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How to Recognize Signs of Employment Discrimination at Work

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

Signs you re being discriminated against at work

Many employees and job applicants in New York City struggle with employment discrimination on a daily basis. According to the EEOC, nearly 130,000 claims of employment discrimination were filed last year.

In one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world, it is disturbing to consider hregnancy discrimiow much discrimination occurs daily.

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Any employee could become a victim of illegal employment discrimination at any time, which is why it is important to recognize the signs you’re being discriminated against at work.

Employment discrimination takes many forms.

In general, if you are treated differently than your colleagues with the same work experience, position, and expertise, you may have a case of employment discrimination.

Your employer may have a justification for this action, but many employer explanations are mere pretexts for actual illegal discrimination.

Always be on the lookout for discrimination. You may be a victim of illegal employment discrimination if you have encountered any of the following situations:

  • A potential employer refused to hire you for no apparent reason even though someone younger with similar or inferior experience or professional background was hired instead;
  • Fired you due to some non-work-related reason such as your race, your religion, your national origin, or because you served in the military;
  • Demoted you or cut your pay without warning but did not demote or cut pay of other similarly situated employees of a different race/gender/age group/orientation;
  • Denied you a promotion or pay raise despite other similarly-skilled or younger employees receiving the promotion;
  • Denied you sick leave time for either your own medical condition or to care for a sick family member; or
  • Retaliates against you for objecting to workplace discrimination that you recognized was being committed at work.

Common Signs of Broad or Widespread Employment Discrimination at Work

As explained above, employment discrimination can take many forms, but it usually only has two kinds of effects on employees.

The first effect employment discrimination can have on employees is a broad or widely-sweeping effect of discriminating against an entire group of people.

For example, a male employer who owns a small business may have an aversion to working with women, and so that discrimination can be noticed by a lack of women in the workplace.

That example is particularly easy to spot; however, other forms of discrimination are more subtle. You can recognize widespread discrimination tactics at work by looking for the following signs:

High Turnover Rates:If your employer has a high turnover rate, particularly with members of a certain race or age demographic, that could be a sign of mistreatment and discrimination.

Generally, employers who are constantly hiring and who have a high rate of workers who quit have unhappy workforces.

Any employee could become a victim of illegal employment discrimination at any time, which is why it is important to recognize the signs you’re being discriminated against at work.

Sometimes, high turnover could simply be the result of a strong economy or non-competitive pay, but it could also signal a hostile work environment or discriminatory work assignments.

Minimal Diversity: In a city as diverse as New York, it is rare to see a completely homogeneous workforce.

That said, many employers who are intentionally discriminating against employers will attempt to shield their actions from others by creating minimally diverse workspaces.

For example, an employer who is adverse to hiring members of the LGBT community might hire one or two LGBT employees that the employer finds tolerable and then systematically discriminate against all others.

Suspicious Interview Questions: An interviewer who asks questions that either directly reference a stereotype about a group of people or use language that indicates a veiled discriminatory world-view will likely continue inappropriate behavior after the hiring process.

For example, an employer who asks all female job applicants whether they currently have families or plan to have families in the future might be a sign that you are being discriminated against in the hiring process.

It could also signal that the employer is planning to discriminate on the basis of traditional gender roles or on the basis of pregnancy in the future when a family comes into existence.

Role Ruts: Even in diverse workplaces, discrimination can become more easily noticeable when you examine the roles and job assignments given to members of different groups.

For example, in many office settings, all of the secretaries will be women and all of the non-administrative employees will be male.

Generally, employers who are constantly hiring and who have a high rate of workers who quit have unhappy workforces.

These patterns are often easy to recognize because workers who are the targets of workplace discrimination are given lesser tasks.

Negative Feedback: Regular performance evaluations are often the best signs of discrimination and evidence of employment discrimination.

Where an employer makes unfounded claims about an employee’s performance or grades an employee poorly when compared to others with similar failings, that could be a sign of workplace discrimination.

Workplace Exclusion: It is very common for employers to exclude workers whom they either do not like or do not believe to be productive from certain job assignments.

This is a particularly common form of pregnancy discrimination, when employers expect a pregnant employee to take leave time in the future.

Favoritism is a form of employment discrimination: If your employer treats you or other employees differently, such as providing additional benefits or perks to some individuals (or denying those perks to others).

