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How to recognize discrimination in the workplace

Obbaatt AngadiaFeb 28, 2023

No matter their origin or qualities, all employees should be treated fairly and equally in a safe, inclusive workplace environment.

Unfortunately, workplace discrimination still exists and can take many different forms, such as harassment, stereotyping, segregation, and unjust treatment.

The professional development and overall well-being of an employee can be significantly harmed by workplace discrimination, which also fosters an environment of exclusion and reduces prospects for career advancement.

The various types of workplace discrimination, their effects on workers and organizations, and methods for preventing and resolving workplace discrimination are all covered in this article.

We can make the workplace more equal and enjoyable for everyone by fostering diversity and inclusion and raising awareness of this crucial subject

What is workplace discrimination?

Workplace discrimination refers to the unfair or unequal treatment of an individual or group based on their protected characteristics, which may include race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, or disability.

This can take various forms, including unjust job assignments, harassment, denial of opportunities for advancement or benefits, and unequal pay. Discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by several laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, among others. Types of discriminatory acts at the workplace.


Unwanted conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Examples of harassment in the workplace may include:

  • Verbal harassment, such as derogatory comments, slurs, or insults based on a person's protected characteristics.

  • Physical harassment, such as unwanted touching, assault, or blocking a person's movement.

  • Visual harassment, such as displaying offensive images or symbols.

  • Sexual harassment, such as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

  • Bullying or intimidation, such as singling out an individual for unwarranted criticism or humiliation.


When an employee is punished for complaining about discrimination or participating in an investigation of discrimination.

Denial of Opportunities

When an employee is denied opportunities for advancement, training, or promotion based on their protected characteristic.

Unequal Pay

When an employee is paid less than others doing similar work because of their protected characteristic.


When an employee is isolated or excluded from certain tasks or assignments based on their protected characteristic. Physical segregation: This occurs when employees are physically separated based on their protected characteristics, such as assigning employees of a particular race or gender to separate areas or workstations.

  • Occupational segregation

This occurs when employees of a particular race or gender are assigned to specific job types or positions, which may result in limited opportunities for career advancement or higher pay.

  • Customer segregation

This occurs when employees are assigned to serve customers based on their protected characteristics, such as assigning female employees to work in the cosmetics department and male employees to work in the electronics department.

  • Stereotyping

Stereotyping is a form of workplace discrimination that involves making assumptions or generalizations about an individual based on protected characteristics, such as race, gender, age, or religion. Stereotyping can occur in various forms, such as:

  1. Making assumptions about an employee's abilities or interests based on their protected characteristics, such as assuming that a female employee is not interested in leadership roles or assuming that an older employee is not tech-savvy.

  2. Making assumptions about an employee's behavior or personality based on their protected characteristics, such as assuming that a person of a particular race is more aggressive or assuming that a person of a particular religion is not trustworthy.

  3. Treating employees differently based on assumptions or stereotypes, such as providing different job assignments, training opportunities, or promotion opportunities based on stereotypes about an individual's protected characteristics.

Stereotyping in the workplace can be harmful to employees because it can create a culture of exclusion and limit their opportunities for professional growth and advancement. It can also result in unequal treatment and opportunities for different groups of employees.

Signs of discrimination in the workplace

It is not always easy to recognize discrimination in the workplace, but there are some signs to look out for. Some common signs of discrimination include:

  • Exclusion from meetings or social events

  • Being treated differently than others in similar positions

  • Being given less desirable tasks or assignments

  • Being criticized for things that are not related to work performance

  • Being subjected to offensive jokes or comments

  • Being denied opportunities for advancement or training

  • Being denied pay increases or bonuses that are given to others in similar positions

  • Being given negative evaluations that are not based on work performance

  • Being subjected to unwarranted discipline or termination

How to address workplace discrimination

If you suspect that you are being discriminated against in the workplace, there are some steps you can take to address the issue:

  • Document the Discrimination:

Keep a written record of any incidents of discrimination, including dates, times, locations, and the names of witnesses.

  • Report the Discrimination:

Bring the issue to the attention of your supervisor or HR representative. If they are unresponsive, escalate the issue to higher management.

  • File a Complaint:

If your employer does not address the issue, you may be able to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar state agency.

  • Seek Legal Advice:

Consider consulting an attorney who specializes in employment discrimination cases.

Preventing Workplace Discrimination

Preventing discrimination in the workplace requires a proactive approach from employers and employees. Some strategies for preventing discrimination include:

  • Training:

Provide training to employees and managers on what constitutes discrimination and how to prevent it.

  • Diversity and Inclusion:

Foster a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion, and actively seek out a diverse workforce.

  • Policies and Procedures:

Implement policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination and provide a clear process for reporting and addressing discrimination complaints.

  • Accountability:

Hold managers and employees accountable for their actions, and take swift action to address any instances of discrimination.

In conclusion, recognizing and addressing discrimination in the workplace is essential to creating a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees.

By understanding the signs and symptoms of discrimination, taking steps to address it, and implementing strategies to prevent it, employers and employees can work together to create a workplace that values diversity and inclusion.