The Most Common Types of Workplace Discrimination

The Most Common Types of Workplace Discrimination

While many laws and policies, both at the state and federal levels, are designed to protect workers from discrimination, it still happens. In fact, certain forms of discrimination are more common than others, and with how many discrimination cases the EEOC deals with annually, it’s important to know who’s at risk and why. To increase your awareness of what to avoid in a company and the challenges you may face, read on to learn about the most common types of workplace discrimination.


According to a data analysis done by the EEOC in 2020, the top three most common forms of workplace discrimination are relation, disability, and race. This data was quantified by measuring the charges filed and observing their categories. While these are only filed cases, retaliation makes up a staggering 55.8 percent of all charges filed to the EEOC.

Retaliation is when an employer discriminates against an employee due to engaging in a protected act, usually one that doesn’t benefit the employer. For example, reporting workplace harassment or crimes are both acts employees are legally allowed to engage in. However, an employer might enact revenge, like cutting hours, nixing promotions, or reducing pay. Although this is completely illegal, it is the most common claim.


Disability discrimination claims come in at 36.1 percent of all EEOC discrimination claims. Disability discrimination can occur as firing, refusing to hire, refusing provisions, or harassing on the bases of an employee’s disability. It is important to note that if an employee is unable to do their job due to their disability, this is not considered discrimination and is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). However, some employers may use this as a guise or excuse to act out discriminatory practices, so it should always be investigated further.


Claims of racial discrimination are at 32.7 percent, and while it’s one of the most common, it can often be one of the most complex. Racial discrimination can look very different depending on who endures discrimination. For example, if an employer pays people of color less than their white employees who are doing the same job, this is considered racial discrimination in the workplace.

It’s also worth noting these are not the only forms of discrimination. Among the top five most common forms of discrimination, ageism is one of them. With 27 percent of the workforce being above the age of 55, many older employees need age discrimination lawyers to help them prove their cases.

Even though these are the most common types of workplace discrimination, they can still be difficult to prove, as employers can lie about their true intentions.

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