Employers have been discriminating against employees ever since the first office formed and maybe even before that in the hiring process. Although there are many local, state, and federal rules in place to prevent employers from discriminating against employees, they don’t always work, as the case law shows: Women kept from promotions because of their sex, women fired because of their pregnancy, minorities kept out of certain jobs, minorities fired because of their race, and even people with disabilities fired without just cause.
Time and time again women, minorities, and people with disabilities are before the court in cases where they were denied a job or fired “just because,” which means without just cause. Sometimes the cases are won by the plaintiffs who file them in an effort to seek and enforce justice, but sometimes the cases are won by the defendants who have them filed against them in a showing of what happens when justice is ignored and destroyed. The law isn’t perfect, as many of you know. But, it’s just not fair to discriminate, or is it?
Let’s take a closer look at where, when, and why employers discriminate. Some of the answers might surprise you.
Where Employers Discriminate
Employers discriminate in every field, but there is more leeway for discrimination to take place in the private sector rather than the public sector. And, businesses that are smaller do not have to meet certain criteria, where larger ones do. This has led employers to try to trick the system by labeling employees as independent contractors. However, the court does not recognize such tricks as legitimate, but of course, in order to find a resolution to that problem the case would have to make it to court, which could cost an “employee” his or her job and mean unemployment in the meantime.
When Employers Discriminate
Employers have been discriminating, and they still do despite the local, state, and federal laws in place to protect employees. Title 7 is the most applicable law here, but when employers don’t fall under it, they don’t have to follow it.
In addition, there just aren’t that many local or even state laws to protect employees from discrimination, so it happens more often than we would like or possibly even expect.
Why Employers Discriminate
So, why do employers discriminate? Is it always about race? Let’s take a closer look at two of their, perhaps, surprising reasons:
- The profession rather than the employer might encourage discrimination based on weight and strength, which often shows a preference for males. Some applicable professions include construction workers, paramedics, and firefighters, who often have to lift heavy equipment or people.
- It might be allowed. For example, if an employer has a small staff, then going out of his or her way to ensure that the staff is diverse could cause an undue burden on the employer, which may not be fair either.
In the end, employers sometimes have legitimate and legal reasons for discriminating in hiring their employees. However, this is not always the case.
Jennifer Machie writes for Colley & Colley, LLP, a law firm in Austin, Texas. Jennifer is a third year student at the University of Texas School of Law.