Discrimination in Hiring: What Employees and Employers Should Know


(Last Updated On: June 17, 2024)

Discrimination meeting between two woman

Workplace discrimination can take many different forms, and employees can face unlawful discrimination for a wide range of reasons. Common forms of unlawful discrimination include discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability, and age. When employees are treated differently, or in any way less favorably than other employees, as a result of any of the above characteristics, it may be possible to file an employment discrimination claim under Massachusetts state law or under federal law. State and federal laws that prohibit discrimination on those bases also prohibit harassment connected to any of those identity characteristics when it creates a hostile work environment or when it is quid pro quo sexual harassment. 

In short, there are protections for employees concerning employment discrimination, and covered employers are required to comply with Massachusetts state and federal law. Yet it is also essential to know that these laws prohibit discrimination in the hiring process, meaning that job applicants also have protections against unlawful discrimination. It is essential for job applicants to understand their rights and for employers to understand actions that can and cannot be taken under state and federal employment discrimination laws. 

Employers Cannot Discriminate Against Job Applicants 

Just as employees have protections against employment discrimination in their workplaces, job applicants also have protections against discrimination under state and federal law. Accordingly, employers must ensure that all stages of the hiring process comply with Massachusetts and federal employment laws, and job applicants should learn about their rights in the event those rights are violated. 

Discrimination in Hiring Can Take Many Forms 

Employment discrimination in the hiring process can take many different forms. It can occur in job advertisements, in the interview process, in the selection process, and in making an offer to a potential new employee. Common examples of discrimination in hiring include but are not limited to: 

  • Employer places a job ad seeking applicants of a certain sex or race or seeking job applicants under a particular age (age discrimination protections begin at age 40) or without disabilities; 
  • Employer asks questions about the job applicant’s race, sex, religion, disability, age, or another protected characteristic during the interviewing process; 
  • Employer decides not to move forward in the interview process or to hire a job applicant who was arrested but not convicted of an offense because of the arrest record; 
  • Employer decides not to move forward in the interview process or to hire a job applicant after learning that the job applicant has a disability and could request a reasonable accommodation, or is a member of a particular religious group that is not popular among the employer’s clients; or 
  • Employer makes a salary offer to a job applicant that is significantly lower than an offer made to another applicant for the same or a similar position because the job applicants are of different sexes or races. 

Potential Remedies for Discrimination in Hiring 

In situations where an employee faces discrimination in the workplace, they may be able to file a claim in order to seek a remedy. The specific remedy or remedies will often depend on the particular details of the case, including what form the discrimination took and how the employee was harmed as a result. Common remedies include job reinstatement for wrongful termination, lost wages for wrongful termination, lost wages due to a demotion, or unequal pay based on the employee’s identity. Similarly, when a job applicant experiences unlawful discrimination, just like an employee, they may be able to file a claim and seek a remedy. 

Remedies for job applicants who have been discriminated against can vary based on the facts of the case and the harm the job applicant experienced as a result of the discrimination. Common examples of remedies for job applicants who have faced unlawful discrimination include: 

  • Injunctive relief, which can include requiring the employer to hire the job applicant or to make a job offer with favorable terms; 
  • Compensatory damages, which can include compensation for the job applicant’s economic and non-economic losses as a result of the discrimination, including any losses associated with not being hired due to discrimination for a position for which they were qualified; and 
  • Legal fees and court costs. 

Seeking Advice From an Experienced Massachusetts Employment Discrimination Attorney 

Employers need to have a clear understanding of what constitutes unlawful discrimination at any stage of the hiring process and to have procedures in place to ensure that job applicants do not face unlawful discrimination. Likewise, it is essential for job applicants to understand that they have various rights that protect them against discrimination in the hiring process, from seeing and responding to a job advertisement to providing information to a potential employer in the later stages of the hiring process. Whether you need help as an employer with lawful hiring practices and compliance with state and federal laws, or you are a job applicant who has faced discrimination in a hiring process, a Boston employment law attorney can assist you. Contact Rodman Employment Law today to seek advice about your case.

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