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Increasing Discrimination Claims About More Than Race

Mar 27th 2015 at 4:51 AM

With racially-charged rioting making headlines in 2014 and early 2015, many people might think that the race discrimination is the only type of case that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hears, but in recent years, cases involving other types of discrimination have been on the rise.

While still a relatively small percentage of the total discrimination cases filed, religious discrimination cases have been on the rise, doubling in frequency in the last 20 years. Significant increases have also occurred in color-based discrimination claims and retaliation discrimination cases.

Religious Discrimination Cases

Accommodating the religious preferences of workers, when it does not interfere with their ability to do their jobs, is required by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its amendments, but the debate over what constitutes reasonable accommodations is raging as the country becomes ever more diverse.

In 2011, Muslim workers at the Hertz car rental facility at the Seattle airport filed a claim saying they were fired over their prayers. In an interview with the Seattle Times, the company claimed some employees were abusing the break policy and taking more than 10 minutes, so it began requiring employees to clock out for their breaks.

Similar religious discrimination cases have addressed truck drivers who have a religious objection to transporting alcohol, women who have a religious objection to wearing pants as part of a uniform, and various objections to working on whatever day the employee's religion designates as the Sabbath.

Color-based Discrimination Cases

While many people think race and color are the same category for discrimination charges, another area the EEOC is seeing increased discrimination charges in is the category of skin color. Color is a protected category under the Civil Rights Act, but until recently had few complaints raised under that category.

But according to the EEOC, the last decade has seen an increase in complaints, usually from darker skinned individuals, of harassment and discrimination by lighter skinned individuals, including those who share their same racial classification. The EEOC suggests there is increasing evidence of African-Americans harassing those with a darker skin tone.

Retaliation Discrimination Cases

The Civil Rights act quite clearly protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion and several other so-called status factors. These are the basis for most discrimination claims filed with the EEOC and most discrimination lawsuits, but there is another category proving to be equally important. Retaliation discrimination occurs when an employee is denied promotion, perks, or benefits or is dismissed or penalized for reporting other discrimination.

The law protects people from employer retaliation when they chose to report illegal activities, particularly discrimination, in the workplace, yet some workplaces seem to forget this protection exists.

In 2013, the Supreme Court rules that a plaintiff needs to prove that if the retaliation had not been a factor, he would have gotten the promotion, not been fired, etc. Previously, employees had argued that the mere existence of the retaliation factor should be enough to allow them to sue.

Clearly, racial discrimination in the United States has not been erased in 2015; however, there is a clear trend toward additional forms of discrimination in the workplace.

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