What Are the Different Types of Employment Discrimination?

wheelchair discriminations

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there were 91,503 total employment discrimination charges in 2016. This statistic is staggering, but it does not paint the whole picture. In some surveys, it has been found that as many as 71% of women who are sexually harassed do not report it.

Companies are not allowed to refuse to hire, discipline, fire, deny training, fail to promote, pay less, demote, or harass someone because of their status as a member of one of these protected groups. Title VII, which is the federal anti-discrimination statute, only applies when a company has 15 or more employees. In Massachusetts, the state anti-discrimination statue, MGL c. 151B, typically requires that an employer have 6 or more employees, although exceptions exist.

As part of our commitment to educating the hard working citizens of Massachusetts, we wanted to elaborate upon the types of workplace discrimination. At the Federal level, there are 8 different types of discrimination that are unlawful.

1. Age

Legally, a company may not discriminate against someone for their advanced age. If someone is over the age of 40, an employer cannot count their age against them. Some states have other protections for young workers, but Massachusetts only has child labor laws and these laws.


Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), it is illegal for companies to discriminate against you if you have a handicap or disability. This includes but is not limited to: inability to use legs or arms, people who suffer from PTSD, or people with diabetes. Employers must provide reasonable accommodation to those with disabilities. Employers must also engage in the interactive process with employees who are manifesting a serious medical condition. Furthermore, companies may also be liable even if the employee is not disabled, but the employer takes an adverse action against the employee because the employee is ‘regarded as’ disabled or has a record of a disability.

3. Genetic Information

Conceptually, this one is a little bit more difficult than the others. According to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, employers are not allowed to discriminate against you based on your DNA. This means that an employer cannot discriminate against you because you are more likely to get a disease or condition. Usually, this sort of discrimination occurs when an employer ascertains that you have a family member with a certain disease. Often times, an employee and legal counsel should consider whether there is an ‘associational’ discrimination claim as well.

4.National Origin

An employer may not treat an employee or job candidate disparately because they are from another country, or from another part of the world. This applies even when someone looks like they are from a certain background when that is not actually the case. It is still considered discrimination when a worker is married to, or associated with, another person of a certain national origin. Workplaces can require their employees to speak English, but they cannot enforce English-only policies, nor can they treat employees unfairly because of their accent.

5.Pregnancy Status

Managers may not treat women unfavorably due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition stemming from pregnancy or childbirth. Employers may have to provide light duty, different tasks, unpaid leave or disability leave.


When an employer has treated someone badly due to their race, or personal characteristics associated with a race. This applies even when the one doing the discrimination is of the same background as the employee. Similar to national origin, this law applies when a worker is discriminated against due to their association with a member of a certain race.


Religious discrimination laws apply to traditional religions, such as Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, but also to other deeply-held and sincere beliefs. Employers must reasonably accommodate their religious employees, which means that flexible scheduling, job reassignments, or policy shifts in some cases. A worker does not have to participate in a religious activity as part of their employment. An example of reasonable accommodation might involve a Muslim employee being allowed to wear their burka.

8. Sex

Employers must treat every gender equally. This means that women should receive equal pay for equal work. Courts have interpreted this to suggest that someone cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their transgender status. Requests for sexual favors, unwanted sexual advances, and other forms of harassment are strictly forbidden in the workplace.

If you think one of these forms of harassment have happened to you, please call us. At Davis & Davis, P.C., we are a team of resourceful, caring, and expert professionals. We have significant experience with employment discrimination cases, and will use that experience to help you.

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