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What is workplace discrimination?

Under Indiana and federal law, employees have the right to be treated fairly and in accordance with the treatment of other employees with similar training, education and experience. Employers may not legally subject an employee or groups of employees to more punitive treatment because of their membership in a group defined as a protected classes under law. Protected classes include race, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion.

The legal protections against workplace discrimination begin with the posting of advertisements for hire and the interviewing process. Under federal and state non-discrimination laws, employers may not advertise or interview in a manner designed to exclude otherwise qualified applicants from consideration for a position based on their membership in a protected class. Likewise, once hired, an employee's protected class status may not be considered when an employer make decisions on who to promote, demote, train or fire, when other employment variable are equal.

If it can be shown to a legal standard that an employer withheld the benefits and privileges of employment from one employee of a group of employees in a protected class, a viable case of workplace discrimination may exist. In such a case, once a discrimination complaint has been made, the employer may not take actions against the complaining employee or group to retaliate against them.

An employee who believes their claim of discrimination has not been sufficiently addressed by their employer may seek resolution through federal and state agencies charges with enforcing non-discrimination laws. On the federal level, that agency is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and in Indiana, it is the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

Since employees are required to meet certain legal standards not discussed in this post, the information provided here is not intended as legal advice. However, with the help of an attorney, aggrieved employees may be able to have their employment discrimination concerns addressed through the processes provided under law.

Source: Workplace Fairness, "Discrimination", December 30, 2014

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