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Just What Is Discrimination Or An “Adverse Employment Action?”


When it comes to employment discrimination, many of us give a lot of thought to who can’t be discriminated against. In other words, we concentrate on sex, pregnancy, race, age or disability, to try to ensure that we aren’t discriminating against any of these groups. But we rarely think of what discrimination actually is—that is, what kind of behaviors are actually prohibited, or what behaviors will be considered “discriminating?”

Discrimination Comes in Many Forms

Obviously, things like using or allowing abusive language or language that uses discriminatory words, will get you in trouble for discriminating. And most of us know that choosing to hire or fire one sex over another, or one nationality over another, will be considered discrimination.

But there are a number of other ways that you can discriminate against people, without even knowing that you’re doing it. Laws that protect classes of people don’t simply apply to hiring and firing decisions.

Here are some ways that you could be charged with discrimination in the daily operations of your business that go beyond simply hiring and firing.

Failure to Promote – Fairness in promotion and equal opportunity to move up in employees’ jobs, all are required. If you promote people of one class over another, or prevent another class of people from moving up professionally, you could be discriminating.

Good Assignments – In many jobs, there are good projects to work on, and not so good ones. There are assignments or projects that are desirable and prestigious, and some that aren’t. Fairness in giving out job assignments is essential.

Unofficial Benefits – Do men get more bathroom breaks than women in your workplace? Are younger people getting more in-office job training than older people? Are you not allowing a disabled employee to use the company car? Any types of perk—even if non-financial—can be a source of discrimination.

Leave Requests – Employees often ask for leaves, sometimes long term, and sometimes just for a day. Policies that provide these leaves to some classes, but not to others, can be seen as discriminatory.

Discipline – Even if there is no formal punishment, like a demotion, or a reduction in pay or benefits, simply disciplining or “writing up” one class of people over another, can be seen as discriminatory.

Not to Worry—Just be Careful

All of this may seem daunting. You don’t have to worry, you certainly have the right to give certain benefits to some employees and not to others. None of this is saying that all employees have to be treated equally.

What it is saying, is for you to watch the decisions that you or your supervisory employees make at work, as any of these could be considered discrimination if they are given or taken away from people based on color, age, class, disability or other protected classes.

Call the West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today to help you with your employment law problems or questions.



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