Not all workplace discrimination is obvious. In fact, examples of subtle discriminating behaviors can occur much more frequently, since they are not always caught or stopped. An employee that harasses others in ways such as constantly touching them, staring at them, or making quiet comments may be just as guilty as those who exhibit overt and aggressive harassment behaviors.
A University of Memphis professor of management feels that this kind of low-level harassment can become part of the aggressor’s behavior pattern. She went on to say that it can be even more damaging to the victim if it continues for longer periods of time.
In the News
Workplace sexual harassment and discrimination has received much news coverage these past few years, increasing public awareness and putting pressure on companies to educate employees. This may not cover less apparent instances of abuse, though. Actions like poking a pregnant coworker’s stomach or avoiding certain coworkers because of their religion may be considered as harassment. The professor commented that these behaviors could seriously affect working relationships and hamper a worker’s ability to perform their job.
Contact the HR Department
Employees who feel targeted by subtle discrimination may be hesitant to speak up because they may be the only one observing the abuse. There is the possibility that the signs are simply being misinterpreted. For example, some people at work are simply trying to be friendly by offering to help another one up the stairs. Others may just be the touchy type, although this behavior is usually discouraged. The CEO of the Society for Human Resources Management explains that it is difficult to monitor this in workplaces. He said that deciding if the actions were innocuous or based on bias or bad intentions should be handled by Human Resources (HR) professionals.
If a worker feels uncomfortable based on another employee’s actions, that worker should feel able to communicate their feelings to the HR Department. Even if they feel awkward or are unsure, the subject should be discussed. It is possible that other employees also feel the subtle discrimination. In many cases, the offending employee does not even realize that their behaviors are discriminatory. This is also known as unconscious bias.
More Awareness is Needed
Oftentimes, individuals are not aware that they are discriminating against their coworkers for religion, gender, sexual preference, race, age, or disability. They may be treating other employees differently or even ignoring them, based on feelings they do not recognize. This can translate into comments, body language, and other less conspicuous actions.
Employees need to understand how this can affect others, and more subtle discrimination education and training may be called for. Companies need to show their workers examples of what this look like, and how it can affect others. Realizing that they may be exhibiting these behaviors is the first step toward eliminating them.
Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Victims of Subtle Discrimination
If you or a loved one has been the victim of workplace discrimination, you may be entitled to compensation. We understand that subtle discrimination can be just as damaging as obvious discrimination, and we will fight for your rights. Contact an experienced Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. by filling out an online form or calling 215-569-1999 today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients from the surrounding areas, including Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and throughout New Jersey.