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5 Types of Discrimination in the Workplace

5 Types of Discrimination

Even though workplace discrimination has been an unethical and illegal practice for decades, it continues rampant in our society. A new Glassdoor survey reveals that three out of five U.S. employees believe they have experienced some discrimination in the workplace.

Most employees think that there is no end to this discrimination, and they try to adjust to it or decide to leave the organization. However, the law gives every employee working in New York or any other state of America the right to a healthy workplace environment.

The biggest problem is that most employees don’t know they are being discriminated against by the employer and fail to take the necessary steps.

This post has covered five common workplace discrimination types, what to do if you are a victim of discrimination and the customary laws that prohibit it.

The Definition of Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination is an unethical practice of treating an employee differently based on any protected class, such as age, gender, sexual orientation, origin, and more.


When your employer treats you differently (possibly negatively) because of any traits you possess, such as age, gender, and more, it qualifies as discrimination in the workplace.

In the U.S., discrimination in the workplace is an illegal practice, and there are many laws that protect workers from discrimination in the workplace.

Any type of workplace discrimination, irrespective of its severity and the impact it’s leaving on the employee, is illegal and unethical.

Do you suspect you are a victim of workplace discrimination? Contact Levine and Blit, and we will help you take the necessary steps to get fair compensation for all losses you have suffered due to discrimination.

Call us at 212-967-3000 for a free case evaluation, and speak to our best employment attorneys in New York.

How is Workplace Discrimination Determined?

Discrimination in the workplace can occur for a variety of reasons. Age, race, religion, and genders are some abilities or specific characteristics that may make an individual fall prey to workplace discrimination by their boss or employer resulting in getting unfair treatment compared to other employees in the organization.

One may experience discrimination when they get fired, hired, or promoted, and it can also occur in the form of unequal pay and employment benefits.

Determining workplace discrimination is easy, and every employee knows that they are being treated differently from others in the same position.

Below we have explained different forms of discrimination in the workplace that will help you determine if you are a victim of it.

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination is the most evident form and occurs when an employee is treated in a different way compared to others because of protected classes such as age, religion, gender, and more. In order to prove direct discrimination, unfair treatment has to occur based on someone’s characteristics of a particular class, such as poor performance at work.

For example, if you receive less pay for the same job compared to the male candidates just because you are a female, it qualifies as direct discrimination. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) also includes pregnancy in the protected characteristics, and if an employee faces discrimination because they are pregnant, it may qualify as direct discrimination in the workplace.

It is the most common and visible form of employment discrimination that most employees fall prey to.

Indirect Discrimination

This form of discrimination is not as obvious as direct discrimination but may affect the employee equally as the latter. Indirect discrimination in the workplace occurs when the employer introduces a policy or practice that is neutral but discriminates against the employees of a certain group with protected characteristics.

For example, introducing an office dress code for all employees. It may sound fair, but employees that have a base salary might not be able to comply with the particular dress code. Therefore, it can have an indirect discrimination effect on them.

Another form of indirect discrimination occurs when a company or recruiter requires all applicants to have at least three years of experience. If the employer disqualifies certain job applicants because they were pregnant or sick during that duration, it may be indirect discrimination.

There is a thin line between indirect discrimination and the general behavior of employers. So, it is essential to speak to a lawyer to understand if you are a victim of workplace discrimination or not.

Intentional Discrimination

This form of workplace discrimination is the deliberate and conscious treatment of employees differently based on ethnicity, race, national origin, disability, or sex in the workplace.

For example, an employer may treat an employee (s) differently because they do not belong to a protected class. A supervisor who is creating a hostile and toxic work environment by encouraging gender-based and racial slurs about specific races constitutes intentional discrimination.

In New York, laws such as the Civil Rights Act prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees based on certain characteristics. The Civil Rights Act gives employees the right to take action against their employer if they experience discrimination or are being treated differently because of any protected characteristics.

