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One in five Americans has experienced employment discrimination
July 21, 2004
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Eagan, Minn. -- More than one in five Americans say they have experienced employment discrimination, according to a new poll by the legal Web site FindLaw. Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said they had been unfairly denied a promotion or raise by an employer because of their gender, race, age, religion or disability.     

Gender bias was the most commonly cited type of employment discrimination, according to the FindLaw survey. Sixteen percent of women said they felt they suffered discrimination because of their gender, compared with only five percent of men.  The survey interviewed 1,000 adults, with results accurate to plus or minus three percent.

Employment Discrimination in the News

A U.S. District Court judge recently certified a class-action lawsuit covering more than 1.6 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart stores. The suit charges the retail giant with systematically discriminating against women in pay and promotions. Last week, Boeing settled a sex-discrimination lawsuit and agreed to change its compensation and promotion practices and pay as much as $72.5 million to as many as 29,000 current and former female workers in its Seattle-area aircraft plants.

According to the FindLaw survey, the most commonly cited types of employment discrimination were:

  • Gender      10%
  • Age         9%
  • Race        8%
  • Disability  4%
  • Religion    3%

A nearly equal percentage of men and women said they've been victims of employment discrimination: Twenty-three percent of women and 22 percent of men. Thirty- three percent of non-whites said they have experienced employment discrimination, compared with 18 percent of whites.  Non-whites reported higher levels of discrimination than whites for all causes, whether gender, age, race, disability or religion.  Younger workers age 18 to 34 were also more likely to say they've experienced  employment discrimination for all causes -- 27 percent compared with 20 percent of older workers.

"Anyone who feels they have been discriminated against by their employer should first contact the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or their state or local human rights commission," says Rosalie Levinson, the Phyllis & Richard Duesenberg Professor of Law at Valparaiso University and co- author of State and Local Government Civil Rights Liabilities. "It can be very difficult to prove intentional discrimination.  There must be evidence, such as company documents, records of statements by supervisors or witnesses that can establish that the reason given by the employer for denying the promotion or raise is not credible.  An employee can also amass statistics to show that there was a pattern of discrimination, such as unequal pay or a systematic lack of promotions for certain groups of employees, such as women or minorities."

"In addition, there are some strict requirements for filing employment discrimination actions," says Prof. Levinson.  "Complaints must be filed within a certain time limit, typically 180 to 300 days.  Also, there are various state and federal requirements on how large a business needs to be before it is subject to anti-discrimination laws."

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