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It may have been difficult trying to decide which situation was actually discrimination or harassment and if it was illegal.  You may have found yourself unsure about the correct answer. One of the problems may have been a lack of information. The more information you have on a situation the better able you are to make an informed decision. Another reason for the uncertainty may have stemmed from the many myths that we often hear about our rights in the workplace. Let’s examine some of the most common myths about employee rights. Click on the file below to open, print and review the information on Common Myths.

Click to open the file! Common Myths

Some of the most common myths in the workplace center around discrimination. Many times what we believe to be discrimination actually is not. Literally, discrimination is nothing more than the act of making or recognizing a difference between two things. Often, in the workplace, discrimination means the act of treating people differently, not based on merit but based on the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, their manner of dress or speaking, their sex and so forth. Sometimes we treat a person better because s/he is like us or worse because s/he is different from us. It is at these times that we might engage in illegal discrimination.

The major types of illegal discrimination occur when an employer, a labor union or an employment agency:

Treats an employee, applicant or former employee differently because of his or her race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability;
Uses a selection procedure, test, qualification, employment rule or other device, neutral on its face but which causes a substantial, negative impact upon a group of persons because of their race or color, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability;
Fails to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee's, applicant's, or former employee's religious or disability-based needs;
Helps create or condone a work environment that includes harassment of such frequency and/or severity that it rises to the level of a condition of employment for one or more persons working in the environment and such that the harassment is based upon race or color, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability; or
Retaliates against a person for opposing a practice made illegal as described above or for participating in any investigation or proceeding under one of the Federal employment discrimination laws Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administers.


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This program was developed by the West Virginia State Department of Education, the West Virginia Workplace Education Program, and the Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) V.