What Kind of Discrimination Is Prohibited in the Workplace?



Federal law explicitly prohibits discrimination in the workplace in all 50 states based on a number of factors. In effect, if an exclusionary form of workplace discrimination violates the Constitution, it will be prohibited.

Arizona law, for its part, also prohibits a wide range of behaviors that can be classified as workplace discrimination.

Here’s a closer look at the types of prohibited workplace discrimination as well as which employers are required to follow anti-discrimination laws.

Discrimination Based on Sex

Both federal and Arizona law prohibit workplace discrimination based on sex or gender.

Here are a few examples of this type of discrimination:

  • Paying a female employee less for the same work

  • Having discriminatory hiring practices based on gender

  • Sexual harassment

  • Giving one gender fewer benefits

  • Promoting/hiring a less qualified man to the detriment of a more qualified woman

Racial Discrimination

Arizona and federal law also forbid workplace discrimination that is racial in nature.

Forbidden workplace discrimination includes:

  • Firing or unfairly disciplining an employee because of their race

  • Paying an employee less or giving them fewer benefits due to race

  • Segregating employees in the workplace due to race

  • Failing to hire a qualified person based on their race

  • Providing fewer promotional opportunities based on race

  • Making discriminatory comments based on race

Discrimination Based on National Origin and/or Citizenship Status

Arizona and federal law also prohibits discrimination based on an individual's country of origin or their citizenship status.

This prohibition can also extend to discriminating against someone because they married a person of another country or citizenship status.

This prohibition extends to all forms of workplace discrimination, such as hiring, firing, promotional opportunities, employee benefits and more.

Religious Discrimination

Arizona and federal law protects an individual's right to freedom of religion.

Discrimination based on religious beliefs is not permitted in any way, and discriminatory practices related to hiring, firing, employee benefits and promotional opportunities are not tolerated.

Age Discrimination

Arizona and federal law ensures people over 40 years of age cannot be discriminated against because of their age.

As long as they are qualified for the job, failing to hire them solely because of their age is not permitted.

Any term or condition associated with employment must treat workers of all ages fairly.

However, it is not work discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act for an employer to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are over 40 years of age.

Disability Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace based on disability is not tolerated by the Americans With Disabilities Act or Arizona law.

A qualified job applicant or employee with a disability is to be treated no less favorably than any other applicant or employee without that disability.

Additionally, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to those with a disability, unless the employer would face undue hardship in providing the accommodation.

Pregnancy Discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.

Genetic Information and AIDS/HIV Discrimination

Federal law prevents employers from discriminating based on information in an applicant or employee's genetic tests or the tests of their family members.

Family medical history is included in this definition under federal law.

In Arizona, an opinion from the attorney general also made clear that AIDS/HIV discrimination is not permitted in the workplace in any way.

Which Employers Are Required to Adhere to Federal and Arizona Anti-Discrimination Laws?

Federal law requires employers with 15 or more employees to never discriminate based on disability (due to the Americans with Disabilities Act) or on the basis of genetic information (due to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act).

Employers with 20 or more employees are additionally barred from discrimination against employees who are 40 or older, due to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Further, companies with four employees or more are required to adhere to the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which ensures that employees are treated fairly, regardless of citizenship status.

Finally, companies of all sizes must adhere to the Equal Pay Act, which is a federal law that ensures men and women are paid equally for equal work.

Arizona law has less variance based on the number of employees. Arizona's anti-discrimination law subjects employers with 15 or more employees to the state's anti-discrimination law.

As such, employees with fewer than 15 employees may be exempt from some, but not necessarily all of the state's anti-discrimination laws.

If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination that violates federal law, you may file a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Violations of state law should be pursued by filing a claim with the Arizona Civil Rights Division.

As always, talk to an Arizona employment lawyer if you believe you have been the victim of employment discrimination in Arizona.

An employment lawyer will help you assess your legal options and file a discrimination claim against the employer in a timely manner.

Contact us at Tyler Allen Law Firm, PLLC for a legal consultation if you have been unfairly discriminated against in the workplace.