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Examples of Discrimination at Work

Posted on July 22, 2022 in

Work discrimination happens when an employee or job candidate is treated unfavorably based on characteristics protected by law. This can occur even if the offending behavior is not necessarily directed towards a single person. For instance:

Protected Characteristics

Any job-related decision made by an employer that is based on the following protected characteristics is considered discrimination:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion (includes religious dress and grooming practices)
  • Sex/gender
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Medical condition (genetic characteristics, cancer, or a history of cancer)
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and/or related medical conditions
  • Military or veteran status
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Disability (mental and physical, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, and genetic characteristics)
  • Genetic information
  • Age (over 40)

Situations of Discrimination at Work

  • Suggesting or stating the types of preferred candidates in a job advertisement based on protected characteristics.
  • Excluding potential employees based on their belonging to a protected class.
  • Denying a training or apprenticeship program based on a protected characteristic.
  • Paying different salaries to equally-qualified employees.
  • Discriminating when assigning disability leave, maternity leave, or retirement options.
  • Denying or disrupting certain employees use of company facilities.
  • Promoting or laying off employees based on protected characteristics.

Most workplace discrimination claims are related to retaliation, which occurs when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in an activity protected by law—for example, filing a complaint about worker rights, asserting worker rights, inquiring about pay or work hours, filing for workers’ comp, informing the police about illegal practices, etc. In those situations, retaliation by an employer could be demoting, relocating, or wrongfully terminating the employee, giving an unsatisfactory job reference, etc.

Other leading causes of discrimination claims include discrimination against sex, race, disability, age, national origin, color, and lastly, religion, per the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC). Any individual who believes their employment rights have been violated can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC), or a state administrative agency. Alternatively, an individual, agency, or organization can file a claim on behalf of the victim to protect their identity.

How to File a Discrimination Complaint in Tennessee

To file a workplace discrimination complaint with the THRC, you must do so within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act, and you have the following options to do:

  • Call (800) 251-3589 or visit the office in person to speak to an Intake Officer, who will answer any questions and provide you with a complaint form.
  • Access a complaint form online and mail it to:
    • State of Tennessee THRC Central Office
      312 Rosa L Parks Ave, 23rd Floor
      Nashville, TN 37243

After submitting, a copy of your complaint form and any documents you attach to it, except for a witness list, will be forwarded to your employer you are alleging discriminated against you. Your employer will have the chance to respond to the allegations, and a THRC investigator will investigate your complaint. However, if it has been more than 180 days since the alleged incident of discrimination took place, you must file an employment discrimination complaint with the EEOC instead.