That could be discrimination if done on the basis of an employee’s sex, age, race, etc.

Common Signs of Individual Discrimination in the Workplace

While it is illegal to discriminate against a whole class of employees, it is also illegal to discriminate against certain members of protected classifications of employees.

This is true even if that discrimination does not extend to other employees within the same protected classification.

For example, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects people over the age of 40 from workplace discrimination.

It is still discrimination for an employer to fire an employee who is age 50 because he is too old even if the replacement employee is just slightly younger.

These are some of the most common signs of individual discrimination in the workplace:

Inappropriate Joking: Workplace banter is commonplace and often harmless; however, illegal harassment can occur when jokes go too far.

Regular performance evaluations are often the best signs of discrimination and evidence of employment discrimination.

If co-workers or management repeatedly make stereotypical remarks, jokes, or false assumptions about an employee’s age, race, gender, sexual preference, or religion, such behavior is illegal workplace discrimination.

signs of discrimination at work

Hostile Behavior: Unfortunately, hostile behavior from a supervisor is not uncommon; however, such behavior is made worse when it is because of discriminatory animus.

Often, your boss is simply mean because he or she is a mean individual. But if the hostile behavior directly relates to your race, for example, that could be workplace harassment.

Hostile workplace forms of harassment occur where behavior alters the terms, conditions, and reasonable expectations of a comfortable and safe work environment.

If you are the only employee receiving this type of harassment, it may very well be intentional.

Sexual Harassment: In addition to hostile work environment harassment (described above), another form of sexual harassment is also illegal: quid-pro-quo sexual harassment involves the forced trading of workplace benefits for sexual or romantic contact.

For example, if an employer holds a promotion over your head in exchange for sex or threatens to cut your pay if you do not go out to dinner with him, your employer is engaging in illegal workplace sexual harassment.

Refusal of Religious Accommodations: Federal law requires that employers grant all employees reasonable religious accommodations in the workplace.

These accommodations can include, for example, days off on religious holidays or being allowed to wear religious clothing.

Always be on the lookout for discrimination.

Denial of these accommodations is discrimination. Often, this discrimination can be easily recognized by an employer granting requested accommodations to members of his or her own religion, but not members of other religions.

Failure to Reasonably Accommodate Disabled Individuals:The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires disabled persons to be given reasonable accommodations to make the workplace more convenient.

This can include equipment modification, scheduling adjustments, or modifying workplace policies (often break policies).

Often, individuals are discriminated against because some employers view certain disabilities as more “legitimate” or “real” than others.

Punishment for Association with Others: Finally, some employers may discriminate against employees not because of their personal characteristics, but because they associate with others against traditional stereotypes.

For example, when some male employers learn that a woman is involved in a romantic relationship with a man of a different race, their immediate instinct is to shun that employee simply because of who she has associated with. This also constitutes illegal employment discrimination.

What Types of People Can Seek Relief Under Employment Discrimination Law?

Most people do not have a full understanding of employment discrimination law.

Often, many employees believe that employment discrimination law is broader than it actually is.

In other case, people may have a much narrower view of the law believing that it only punishes race discrimination and sexual harassment.

In fact, you can seek relief under employment discrimination laws if any of the following characteristics apply to you:

  • Race/Color: both federal and state law make race discrimination illegal;
  • National Origin: both federal and state law make national origin discrimination illegal;
  • Gender: both federal and state law make gender discrimination illegal;
  • Sexual Orientation: it is unclear whether federal law protects against sexual orientation discrimination as a form of gender discrimination; however, New York law does provide this protection;
  • Pregnancy: the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes pnation illegal;
  • Family or Marital Status: no employer may discriminate against an employee because he or she is widowed, divorced, does not want children, or has a family;
  • Genetics: the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of information received from a genetic test;
  • Age: federal law protects all people over the age of 40 from age discrimination, and New York law provides additional protections to younger individuals;
  • Disability: the federal Americans with Disabilities Act not only makes discrimination illegal but also requires employers to accommodate disabilities in the workplace;
  • Religious Beliefs: federal law requires employees to make accommodations for employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs;
  • Military Service: under federal law, employers cannot fire an employee for taking leave time for military reasons and cannot discriminate against employees or job applicants because of their military service;
  • Arrest or Conviction Records: New York law makes it illegal for an employee to discriminate on the basis of an employee’s prior criminal conviction (including youthful offender records and sealed records) unless the employer has a reasonable fear of the employee disrupting or damaging the business;
  • Victims of Domestic Violence: no employer may discriminate against an employee because he or she was a victim of domestic violence.

