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Can You Guess the Top 5 Forms of Workplace Discrimination?

June 19, 2019 Workplace Discrimination

Some of These May Surprise You

Every year, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) releases the number and types of workplace discrimination cases it handled in the prior year. This year, there were a few key changes in the data—and some points that stayed stubbornly consistent with prior years.

The top causes of workplace discrimination brought to the EEOC in 2018 include:

1. Retaliation (51.6%): Of all the cases brought to the EEOC in 2018, retaliation was by far the most common—representing more than half of all cases. It’s been this way for the past ten years, and the numbers are going up. 

Retaliation involves an employer punishing an employee for standing up against discrimination at work or blowing the whistle on unlawful activity. Some forms of retaliation include:

  • Firing you
  • Reprimanding you or giving you a poor evaluation
  • Transferring you to a worse location or job assignment
  • Subjecting you to increased scrutiny or criticism
  • Verbally or physically abusing you
  • Threatening to take action against you with the authorities
  • Retaliating against your friends or family members
  • Changing your schedule to conflict with your commitments outside of work

This isn’t a complete list. As long as your employer’s behavior would deter a reasonable person from speaking up, it may constitute unlawful action against you.

See Also: Have You Been Retaliated Against for Asserting Your Rights at Work?

2. Sex (32.3%): According to the EEOC report, sexual harassment charges increased 13.6% from 2017. This may be due to increased awareness of the problem, driven by the #MeToo movement.

However, US workplaces have a long way to go when it comes to gender parity. According to a recent McKinsey study, women’s representation in leadership positions has stalled over the past four years.

There are more disturbing statistics in that study, many of which have to do with microaggressions that subtly signal a lack of respect for women at work. According to the study, women are far more likely than men to:

  • Have their judgment questioned in their area of expertise (36% of women; 27% of men)
  • Be asked to provide evidence of their competence (31% of women; 16% of men)
  • Be mistaken for a more-junior employee (20% of women; 10% of men)
  • Be addressed in an unprofessional way (26% of women; 16% of men)

The study also found that women of color, especially black women, experience these microaggressions more than women as a whole—sometimes by a significant percentage.

These statistics point to a more endemic problem regarding respect for women in the workplace—and doubtless more subtle forms of disrespect hint at an underlying culture where overt forms of sex discrimination are also more likely to happen.

See Also: What Counts as Sexual Harassment?

3. Disability (32.2%): Disability discrimination involves treating someone differently, harassing them, or refusing to hire them because of a disability or perceived disability. It can also involve refusing to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee.

The EEOC has had some high-profile victories in this area in 2018. For instance, it won $75,000 for a Macy’s employee who was fired for taking a single day off to deal with complications from her asthma. Even so, the numbers tell us this is still a prevalent issue.

See Also: How Do You Request Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA?

4. Race (32.2%): Close to one in three workplace discrimination suits brought to the EEOC dealt with race.

A few high-profile studies illuminated the depth of the problem in 2018—including a PEW research report that found that six in ten black STEM employees experienced discrimination at work.

Another recent study is even more disheartening. It found that anti-black hiring biases were just as strong in 2017 as they were in 1989, with white applicants consistently receiving about 36% more job callbacks than equally-qualified African American applicants.

See Also: Can You Be Fired for Backing a Co-Worker’s Discrimination or Harassment Claim?

5. Age (22.1%): Age discrimination is one of those biases everyone will face sooner or later. And it’s a remarkably static problem. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) has been in place for more than 50 years, yet more than one in five discrimination suits dealt with it in 2018.

According to a recent AARP study of adults aged 45 and older, over 61% have either seen or experienced age-related discrimination in the workplace—but only 3% have ever made a formal complaint. This suggests that the problem is far more common than the EEOC numbers suggest.

See Also: How Companies May Use Layoffs to Hide Age Discrimination

Call Us for a Free Consultation

Have you experienced any of the above types of discrimination—or any other form of bias in the workplace? If so, we can help. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at for a free, confidential consultation.