Workplace discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation or other immutable personal characteristics was once an accepted part of everyday work life. Thanks to decades of struggle by activists in California and the rest of the United States, legal protections and shifting cultural attitudes have helped bring formerly marginalized voices to the foreground and centered the issue of workplace discrimination.
Common types of discrimination
The fight for pay equity and the equal treatment of everyone in the workplace began as a battle against gender-based discrimination. Historically, women were excluded from the workplace, paid unfair wages much lower than men’s and regularly subjected to harassment. California state law explicitly prohibits gender discrimination in the workplace. Federal law also outlaws gender discrimination.
Another major battle in the ongoing struggle for equal employment opportunities is in the realm of race. Minority groups, particularly African-Americans and Indigenous peoples, still face an uphill battle for pay equity and fair treatment in the workplace.
Age discrimination refers to treating an employee or potential employee differently based on age as a criterion. The federal government, through the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, has set 40 years old as the age at which it offers legal protections against age discrimination. In particular, aging members of the millennial generation, who have begun to enter midlife, may not be aware of anti-discrimination statutes that provide protection against pernicious age discrimination starting at age 40.
The future of workplace equality
Undoubtedly, California and the rest of the United States has made enormous strides in addressing the lingering effects of discrimination based on gender, race, age or other characteristics. More work is needed to completely bridge the gaps and create a society in which everybody has a fair shake. An individual who believes that an employer discriminated against them due to age or another factor may want to consult a lawyer.