It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an individual who either claims he or she was discriminated against or an employee who supports another employee’s claims of employment discrimination.

For example, if a co-worker of yours files a race discrimination lawsuit and you testify in court on their behalf, your employer is not legally permitted to hold your court testimony against you.


What did the company/employer you are complaining against do? Please check all that apply.

  • Refused to hire me
  • Fired me / laid me off
  • Demoted me
  • Suspended me
  • Sexually harassed me
  • Harassed or intimidated me
  • Denied me a promotion or pay raise
  • Denied me leave time or other benefits
  • Paid me a lower salary than other workers in my same title
  • Gave me different or worse job duties than other workers in my same title
  • Denied me an accommodation for my disability
  • Denied me an accommodation for my religious practices
  • Gave me a disciplinary notice or negative performance evaluation

I believe that the company/employer took the aforementioned action against me due to my:

**We can only represent individuals who were discriminated against based on one or more of the below reasons. We cannot represent anyone who suffered unfair treatment that DOES NOT involve one of these reasons**

  • Age (if you are at least 18 years of age)
  • Arrest Record (including youthful offender record or sealed conviction record)
  • Conviction Record
  • Creed / Religion (religious belief, practice, or observance)
  • Disability (a physical or mental condition)
  • Pregnancy-Related Condition (a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth)
  • Pregnancy
  • Domestic Violence Victim Status
  • Familial Status (if you are pregnant or have children under age 18 in the household)
  • Genetic Predisposition (information from a genetic test)
  • Harassment of Domestic Workers (if you are being sexually harassed or harassed because of your gender, race, national origin, or religion AND you are employed in the home or residence of another person for the purposes of housekeeping, childcare, companionship, or any other domestic service purpose)
  • Marital Status (single, married, separated, divorced, widowed)
  • Military Status (including military reserves)
  • National Origin (the country where you or your ancestors were born)
  • Race/Color (because you are Asian, Black, White, etc.; includes ethnicity)
  • Retaliation (if you filed a discrimination case before, or helped someone else with a discrimination case, or reported discrimination due to race, sex, or any other category listed above or below)
  • Sex (based on the fact that you are male or female, sexual stereotyping, or sexual harassment)
  • Sexual Orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, or perceived)

How many employees does this company have?

Are you currently working for the company?

Did you report or complain about the discrimination to someone else?

  • Date you reported or complained about discrimination
  • Did you complain about the discrimination verbally or in writing?
  • What happened after you complained? (Was your complaint investigated? Was any action taken in response to your complaint? Did the discrimination stop? Did you experience retaliation for complaining?)
  • If you did not report the discrimination, please explain why


How are you paid? ____ Salary ___ Hourly

If salary, please state base salary paid per paycheck (this company pays on a [monthly, semimonthly, biweekly, weekly, daily] basis)

Do you have an academic degree (undergraduate and graduate)?

If yes, please list degree(s)

Do you supervise employees?

If yes, how many?

How many hours do you work each week?

Are you paid overtime wages (time and a half your rate of pay)?

Which activities do you regularly engage in? Check all that apply.

  • Manage a department or facility.
  • Hire or discharge employees or make significant recommendations regarding employment actions.
  • Perform administrative or office functions or nonmanual work directly related to the management or general business operations.
  • Perform work and provide professional services that require advanced knowledge (beyond high school) in a field of science or learning.
  • Use creative talents in providing services or creating products.
  • Exercise discretion and independent judgment in matters of significance to perform your work.
  • Apply computer systems analysis techniques and procedures and/or design, develop, document, analyze, create, test or modify computer systems or programs.
  • Am customarily engaged away from employer’s place of business making sales or taking orders for services or products.

The Law Office of Yuriy Moshes is a New York and New Jersey based law firm that practices employment law and helps clients to resolve cases of employment discrimination.

If you find yourself in such a situation, contact an Employment Lawyers NYC at the Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes, P.C.

We help workers in the New York City area including all of its boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island) as well as Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York.

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