Unintentional Discrimination

Unintentional discrimination in the workplace may occur when employers unintentionally create practices and policies or a working environment that is unfavorable for members that belong to a protected class.

For example, an organization may have some hiring policies where only applicants with a specific level of experience are accepted. It can inadvertently discriminate against recent graduates and individuals who have been out of work for an extended period of time.

Another cause of unintentional discrimination in the workplace is when employees are evaluated on some personal characteristics which are not job-related. For example, a recruiting manager can give preference to an applicant who is a member of the same social media club or share the same political views.

It can lead to unfair treatment and may create a hostile work environment for applicants who do not fit the mold.

Reverse Discrimination

While the primary focus of anti-discriminatory laws is to protect employees of a protected class from discrimination. It may sometimes be the cause of a problem. For example, if employees that belong to these protected classes receive special treatment in order to get rid of past discrimination charges.

If job applicants that are white are denied admission in the workplace because the employer wants to increase the number of employees that belong to a minority group, it will classify as reverse discrimination.


Harassment occurs when someone in the workplace conveys negative behavior toward a fellow worker, which intimidates, humiliates, and excludes them. This form of workplace discrimination may violate someone’s dignity while creating a hostile and toxic work environment.

Some common examples of harassment in the workplace include:

  • Asking inappropriate questions
  • Unpleasant nicknames
  • Spreading rumors about someone and gossiping
  • Bullying

It’s not a defense for the harasser to say that they did not mean to harass the sufferer with their behavior. The victim’s feelings towards the actions are more important and help decide if they suffered discrimination or not.

There are many different types of harassment, including:

  • Verbal harassment
  • Psychological harassment
  • Digital harassment (cyberbullying)
  • Physical harassment
  • Sexual harassment

If you feel like your employer has engaged in discrimination or harassment against you, you should speak up and seek legal help. At Levine & Blit, our team includes experienced employment lawyers who know how to handle matters involving discrimination and harassment at work. We will review all aspects of your case and advise you accordingly. Contact us today to schedule a Free Case Evaluation.

Types of Discrimination in the Workplace

There are many types of workplace discrimination that employees in New York experience. Below we have highlighted the five common types, along with a few examples to help you identify them at the workplace.

Types of Discrimination

  1. Gender Identity Discrimination

Gender discrimination occurs when an individual is treated differently based on their gender, and the evidence shows that it is rampant in the workplace. There are many forms of gender discrimination, such as failure to hire, denying promotions to women in higher ranks, side-lining women employees when they have kids, and paying them less because of their gender.

One of the biggest examples that gender discrimination is still alive is that only 5% of CEOs of top companies are women. Some studies even showed that women, especially those of a certain color, are more prone to gender discrimination.

Treating anyone differently based on their gender constitutes this type of discrimination, and it is against the law. Some common examples of gender-based discrimination are:

  • The recruiters give more preference to male employees and pay them more compared to women employees with the same duties and responsibilities.
  • The employer filters job applicants based on their gender and gives preference to a specific gender only.
  • During the hiring process, an employer asks the applicants about their sexual orientation and uses that information to make the hiring decision.
  1. Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination is most likely to happen in workplaces with employees from different religions. It occurs when an individual is treated differently or is deprived of basic employment rights because they practice a particular religion.

This type of discrimination has become more common, and recruiters may sometimes make hiring and firing based on an employee’s religion, even when it has nothing to do with their job.

Some common examples of religious discrimination are:

  • An employer does not allow some of their workers to follow their religious grooming practices or dresses.
  • A company refuses to hire job applicants from a specific group such as Muslim, Jewish, Christian, etc.
  • An employer makes hiring decisions based on an employee’s religious beliefs.
  1. Disability Discrimination

This type of workplace discrimination has become the most common form and affects a big percentage of employees. In 2019, one-third of the reports registered with EEOC alone was due to disability discrimination.

