Discrimination happens in almost every aspect of our lives including personal, business and family. However, discrimination in the workplace is illegal and not to be taken lightly. In this day and age an employee must be able to prove unfavorable treatment by the employer and it must be based on an illegal bias. There are steps one can take to prove discrimination based on race, age, national origin, sex, creed, religion, color or disability (Floyd, 2000). In this paper I will be discussing a few of these steps.
The first step that must be taken is to find the employee's position. The employee must show that he / she is a member of a protected class and that he / she has suffered adverse employment action. Everyone is a member of at least one protected class because gender or sex is a category. The protected classes are those that are protected under law and many people form at least one protected category; women, people with disabilities or handicaps, different nationalities, etc (Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1993).
What is meant by adverse employment action? An adverse employment action is anything done by the employer that affects the employee's job. This can include position, title, hours, vacation and even whether or not a person is hired. In my job, four of the women (part of the protected class by law) brought a sexual harassment charge against a man in the office.
After the charge was made "public" the women in the office were being treated unfairly. There were remarks made about them and the men in the office would no longer talk to the women because of the allegation. Two of the women lost bonuses because of the issue but yet the harasser got his full bonus. I believe this is adverse employment action.
The next step is to find the employer's position. The employer must show that there is a legitimate reason for the adverse employment action. For the case in our office, the employer (or actually the management team) could not give justification for the treatment of the ladies in the office after the sexual harassment charge. They totally deny any behavior on their part. (Our mistake is that we didn't pursue the issue and take care of the problem.) The third step is proving the discrimination. This is not as simple as it used to be.
It is not enough that the employee prove the employer's supposed illegal action, now, the employee must come up with some act that was discrimination in the workplace (Gewirtz, 1991). Just proving that the employer's reason for adverse employment action is not the real reason is not enough. In our case, we would have to present some type of evidence that the women were unfairly treated because of the fact they were women and it was brought on by the sexual harassment charge. Statistics can be useful in proving workplace discrimination for any case especially larger companies where there are large enough numbers to do a real statistical analysis. This type of tactic is used to prove with numbers that discrimination is taking place.
For example: if a company does not hire a woman but hires a man that is not as qualified this does not necessarily prove discrimination. But, if a statistical analysis is done, and the numbers are high enough showing that the company is not hiring women but are hiring men (not based on qualifications) the women would have a case of discrimination against the company. Disparate treatment is unquestionable discrimination in the workplace. It is the treatment of a protect class such as race or sex. Disparate impact shows that a certain individual was excluded from a job or promotion as a result of a company's policy. An example of this might be a job that requires a certain amount of lifting heavy equipment and women are disqualified because of a policy.
It is not intended discrimination; it is a result of the policy. Unfortunately discrimination is part of our lives. We can deny it and say it isn't true but when it comes down to it, discrimination is there and probably always will be. As for the case in my office, the women accepted the treatment and went on about their duties. Too many times this happens and employees do not speak out. I can only hope that this will change and employers will have to carry the responsibilities of their actions.
Equality is such a small word but has such a huge impact.
Congressional Quarterly Inc. (1993).
High court toughens standard for proving discrimination. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, Vol. 51 Issue 26, p. 1669, 1 p. Available: EBSCOHost [Online] web Floyd, William H. (2000).
Court makes proving discrimination easier. South Carolina Business Journal, Vol. 19 Issue 7, p 1, 2 p. Available: EBSCOHost [Online] web Gewirtz, P. (1991).