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Surprising and easy-to-overlook forms of workplace discrimination

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Employment Discrimination

People often think of workplace discrimination as obvious. The idea that discrimination is overt and easy to identify leads many people experiencing some kind of misconduct on the job to fail to stand up for themselves.

Some types of discrimination, like quid pro quo sexual harassment from a manager, could be easy to identify. Other types of discrimination at work are subtler, meaning that workers often overlook them. Anyone whose protected characteristics make them vulnerable to discrimination should be aware of the many ways discrimination can manifest at work. The following are some of the common yet subtle ways that discrimination might occur in the modern workplace.

Microaggressions from coworkers or managers

The term microaggressions refers to seemingly small acts that add up over time. They may include snide comments or tactless jokes. Microagressions typically involve applying a generalization about a group to a specific worker.

People may make statements based on someone’s sex, race, religion or other protected characteristics. They may then act as though the targeted worker is unreasonable if they complain about the comments or jokes they experience on the job.  Microaggressions in the workplace can affect someone’s job performance by undermining their mental health. They can also contribute to a hostile work environment.

Inconvenient company practices

Discrimination doesn’t always involve a hostile work environment or a company firing a worker because of a protected characteristic. Often, discrimination involves small policies that could place an unfair burden on one group of workers. Some forms of company discrimination are more likely to spur people to action, like refusing to allow someone time off for religious observances. Others are subtler and easier to ignore.

For example, restrictive bathroom policies limiting workers to a set number of bathroom breaks or a specific window of time for using the bathroom during their shifts could the patently unfair to those with certain medical conditions and women due to their monthly menstrual cycles. Company appearance policies that forbid certain types of hairstyles or demand clean-shaven faces on men could also be subtle forms of discrimination.

Workers who have begun to recognize that the actions of their co-workers or the policies of the company where they work unfairly affect people from one group may have grounds to claim that the company has discriminated against them. Collecting evidence of subtle acts of discrimination and discussing the situation at length with a skilled legal team could help people determine whether they may have grounds to take action over discriminatory practices or policies at a company.