Do I Have a Discrimination Case?

Examples of Workplace Discrimination

Identifying workplace discrimination is an important first step for anyone who believes their rights may have been violated. Sometimes, the illegal behavior is obvious and deeply troubling. But an employer’s actions over a period of time can still be illegal even if their behavior is subtle or covert. Are you wondering if the hardship you faced at work has crossed the line from unfair treatment to employment discrimination?

Employees can file a workplace discrimination lawsuit against their employer after being wrongfully fired, demoted or experiencing another form of discrimination. Keep reading to learn common examples of illegal workplace behavior and warning signs to look out for. This guide is provided only for general informational purposes and is not offered as legal advice. If you believe you might have experienced workplace discrimination and are considering filing a claim, contact an employment rights attorney.

What is Illegal Workplace Discrimination?

Employment discrimination refers to taking adverse action against an employee because of who they are, regardless of their work performance, skills or qualifications. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recognizes several categories which are protected from discrimination. This includes:

In order to meet the burden of proof necessary for a legal claim of discrimination, the employer’s actions typically must show a pattern of discriminatory behavior and/or evidence of blatant wrongdoing.

If you have witnessed or experienced possible discriminatory behavior in your workplace, contact an employment law attorney to schedule a confidential consultation.

How to Identify Common Types of Workplace Discrimination

    1. Disparate Treatment v. Disparate Impact.

      Discrimination is the result of adverse employment decisions or being treated differently simply because of who you are. There are many different forms of discriminatory behavior, which can generally be considered disparate treatment or disparate impact.

      Disparate Treatment refers to specific illegal actions, such as being fired, bullied or passed over for a promotion because of a trait you have or are assumed to have. Disparate Impact is less obvious, and refers to blanket company-wide rules or policies which may put a certain group of people at a disadvantage.


      • All employees are invited to bring a plus-one to the company holiday party. Shortly after bringing a same-sex partner to the party, an employee with a history of positive performance reviews is inexplicably fired.
      • After disclosing a pregnancy to their supervisor and Human Resources department, a female employee is demoted to a lesser position and replaced by a male counterpart.
      • A new mandate is released stating that all line workers must complete a Saturday shift in order to retain their jobs. One or more line workers belong to the Jewish faith, and cannot work on the Sabbath days.
    2. Harassment.

      Harassment is unwelcome or unwanted behavior which is severe or happens frequently. This category can include verbal, physical or sexual harassment involving another employee or group of employees — whether the instigator is a co-worker, supervisor, client, customer or a company executive. Harassment can take place at work or at an offsite location.


      • A male executive regularly makes suggestive comments about a female employee’s clothing and appearance. After following company procedures to report this executive to HR, his comments continue.
      • A transgender employee is attacked by a group of co-workers in the parking lot.
    3. Retaliation.

      One of the most common forms of employment discrimination is retaliation. These cases typically involve an employee being punished, harassed or fired as a result of filing a discrimination complaint, or associating with someone who has filed a complaint. Employees who assist in the investigation of a complaint may also be subject to retaliation. For all of these reasons and more, it is critical for whistleblowers to know their legal rights before reporting a concern at work.


      • After filing a discrimination complaint, a retail employee’s regular work schedule is suddenly changed to include numerous overnight shifts.
      • A high-performing employee is given a low performance evaluation shortly after participating in an interview with the EEOC.
    4. Denial of Reasonable Accommodations.

      Employees have the right to request changes at work to help perform their job duties if they live with a documented disability or medical condition. The request must be considered “reasonable,” and should not pose a threat to the health and safety of others. Reasonable accommodations can also be requested by individuals with certain religious beliefs. When a request has been denied, the employee may choose to consult with a workplace discrimination attorney.


      • A Muslim employee is told they cannot wear a hijab because hats and head coverings are not allowed under the company’s official dress code. The employee submits a request for a religious exemption which is denied.
      • An employee with Type 1 diabetes requests to follow a flexible lunch hour, since they may need to eat at different times of the day to keep their blood sugar stable. The company denies this request because it conflicts with their mandatory 12 to 1pm lunch hour.

      5. Breaking Confidentiality of Genetic or Medical Information.

      There are very limited circumstances under which an employer can ask questions or collect information about an employee’s health condition. When permissible, there are strict confidentiality requirements in place to protect this information. Any breach of confidentiality or improper collection of personal health information could justify a complaint of employment discrimination.


      • During a job interview, a young female candidate is asked about her interest in having children.
      • After disclosing their HIV-positive status during health insurance open enrollment, an employee overhears the HR manager mention their condition during a phone call.

Our South Carolina and North Carolina Discrimination Attorneys are Here to Help

Prejudiced or predatory behavior is completely unacceptable. If you have suffered from employment discrimination, help is available at the law firm of Herrmann & Murphy. Schedule a consultation to find out if you have the legal grounds to file a discrimination lawsuit against your employer. Our experienced, compassionate attorneys have a history of successfully representing clients in workplace discrimination cases in North Carolina and South Carolina — offering professional expertise you can rely on.

To reach our Charlotte office in North Carolina, call (704) 940-6399.
To reach our Greenville office in South Carolina, call (864) 516-7526.


Kevin Murphy of Herrmann & Murphy

Kevin Murphy

Sean Herrmann of Herrmann & Murphy

Sean Herrmann

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