5 Examples of Workplace Discrimination

By Thomas McKinney


The Huffington Post interviewed several workers from Starbucks who alleged age-based discrimination and even wrongful termination. Multiple of the former employees filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. One such employee named Candice, 42, was fired and replaced with a younger employee after much scrutiny from her boss. She said she started facing an increasing amount of age-related discrimination after injuring her back on the job. Her manager excessively criticized her performance, and one of Candice’s colleagues said that it seemed like her boss was looking for any reason to fire Candice. A colleague also said that her boss commented on the firing of a woman over the age of 50 from another store in their district, by saying “one down, three to go.” There were still three other store managers over 40 in their area, including Candice. She reported her boss’ behavior to Starbucks HR, but saw no consequences ensue for him. Soon after, she was fired.



After The New York Times published a lengthy, detailed piece delving into the discrimination pregnant women have faced in the workplace, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the New York State Division of Human Rights to investigate the accusations, and directed “other agencies” to begin an educational campaign related to the matter.

One such allegation of pregnancy-discrimination in the NYT piece came from Erin Murphy. Her boss’ performance reviews of her were glowing early on in her employment at Glencore, where she worked mostly with men. However, when she told her boss she was pregnant, his treatment of her declined. She was passed over for promotions and raises, and during the opportunity she did have for upward movement, an executive repeatedly prodded her about her childcare arrangements, despite the fact that she had carefully arranged it after returning from maternity leave so that it would not interfere with her work. That executive told her she was not chosen for the promotion due to the “timing of her maternity leave.” She plans to file a lawsuit against her employer.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits any discrimination based on pregnancy. Furthermore, “an employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work,” according to the EEOC.



Leonard Pollard, a trans man, told The Denver Post faced discrimination and harassment at his place of employment when he was prodded by a coworker about his genitals after taking time off for surgery related to his transition. The incident caused him to have a panic attack on the job at the coffee shop some days later, he said, and he got approval from a coworker to leave about 25 minutes early, which Pollard said is permissible by the worker-run company’s policy. However, he was fired shortly after this, and he was told it was because of his early departure from work that day. Because of the timing, and because of the fact that this was his first time leaving work early in such a fashion, he thinks it was connected to his harassment complaints, despite the fact that his boss claims to not have known about the harassment anyway. Pollard’s former place of employment has instituted “trans sensitivity training” since Pollard alleged the harassment.

Pollard says he is contemplating taking the matter to court. As per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s interpretation, Title VII prohibits any discrimination related to gender identity or sexual orientation.



The EEOC has said that they filed a class-action lawsuit after the Hawaii Medical Service Association allegedly denied “intermittent leave to employees without discussing other options.” The complaint alleges that they were forced to either resign or live without the accommodation. Director of the Honolulu EEOC made an important point that policies can be discriminatory even if they are not specifically directed at a certain group:

Excerpt from Hawaii News Now: “‘Blanket employment policies that negatively affect a group of individuals can be discriminatory,’ said Gloria Gervacio Saure, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu office, in a statement. ‘Employers should routinely audit their policies and practices to make sure they are not unlawfully discriminating against their employees.’”



Eleven workers from a trucking company in the Denver area were awarded $15 million in their lawsuit against their employer. The payment was largely for  “punitive damages,” but also included back pay and emotional distress payments.

The workers in the lawsuit alleged that workers were segregated based on race, and that black employers were treated poorly, getting called “lazy, stupid Africans” by their white supervisors and even getting fired because they were black. One of the eleven workers was a white whistleblower on the company’s practices—he claimed he was fired for speaking up—and the other ten plaintiffs were black. They alleged that employees were favored over black employees repeatedly and severely, getting prioritized in promotions, benefits and wages among many other aspects of employment, and getting to work on holidays for double the pay, something all workers sought after. Their case ultimately went to a federal jury which awarded them the hefty sum.


About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.