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Prejudice and Discrimination in the Workplace

Even though discrimination and prejudice in the workplace have become less frequent over the years, they still occur more than they should.

Discrimination and prejudice in the workplace are illegal and punishable by law. Those who have been discriminated against should take action by filing a complaint or reporting the discrimination to authorities.


Before 1964 employers were able to get away with discriminating against employees or potential employees.

There were no laws regarding prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. In 1964 federal law adopted the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other anti-discrimination laws. These laws protected employees from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, and national origin. In 1967 ageism was added to the list of discriminatory acts deemed illegal. It wasn't until 1990 that Congress prohibited discrimination based on disabilities.


Discrimination and prejudice in the workplace occur when an employer does something or does not do something for an employee based upon prejudicial beliefs. Prejudicial actions can include: not hiring or firing someone, limiting benefits and perks, unnecessary testing, restricted retirement plans, not permitting disability leave, laying off, transferring employees, not promoting employees, harassment, verbal abuse, physical abuse, a lower pay scale, not giving a raise when merited, and sexual harassment.


Discrimination can occur on the basis of race, age, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, religion, military duty, genetics, sex, gender, or body weight.

Overt and covert racism toward employees of an identifiable race happen despite federal laws. Women are often paid less than men in the exact same positions.

Pregnant women are often not hired, promoted, or given benefits. Older workers often lose their jobs solely because of age.

Religious employees are often not given accommodations of their observance needs. These are just a few examples of discrimination and prejudice in the workplace.


It is against federal law to discriminate against employees because of race, sex, religion, nationality, age and disability. There is no federal law regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or body weight.

There are, though, some states where it is illegal to discriminate against employees because of sexual orientation, body weight, military discharges, and smoking. Retaliation, or taking revenge against someone who has reported an act of discrimination, is also illegal according to federal law.

What to Do

If you are experiencing prejudicial actions or discrimination in the workplace because of any of the reasons listed, then you should take legal action against the employer or employee who is perpetrating the discrimination.

You can take action by reporting the perpetrator to the company or file a complaint with a federal or state agency. You can also take the perpetrator to court.

You should talk to a lawyer about the appropriate course of action for the specific scenario. Make sure you write down everything that happened and include the dates of when the events happened. If you have any witnesses, ask them to write down what they saw. Keep copies of any documents during the reporting process.