Workplace Discrimination

Are You Experiencing Discrimination at Work? Signs and What to Do about It

Workplace Discrimination

When one experiences workplace discrimination, it can be disheartening. For the victim, lost income, reduced work productivity and dissatisfaction, isolation, stress, and unemployment or underemployment often result. Places where workplace discrimination occurs frequently suffer from low employee morale, high turnover, and unfavorable productivity. Since work is an important part of true inclusion in our society, one must highlight how workplace discrimination divides and marginalizes people, both as individuals and groups.

What is Illegal Workplace Discrimination?

To count as discrimination in the legal sense, actions must violate legal protections. All U.S. workers are protected by federal law, which specifically forbids discrimination based on color, national origin, race, religion, sex, mental or physical disability, genetic information, pregnancy, or parenthood.

State laws also protect workers from discrimination based on those characteristics, plus other ones enacted by state legislatures. For example, many states have laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. Also, many cities have laws that specifically prohibit other forms of workplace discrimination.

What are the Signs of Workplace Discrimination?

Signs of workplace discrimination may be overt and/or subtle. For example, a boss directly hinging a promotion on sexual favors would be overt sexual discrimination and harassment. A boss hinting about sexual favors and then claiming an employee who didn’t respond has poor work performance would be a more subtle form of sexual discrimination and harassment.

While overt signs of workplace discrimination are clear, subtle signs often start with small phenomena and then increase over time, frequently engendering a hostile and unhealthy atmosphere. Subtle signs often reveal themselves as patterns. For example, a male employee may make increasingly offensive comments about a female coworker after she refused to date him. The comments may begin as ones open to interpretation, but, over time, the harasser continues the pattern while his comments grow increasingly offensive, which constitutes a clear case of sexual harassment.

Signs of workplace discrimination often manifest themselves in adverse actions taken against an employee. Adverse actions include disciplinary action, failure to promote, demotion, unlawful retaliation, failure to accommodate protected leave, and wrongful termination. Because of equal opportunity employment safeguards, when an adverse action is taken on the basis of a protected characteristic, bad actors usually try to camouflage their discriminatory conduct by claiming a pretext for the adverse action.

A manager, for example, may refuse to promote a woman who earned a higher position because he thinks women are inferior leaders, which violates the law. To cover his tracks, he may give her an unjustified poor performance review and then use it as a pretext to deny the promotion. An adverse action paired with a pretext is a conspicuous sign of discrimination.

What Should Discrimination Victims Do about It?

Though a natural fear of rocking the proverbial boat can emerge, discrimination victims should contact their organization’s human resources department or a company manager. Once the employee has notified the human resources director, the company becomes obligated to investigate and correct any illegal discrimination. In many organizations, this solves the problem; in others, unfortunately, it yields no real change. Human resources departments are to intervene in ways that protect victims and rectify their problems.

In other organizations, investigations may favor the harasser because of power dynamics, politics, and other reasons. In this case, victims should consult an employment lawyer immediately. An employment attorney can inform victims about options available.

Victims of discrimination can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or their state’s Department of Human Rights. These agencies will investigate and attempt to settle the matter. If the matter cannot be settled by the agencies, victims can file a lawsuit in state or federal court.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Resources Consulted

The Balance

Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The American Association of University Women

The Nest

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Political Correctness Threatens Free Speech and Dissent

At the recent Fellowship Foundation National Prayer Breakfast, Dr. Benjamin Carson gave a speech that has received tremendous national attention because it critiques President Obama’s handling of the national debt, healthcare, education, taxes, and etc. in ways unfavorable to him.  What should not get lost in the responses to the speech, however, are the powerful comments he makes about America’s current insistence on political correctness.  Political correctness is threatening to diminish one of most important purposes of the First Amendment: protect unpopular speech.  While the First Amendment still protects unpopular speech, many people in positions of power are finding ways to create conditions where dissenting voices will face serious repercussions.  While it was not the politically correct thing to do, Dr. Carson did not allow a burgeoning American penchant for political correctness to keep him from disagreeing with President Obama on substantive issues while at this event that traditionally has not been a place where dissent has been accepted and while being in close proximity to President Obama.

When one elects to defy political correctness, he or she must be ready for backlash.  Many employers will establish a hostile agenda against employees when they voice disagreement with their policies and practices.  Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with the responsibility of protecting employees from this type of discrimination, employees are not always safeguarded from this discrimination.  Many employees are too afraid to exercise their First Amendment rights because they fear losing their jobs.  Political correctness informs employees to remain silent and keep their disagreements with their employers private.  Unfortunately, too many people buy into this promotion of silence and end up getting crushed by the misery of their silence.

More lawyers, philanthropists, organizations, and etc. need to be willing to help individuals to combat efforts by powerful employers to mute their employees.

What good is the First Amendment if the American people are afraid to exercise the rights it guarantees?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other organizations deserve tremendous appreciation for their offering of free legal representation to individuals to fight against employers’ efforts to abrogate their employees’ First Amendment rights.

America would have never gained her liberation from Great Britain had it not been for the value of dissent the colonists evinced.

Some employers are even arrogant enough to place in writing that they forbid their employees from using their First Amendment rights to speak in opposition to them.  We certainly need more organizations like the ACLU and NAACP to rise up and aid in striking a mighty blow against political correctness and First Amendment violations.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission needs to be much more aggressive in defending employees against employers who engender conditions where political correctness is mandated, especially when it comes to employees’ rights and requests to have religious, racial, and viewpoint accommodations.

While this piece has focused primarily on political correctness in the workplace (and a little on political correctness in general), it is crucial to understand that political correctness is present in virtually every space of American life.  We deny the dangers of political correctness and don’t engage in efforts to eradicate it at our own peril.

What did you think about Dr. Benjamin Carson’s statements about political correctness?  What did you think about his critique of President Obama’s handling of the national debt, education, taxes, and healthcare?  Do you agree or disagree that political correctness is a threat to free speech and dissent?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Restoring Fairness in Hiring and Voting

Have you ever not been hired because of hearsay and/or an employer not giving you a chance to present all of the facts? Have you ever been voted out and/or not voted into an organization because of corruption, discrimination, unfairness, mismanagement, and/or illegal practices and policies? If so, you can become a meaningful part of the solution to unfairness in hiring and voting. You may think that the companies and organizations that are unfair in their hiring and voting decisions, practices, and policies are too powerful, but I want you to know that the law is on your side.

Whenever you feel that a company or organization has been unfair to you in terms of hiring or voting, you have to stand up to this unfairness. We can never end this unfairness if you are not willing to stand up to the companies and organizations responsible for it. If you are not willing to speak out against unfairness and discrimination, then I really don’t want to hear your private moaning and crying about experiencing them. People have to become more willing to take issues of unfairness and discrimination to court. One of the purposes for creating the American court system was for the people to have a remedy to combating unfairness, injustice, and discrimination.

I will stand with you against unfairness in hiring and voting if you are willing to muster the courage to stand up for yourself. It appears that I am going to have to take some people to court for their recent unfairness and discrimination against me. You can bet that I’m going to fight and win too!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison