Almost one in six U.S. employees claim they were discriminated against at work in the last year, with middle-aged women and those from ethnic minorities far more likely to be victims of bias.
A poll by Gallup carried out to mark with the 40th anniversary of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has found that while progress has been made in fulfilling the promise of equal opportunities, more remains to be done.
The poll found that 15 per cent of all workers perceived that they had been subjected to some sort of discriminatory or unfair treatment.
But since much of this discrimination involved issues such as favouritism, sexual orientation and education that are not generally covered by U.S. law, the poll estimated that the rate of discrimination as legally-defined lies between nine and 15 per cent.
When broken down into sub-groups, one in three (31 per cent ) of Asians and a quarter (26 per cent) of African Americans surveyed reported incidents of discrimination.
But while African American women and men experienced almost identical levels of discrimination according to the poll, at 27 per cent and 26 per cent respectively, there was a large discrepancy between the perceptions of discrimination of white women (22 per cent ) versus white men (3 per cent ).
The overall rate of perceived discrimination for persons identified as Hispanic was almost one in five (18 per cent ), with Hispanic men more likely to perceive discrimination (20 per cent ) when compared with Hispanic women (15 per cent ).
Broken down by age, 18 per cent of employees alleging discrimination were age 40-49, followed by 17 per cent for those age 50-59, and 15 per cent for workers age 30-39. Complaints by those age 60 and over, as well younger workers age 18-29, were divided evenly at 11 per cent .
According to the EEOC, more than 75,000 charges of employment discrimination were filed in the past year, with racial discrimination accounted for more than a third (36 per cent ) of these.
Sex discrimination (31 per cent ) and retaliation (29 per cent ) each made up around one in three of all cases brought under legislation, with age discrimination cited in 17 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of complaints of religious discrimination involving Muslims has doubled since Sept. 11, 2001.
However the poll also revealed a large disparity between the number of Asians saying they perceived discrimination on-the-job and the proportion who actually took action. The EEOC said that 82 per cent of racial discrimination cases were brought by African Americans, with Asians bringing only three per cent.
"When you compare our most recent EEOC charge statistics with the Gallup data, we find that a far greater percentage of Hispanics and Asians perceive themselves to be discriminated against than actually file charges," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez.
She added that employees who worked in companies which actively promoted diversity also reported the greatest overall job satisfaction and loyalty and displayed reduced levels of staff turnover.