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Discrimination occurs when one person or a group of people are subjected to unfair treatment based on factors, such as race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity or veteran status. Several federal laws address each type of discrimination.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the most comprehensive laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Title VII, as well as other laws that address discriminatory treatment. State human rights commissions that address statutes at the state level prohibit unfair employment practices.
Discrimination That Occurs In The Workplace
Given the number of complaints, lawsuits and mediation pertaining to workplace discrimination, there are endless examples to illustrate how discrimination occurs on the job. Assume there are eight engineers employed by a company; there are six male engineers and two female engineers. All have identical qualifications and credentials. The six men are paid $50,000 per year and eligible for a 5 percent raise each year if their performance appraisal indicates satisfactory performance. The two women are paid $48,000 per year and are eligible for a 3 percent raise if their performance rating indicates superior performance. Granted, this is an egregious example of workplace discrimination but it helps paint a picture of discrimination and how it is perpetuated in business. In this case, the female engineers are clearly being treated differently, based on sex. This example violates several federal laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
Harassment That Occurs In The Workplace
When the discriminatory behavior exceeds that of engaging in unfair employment practices, and escalates to behavior that is verbally and physically abusive, it is considered harassment. Many cases of employment discrimination also contain complaints of a &ldquo;hostile work environment.&rdquo; A hostile work environment is created when the victim of discrimination is treated in a manner that makes it difficult or impossible to perform her job duties.
Texas State Anti-Discrimination Laws
Section 21.051 of the Texas Labor Code states, &ldquo;An employer commits an unlawful employment practice if because of race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age the employer: (1) fails or refuses to hire an individual, discharges an individual, or discriminates in any other manner against an individual in connection with compensation or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment; or (2) limits, segregates, or classifies an employee or applicant for employment in a manner that would deprive or tend to deprive an individual of any employment opportunity or adversely affect in any other manner the status of an employee.&rdquo; The Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division enforces the state&rsquo;s laws and investigates complaints filed by employees who believe they have been subjected to discrimination.
There never will be a cure for discrimination; however, employers can educate employees on the illegality of discriminatory treatment. An understanding of differences in race, culture, sex, national origin and other factors that are separate from job qualifications will help prevent some instances of discrimination. An employer&rsquo;s responsibility is to provide a safe workplace, free from harassment and discrimination.