The Problem

People talk about employment discrimination all of the time without necessarily understanding what it is.

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently because of a certain characteristic.

It is not usually illegal to treat someone differently unless there is a law that protects a person from different treatment based on that particular characteristic.


Right now, the law protects people in certain categories from discrimination or harassment at their place of employment.

These protected categories include:

  • Race
  • Sex (gender)
  • Age
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Color
  • Religion.

At this time, the law is not settled on whether sexual orientation is a protected category. 

Key Issues

An employee should not suffer an “adverse employment action” related to membership in a protected category. That means an employer cannot fire, refuse to hire, or pay a person less because that person is in a protected category.

It also means an employer cannot harass an employee because of membership in one or more of these protected categories.

To state a case for illegal harassment, the employee must show he or she was subjected to severe or pervasive conduct that substantially altered the terms and conditions of the workplace.

Moving Forward

Proving employment discrimination can be difficult. The employee must prove that membership in the protected category was the basis for the discrimination. If you believe you have been discriminated against in your employment, contact us by clicking Tell Us About Your Problem and filling out the questionnaire.