7 Different Types of Discrimination in the Workplace


    We all deserve to be employed at a workplace that appreciates our differences and protects us from personal injustices. That’s why most workplaces have anti-discrimination policies in effect and why governments enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. It’s up to the employer to be aware of these laws, as well as common types of discrimination to help decrease discrimination related incidents in the workplace.

    Workplace discrimination is defined by the occurrence of an individual being unfavorably discriminated against because of one or more variables, including sexual orientation, age, pregnancy, disability, sex, and religion, and are all prohibited by laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

    Some types of discrimination in the workplace may be difficult to detect. In these instances, employers are recommended to perform an extensive workplace investigation. To help you identify the potential problems, listed below are seven types of discrimination in the workplace:

    1. Sexual Harassment

    Sexual harassment is behaviour characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in the workplace. The behaviour becomes unlawful when the employee is forced to endure the harassment in order to remain employed and/or the harassment is so severe that it creates a hostile, abusive, or intimidating work environment.

    Sexual harassment can lead to many sorts of issues for the person being harassed, including physical concerns like headaches, high blood pressure, muscle pain, gastrointestinal distress, and more. Sexual harassment also affects a person’s mental health, often leading to anxiety, depression, sleep problems and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    All these concerns can lead to lower productivity at work, increased absenteeism, and even the loss of a job. It’s an employer’s responsibility to investigate all allegations of sexual harassment and take it very seriously.

    2. Sexual Orientation

    Civil rights laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on a person’s gender or sexual orientation. Sexual orientation describes a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person. This includes individuals who describe themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or asexual.

    If it is suspected that someone in the workplace is being discriminated against based on sexual orientation, the employer must step in right away and take appropriate action. These types of discrimination in the workplace should not be tolerated.

    3. Age

    When we think of the different types of discrimination in the workplace, we often don’t think of ageism. Ageism is when assumptions are made based on labels and attitudes about age. Both younger individuals and older individuals can be the target of ageism.

    Perhaps an employer does not want to hire someone straight out of school because they feel they don’t have enough experience, or perhaps an employer doesn’t want to hire someone aged 55 because they’ll be retiring soon. All forms of ageism are unacceptable. The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from discrimination based on age.

    4. Pregnancy

    Pregnant women can be discriminated against in a variety of ways in the workplace. They may get passed up for contract renewals, promotions, and raises. An employer must also provide reasonable accommodations for the pregnant woman where applicable.

    For example, if a pregnant woman needs frequent breaks to stretch or use the washroom, their employer must provide these accommodations without negative repercussions.

    5. Disability

    The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was revised in 2005 to improve accessibility standards for Ontarians with physical and mental disabilities. Some of the things the bill mandates include defining building and structure guidelines, only leasing properties compliant with the guidelines, and sourcing products which “must have regard to their accessibility for persons with disabilities”.

    While the government is taking steps to make establishments accessible, it’s up to the individual employer to make sure a person with a disability is well accommodated for in the workplace. They are also not allowed to be treated any differently when it comes to raises and promotions. All discrimination complaints having to do with disability need to be taken very seriously by all employers.

    6. Race

    Discrimination based on race is something most of us are familiar with. This involves treating an employee unfavorably due to their race, or because of certain characteristics associated with race, such as facial features or skin color.

    Like all other kinds of discrimination, discrimination based on race is not appropriate and precautions must be taken by employers to mitigate the chance of this sort of discrimination taking place.

    7. Religion

    Religious discrimination takes place when an individual is treated unfavorably because of their religious beliefs. There are laws in place that protect people who belong to organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and others. Where applicable, employers are obliged to accommodate individuals based on their religious needs, such as allowing an employee a break to pray. Religious discrimination is a problem in the workplace and needs to be investigated and addressed as soon as a complaint arises

    There are many different types of discrimination in the workplace. It’s important to be aware of all types of discrimination and to inform yourself of the different avenues you can take if you become discriminated against in the workplace.