It occurs when the employer or someone else in the organization treats an employee differently or isolates them based on their disabilities. Disability discrimination may also occur if the employer fails to provide facilities to such employees as mandated by the local as well as federal authorities.

The most common examples of disability discrimination are:

  • A company refuses to promote an employee because of their disability.
  • A company fails to make required accommodations to allow workers with special needs to perform their responsibilities and duties. (If the company is unable to arrange the accommodations due to reasons because lack of capital, in such cases, it might not qualify as disability discrimination)
  • The recruiters choose not to hire an employee with a child who has a disability.
  1. Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Treating someone differently because of their sexual orientation and interests qualifies as sexual orientation discrimination. This type of unlawful discrimination can have severe mental effects on employees of a specific sexual orientation or gender identity.

There may sometimes be policies that discriminate against people of a specific sexual orientation. There are several laws that prohibit such type of workplace sex discrimination, such as the Equal Pay Act.

Common examples of sexual orientation discrimination are:

  • The recruiter does not promote people of sexual orientation.
  • The company denies hiring people based on their sexual orientation, such as when an employer fails to hire people because of their transgender status.
  1. Race Discrimination

It is not unknown that racial discrimination exists both in the workplace and in society. It is so common that one-third of the cases registered with EEOC come under racial discrimination.

Sometimes an individual or group of individuals are often passed over at several stages of the employment process- they aren’t mentored, they aren’t hired, or they aren’t promoted despite having all the skills they need for the job. Wrongful termination and unfair scrutiny are also some common examples of racial discrimination.

The Civil Rights Act is there to protect the employees in New York and other states of the U.S from racial discrimination. Some common examples of race and national origin discrimination include:

  • A manager refuses to hire anyone because of their racial traits, such as skin color.
  • A company decides to only hire applicants born in the United States.
  • An employer fires an employee when they find out they are married to someone of a different race.

Laws on Discrimination in the Workplace

There are many federal laws that the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has enforced to protect the rights of employees in the workplace. These laws include

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963

As per this act, an employer in New York and any other state of the U.S must give their staff equal pay for similar work irrespective of the worker’s gender, race, and religious beliefs. The law illegalized discrimination based on any protected class, and no employer can have different payment policies for employees with similar duties and responsibilities.

In addition to this federal law, there are several additional state laws on books that protect employees from this type of workplace discrimination.

A recent example, the N.Y State Human Rights law offers expanded protection based on specific criteria deeming it illegal for the employer to discriminate against an employee based on their family status, gender, military status, and more.

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967

Under this act, it is illegal for all companies to discriminate against current or potential workers based on their age, especially if they are above 40.

  • ADA or The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

This act is enforceable in all workplaces throughout New York and other states of the U.S. As per the act, it is illegal for all companies to discriminate against their employees because of their disabilities.

Under the act, the employer must also arrange accommodations for creating equal employment opportunities for workers with disabilities. The act even states that employees cannot discriminate against their employees because they are associated with someone who has a disability.

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This law makes it illegal for employers in the United States to discriminate against their employees based on their religion, color, race, and other factors of protected class.

An amendment to this act is Pregnancy Discrimination Act which makes it illegal for companies to discriminate against workers if they are pregnant or are giving birth to a child.

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal for all employers to fire or demote workers because of their sexual orientation thus offering protection to people of a certain sexual orientation, including LGBTQ+ workers.

Fight Against Workplace Discrimination With Levine and Blit

Discrimination in the workplace in any form or type is illegal, and the victims can take legal action against it. If you suspect workplace discrimination and retaliation or you know someone who is a victim of it, consulting professional lawyers is necessary.

At Levine and Blit, we are a team of expert employment attorneys in New York that are dedicated to protecting your rights. We will help you evaluate circumstances to determine if you are a victim of workplace discrimination.

With our personalized and compassionate services, we have the experience required to get justice for the wrongdoing against you. Call us at 212-967-3000 for a free case evaluation and to know more about our employment law services.

Contact Levine & Blit, PLLC

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