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How to recognize discrimination in the workplace

California is a state known for its strong anti-discrimination laws. Discrimination can be motivated by a person’s race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or religion, among other personal traits or affiliations.

Identifying discrimination in the workplace is important to maintain a fair work environment. Employees need to recognize patterns and actions that may show bias or prejudice.

Unequal treatment

Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace is not rare; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or “EEOC”, received over 4,000 reports or workplace discrimination in California alone in 2022. Discrimination often starts when employers mistreat people at work due to protected characteristics, like race, gender or age. Seeing that some employees consistently get better pay, promotions or opportunities because of who they are might be a sign of discrimination.


Harassment at work is a form of discrimination. An example of this would be when people make mean comments or jokes or treat someone badly because of their background. If you experience or witness harassment, it is important to report it to your HR department or supervisors.

Systemic discrimination

Discrimination can also manifest itself in systemic ways. Pay attention to policies, practices or requirements that affect one group over others, even if the intent is not discriminatory. Such practices may still be illegal if they impact protected groups.

No accommodations for disabilities

Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This means they should help employees with disabilities do their jobs. If your employer does not do this, or punishes you for asking for help, it could be discrimination. It is crucial to understand that employees with disabilities have the right to equal treatment.

Unfair hiring practices

Discrimination can also happen during the hiring process. If a job posting excludes certain groups or mentions things like age, gender or other protected characteristics, it could be a sign of discrimination. Employers should make sure their job listings follow California’s anti-discrimination laws.

Lack of diversity and inclusion

If there are very few diverse leaders or if your company does not have programs to make everyone feel included, it might mean there is a problem with discrimination. Organizations need to actively work on diversity and inclusion to make the workplace fair and welcoming for all.

If you think you are experiencing discrimination at your workplace, remember to keep records of what happens, and report it to your HR department or supervisors. California has laws against workplace discrimination, and everyone has the right to seek help if their rights are being violated.


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