It is illegal for employers to discriminate against job applicants and employees for certain characteristics like race or gender. Nevertheless, discrimination in the workplace can and does occur. Unless the discrimination is identified and addressed quickly, it can infect and impact an entire workplace and cause professional harm to you or others.
Yet identifying whether an employment decision is the result of discrimination is not always straightforward. It can be difficult to know if you should take action or let an adverse action or decision pass.
There are, however, several indicators that could suggest an employment decision was improperly motivated by discrimination.
Signs of Discrimination in the Workplace
Few employers are direct when they discriminate against employees. An employer is not likely to say you did not get a job or promotion because of your race. Similarly, few employers will be foolish enough to say you are being demoted because you recently became pregnant.
Instead, the signs that suggest an employment decision may be the result of unlawful discrimination are more subtle. These signs can include:
Asking Inappropriate Questions
Employers are allowed to ask you if you are able to perform the essential job tasks of a position. They may also ask about and negotiate with you regarding reasonable accommodations you may need to do your job. However, certain topics should be off-limits to employers.
Employers who insist that you answer questions about your ethnicity or family history, family or marital status, or medical conditions may be breaking the law. What is more, these questions may suggest that any subsequent negative employment decision was motivated by discriminatory intent.
Lack of Diversity in the Workplace
A lack of diversity among a company’s workforce may also suggest a discriminatory motive exists behind the company’s employment decisions. If all of the people who work for a company look alike or share the same religious beliefs, it may be because those who are different are either pushed out or kept away.
To be fair, human interactions in the workplace are complicated. Employers have a legitimate concern in wanting employees to fit into the company’s culture and get along with one another. However, this does not give employers free license to create a workforce that is completely homogenous.
Vulgar or Insulting Workplace Banter
Everyone enjoys a lightened mood and fun atmosphere around the workplace. But jokes that come at the expense of your race, sex, religion, or other protected class are never appropriate. Similarly, workplace nicknames based on such characteristics have no place on the job.
Employers who encourage or permit this sort of behavior can be allowing a hostile work environment to exist. They may also be tacitly admitting that they share or support views similar to those presented in the jokes or comments.
Baseless or Disproportionate Disciplinary Actions
When employees err, employers are right to correct their employees so that future performance improves. Some employers may take things too far, though, and excessively discipline you for minor infractions. Or your employer may choose to single you out for discipline while others who engage in the same behavior are not disciplined.
Discipline that is excessive, arbitrary, or not supported by company policy may be covering up an employer’s discriminatory motives.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Illinois Employer Is Discriminating Against You
If you suspect you may have suffered workplace discrimination in Illinois, enlist the help of our reputable and experienced Geneva employment law attorneys. At Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil, we will devote our resources and knowledge to investigating your suspicions. Reach out to us and schedule a consultation to discuss your case.