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Examples of Workplace Discrimination

Examples of Workplace Discrimination

March 19, 2023

Discrimination laws are designed to help protect people in the workplace. This ensures that all employers treat their workers fairly, regardless of age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy, religion, beliefs, or whether you are married/in a civil partnership.

Workplace discrimination can be blatant, such as refusing to hire a person of a particular nationality, or it can be very subtle, such as creating workplace policy that excludes certain individuals.

Discrimination in the workplace leaves companies open to legal action in the form of a tribunal, which can be very time-consuming, costly and damaging to your company image. If you think you’ve been bullied or the victim of discrimination, it’s important to know where you stand.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment

Types of discrimination

All discrimination can be split into two main categories: direct and indirect. This distinction helps us to understand if the discrimination is intentional and malicious, or the result of an oversight. However, it’s worth noting that some indirect discrimination can have malicious intent.

Direct discrimination is intentional and intended to exclude someone based on a specific characteristic. An example of this would be denying someone a promotion because they are a woman.

Indirect discrimination can be more difficult to spot. It is usually something that happens because of company policy. An example of this would be failing to make allowances for disabled individuals in your workplace, making it impossible for them to accept a job.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment

Other types of discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination can also happen because of associations. For example, if you are refused a promotion because you socialise with gay people outside of work, this would be a form of discrimination. And if you were not hired for a role because the hiring manager thought you were gay, even if you aren’t, then this would be a form of discrimination.


This is different to discrimination, but can also lead to legal action. Harassment includes unwanted behaviour that could intimidate, humiliate or offend someone. An example of this would be rude jokes at someone’s expense, lewd comments, comments about appearance, or sexual innuendo.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment

When are you protected?

According to The Equality Act 2010, you are protected in all areas of your working life including:

  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Employment
  • Salary and benefits
  • Promotions
  • Redundancy
  • Dismissal

This means that employers have to act fairly at every stage of your employment.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment

What doesn’t count as discrimination

There are some situations where something might seem like discrimination, but there are reasons to exclude certain members. An example of this would be a women’s shelter hiring only female workers. Although this is now disputed if transgender women should also be able to seek employment in this type of role.

Another example would be discriminating against a person with a disability, if their health and safety would be at risk otherwise. Employers have to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment to accommodate disabled individuals, but there may be environments where it would not be practical to do so.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment

Examples of discrimination


When we think of age discrimination, we often think about older people, but young people can also be at risk. An example of age discrimination would be paying a younger member of the team less for the same job as an older member of the team.

Another example in the recruitment process would be refusing to hire someone because they “wouldn’t fit” with the company culture because they are older.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment


An example of race discrimination would be a hiring manager refusing to interview anyone with a non-native surname. This would be a form of racial profiling and is against the law.

Another example would be promoting a white employee to a client facing role because the company is worried about appearing too diverse.


Perhaps the most common form of sex discrimination is paying women less than men in an organisation. This can happen directly because of hiring policy, or it can happen more pervasively over time if a woman chooses to take time off to raise a family. When returning to work, the woman’s role should be able to continue to progress in line with other men doing the same role.

Another example of sex discrimination would be treating an employee unfairly because they have made a complaint about sex discrimination or supported another employee in their complaint.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment


An example of indirect disability discrimination would be a company punishing a worker for taking time off for hospital appointments due to an injury or illness. If another employee took a similar amount of time off to view and purchase a new house but wasn’t punished in the same way, this would be discrimination.

Another example would be not hiring a qualified candidate because it would mean making adjustments to the existing office to accommodate their wheelchair.

Sexual orientation

An example of sexual orientation discrimination would be allowing a man to take time off work for his female partner’s ante-natal appointments, but refusing this request for a woman to support her female partner.

In the case of sexual orientation discrimination, it doesn’t matter if the employer is right or wrong about your sexual orientation. If an employer fires you because they think you are gay, for example, this would be discrimination, even if you aren’t.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment

Gender reassignment

An example of gender reassignment discrimination would be an employer repeatedly misgendering or deadnaming an employee during or after their transition. Another example would be an employer counting time off for gender reassignment surgery as sick leave.


Pregnancy discrimination commonly happens when an employee is overlooked for a promotion because they are pregnant, or if an employer avoids hiring someone because they are pregnant.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination CMD Recruitment

Religion and beliefs

An example of religious discrimination would be not allowing for religious garments, hairstyles or facial hair in company policy. Another example would be setting work schedules that do not allow for religious observances and holidays. 

Marital status

An example of marital status discrimination would be denying certain workplace benefits to an employee because they are single or unmarried. Another example would be refusing to promote or train someone because they are recently married, under the assumption that they will soon be starting a family. 

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