Most people are familiar with illegal workplace discrimination on the basis of factors like gender, race, religion, disability, and pregnancy. Yet between 1997 and 2018, there were over 1.8 million complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to the payroll services company Paychex.
Even companies with management doing their best to prevent discrimination lawsuits from being filed, it can happen. That’s one of the reasons why there are statistical consulting companies with experts who know how to generate high-quality litigation data necessary for all types of discrimination in the workplace and beyond.
But not all discrimination is illegal, as you’ll see from the following examples.
Certains types of Age Discrimination
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was amended to protect individuals who are at least 40 years of age from employment discrimination based on age, making it unlawful to discriminate against someone due to his or her age in respect to any condition, term, or privilege of employment. But there are exceptions.
For example, setting a mandatory retirement age is illegal in most professions, but not all. According to federal law, there are exemptions for employees like airline pilots, air traffic controllers, federal police officers, and firefighters. In 1996 legislation was passed by Congress allowing state and local governments to set retirement ages for these and similar employees to as young as 55 years of age.
The reasoning behind this is that motor skills and overall physical vitality typically diminish with age, despite the fact that some older workers may be just as capable, and sometimes even more so, to carry out their duties as compared to younger ones.
Non-Protected Types of Discrimination
Another way that discrimination can be legal is for it to be based on a characteristic that isn’t protected. For example, the job is in Boston and you were rejected because you’re a New York Yankees fan, or a hiring manager refuses to hire you because you don’t like dogs based on an assumption that anyone who dislikes them is a bad person.
Gender Discrimination in Male-Dominated Sports
The percentage of female coaches in men’s sports is tiny, men receive more athletic scholarships for college than women, and sports media devotes little time to women in sports from the WNBA to softball players and even the increasingly popular National Women’s Soccer League.
While there are no legal barriers to women participating in pro sports dominated by males, U.S. legal standards require the court to prove intent to discriminate for it to be proven discrimination. While equitable opportunities may be available, the law still allows for women in sports to receive only a fraction of college funds for athletics, as well as leaving female athletics vulnerable to types of discrimination that are more discrete.
Provided a coach/employer has not explicitly stated that a woman was refused a position that she would normally deserve based on her qualifications because of her gender, that coach/employer is typically safe from being legally found to be intentionally discriminatory.