriminatory, including hiring and firing, promotion, transfer, recruitment, pay, and retirement plans. Sexual harassment or retaliation against an employee for filing a discrimination charge is also illegal.
There are so many legal acts and laws that protect employees against discrimination. For example, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects 40+ people. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 ensures that people performing the same job are paid the same way regardless of gender. Or the sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protect individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government. Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 also prohibit discrimination against employees with disabilities. There are some other federal laws protecting the employee rights too.

It seems like, with so many laws, the workplace discrimination issue should have been resolved in the United States. But the truth is that there are still many misconceptions and myths regarding discrimination in a workplace. For example, let’s take women’s rights. Women in the United States have struggled for many years to get equality. Though they have way more freedoms than the women in other countries have, still they continue to face barriers to equality.

In Alabama, women are facing some of the harshest challenges. They are paid 73 cents for every dollar paid to men. Latina women are paid 41 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Also, there is no federal level protection for pregnant women. Some employers do not even allow a pregnant woman to carry a water bottle around or to sit down when there is a need. They rather force these women to take a leave instead of letting them work through the pregnancy.

The workplace discrimination issue refers to the LGBT rights too: the abbreviation LGBT standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The LGBT workforce (4% of the U.S. workforce) is the one comprising all these people. Strangely enough, with so many people speaking about the LGBT rights, the LGBT community is still having problems. These people are facing a really tough discrimination in the workplace. About 21% of LGBT employees have said that their employers have discriminated against them in activities like hiring, pay, and promotions. Also, one in 25 complaints about workplace discrimination is a complaint from an LGBT worker.

Some more LGBT workplace discrimination numbers:

  • Around 41% of LGBT employees say that they have been abused in the workplace either physically or verbally
  • 67% of LGBT workers do not report anti-LGBT issues to management or the HR people
  • 65+ lesbian couples are twice as likely to be poor as compared to heterosexual married couples of the same age

It’s not a myth that the United States has got several federal legal acts that protect employees from workplace discrimination. But we have the statistics of women in a workplace or those of LGBT employees. And the numbers show that there still exists a discrepancy between the law and the reality. It’s time to rethink employee rights and it’s always a good idea to fight for them.

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