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Discrimination-Free Workplace


Learning objectives

  • State what constitutes employment discrimination.

  • Identify the federal discrimination laws in place to protect individual workers’ rights.

  • Recognize the importance of promoting a discrimination-free workplace.

Course overview

Workplace discrimination occurs when an employee or group of employees is treated less favorably than similarly situated employees of a different race, sex, age, national origin, religion, genetic makeup, etc. The difference in treatment can be obvious, such as jokes, slurs, and innuendoes, or it can subtle, such as job assignments, lack of training opportunities, reduction of hours/pay, demotions and disciplinary actions, and fewer promotions.

Discriminatory practices include bias in hiring, firing, job assignment, transfer, layoff, recall, fringe benefits, retirement plans, leave, or any other terms or conditions of employment.

Failure to prevent workplace discrimination can be a costly decision, causing harm to both employees and employers. It can result in loss of productivity, poor performance, disruptive work environments, and loss of good employees and managers. It is also against the law and can lead to discrimination charges, costly litigation, and jury awards—negligence in this area of employment is one of the fastest ways to find your business in the courtroom.

There are many different laws regarding aspects of employment related to discrimination…

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits:

  • Discrimination against any employee or applicant for employment because of his, or her, race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment;

  • Employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups;

  • Both intentional discrimination and neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude minorities and that are not job related;

  • Denial of equal employment opportunity because of marriage to or association with an individual of a different race, membership in or association with ethnic based organizations or groups, or attendance or participation in schools or places of worship generally associated with certain minority groups;

  • Discrimination on the basis of an immutable characteristic associated with race, such as skin color, hair texture, or certain facial features;

  • Discrimination on the basis of a condition that predominantly affects one race, such as height or weight, unless the practice is job related and consistent with business necessity;

Harassment on the basis of gender, race, and/or color.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

  • Makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on his or her age;

  • Protects employees 40 years of age or older against employment discrimination based on age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment;

  • Contains explicit guidelines for benefit, pension and retirement plans.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • Prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities;

  • If an employee has a mental, physical, or sensory disability, yet can still perform the essential job functions, with or without accommodation, the employer must reasonably accommodate the disability.

  • The only exception is if the accommodation would create an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

  • Each situation is different, and disability issues should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

The Equal Pay Act (EPA)

  • Protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;

  • Is significant in helping women, who are the chief victims of unequal pay;

  • Does not apply to pay differences based on factors other than gender.

Employment Discrimination Laws protect employees against retaliation. They make it illegal to retaliate against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating or serving as a witness in an investigation or lawsuit involving a discrimination charge, opposing discriminatory practices.

Workplace policies should…

  • Declare no tolerance for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation;

  • Be communicated verbally, printed in employee handbooks, and posted in the workplace;

  • State that all complaints will be investigated, and any violation may result in disciplinary action, including termination;

  • Be fair and not disadvantage people because they belong to particular groups;

  • Apply consistently to applicants and employees.

Employee Responsibilities

  • Read the employee handbook and posted workplace rules, policies, practices, and behaviors.

  • Know their employer's policy forbids discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

  • Know that a violation of the policy might lead to disciplinary action that could include termination.

Responsibilities of Managers and Supervisors

  • Help prevent discrimination and harassment by being a role model.

  • Support your company’s policies regarding equal treatment of all employees.

  • Confront individuals if they make fun of others because of their race, gender, ethnic background, religion, appearance, disability, genetic information, or sexual orientation.

  • Pay attention to the impact of your own comments and actions before you speak.

  • Refuse to tell jokes that are derogatory to any group, culture, or sex.

  • Don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes.

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14 min

Course Outline

Course Outline

  • What Is Discrimination?

  • Discrimination and the Law



  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)

  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1991

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)

  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, Public Law No. 110-233, 122 Stat. 881 (GINA)


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