What Can We Do About Discrimination In The Workplace?

by Dr. Arcelita Imasa

My boss has recently been making very inappropriate comments about me because of my gender. I am a woman, and all of my coworkers, including my boss, are men. He makes constant comments about my appearance and my body. And he undermines my ability to work. I even talked to my male coworker who told me he makes almost double my hourly pay. Nobody else in the workplace deals with this and I feel stuck, hurt, and uncomfortable. What can I do?
– Reader

Dear Reader,

We’re so glad you reached out. It is not okay that your boss is discriminating against you.

Thankfully, you have legal protections from this kind of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

At the federal level, discrimination is illegal because of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It is illegal for your boss to subject their employees to a hostile work environment through workplace harassment. And it’s not just gender discrimination; discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, color, ancestry, disability, marital status, or arrest and court record is also illegal.

If you have experienced discrimination from your employer, you can contact the Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission, which investigates and conciliates instances of discrimination in Hawaiʻi, at (808) 586-8636.

There are also protections if you have been fired and believe it is because of discrimination. Even though Hawaiʻi is an at-will state, meaning your employer does not require a reason to fire, terminate, or lay you off, there is still something you can do.

Call us at 503-967-5377 (503-WORKERS). We can help you navigate workplace discrimination and file a report. We recently helped a worker fight workplace discrimination. She was unfairly fired and got her job back with back pay!

If you believe that you have been suspended, discharged, or discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) or Wage Standards Division. And, be sure to file your complaint within 30 days of the date that you were suspended, discharged, or discriminated against.

Send us your employment-related questions to hiworkerscenter@gmail.com. We will be happy to address them in a future column.

Hawaiʻi Workers Center

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