Many employers require you to have a specific type and level of education to qualify for certain jobs. Workplace educational discrimination happens when an employer requires that you have a level of education that isn’t necessary for the job. While there are laws to prohibit educational discrimination, some biases can still emerge in the workplace.
Calling It Even
Education discrimination involves academic-related requirements set by employers that may violate the law. For example, discrimination might be the case if an employer is advertising for “college graduates” to apply because such advertising can deter otherwise qualified non-graduates from applying. Any tests of your skills or knowledge that an employer requires you to take must be necessary and job-relevant as well.
Civil rights laws in the U.S. prohibit educational institutions from discriminating against you on the basis of race, gender, national origin, disability or age. You can’t be denied the opportunity to get your GED because you’re 50-years old any more than the opportunity to complete a Ph.D. because you’re a woman. Still, discrimination can happen when an employer understands the educational demographics of people in the job market, or educational backgrounds of particular individuals, and sets requirements for hiring or promotion that are meant to exclude certain individuals or groups.
Laws and Learning
Many federal laws focus on preventing education discrimination. For example, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act requires that employers let you enter training or apprenticeship programs despite your age. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from requiring you to be fluent in English before hiring you for a job unless the employer can prove that speaking English is essential to performing that job. Employers also can’t hold a learning disability against you. They can only decide whether to hire you or not based on your qualifications and capability to do the job.
More women than men attribute educational credentials, along with hard work and long hours, as keys to getting promotions at work, according to a 2010 study by the Center for Work-Life Policy. Still, even though the study found that women held 34 percent of senior management positions, men outnumbered women in top executive positions by four to one. Bias against promoting educated and hard-working women all the way to the top is still prevalent in workplaces throughout the U.S. despite widespread improvements to workplace equality in general.
- FindLaw: How to File a Discrimination Complaint With the Government
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions and Answers
- Center for Work-Life Policy: Harvard Business Review Research Report: The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images