Let’s say that you have a co-worker by the name of Doug who is a cut-up, keeps things light in the IT department and is generally likable.
The problem is, Doug rarely thinks before he speaks, and in an age when the law forbids discrimination in the workplace, Doug could face some legal issues.
Doug might tease you about different things, but if he zeroes in repeatedly on your race, he could be walking a fine line. You are protected from discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, just as everyone of every other race is.
You may be wearing a new outfit and your female co-workers may give you compliments on it. Men may give you polite compliments as well, but the comment Doug comes up with might be too suggestive. For example, a remark like, “Wow, that blouse looks great on someone with your figure,” could cause you to cringe.
Calling out your age
The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 protects workers like you who are over the age of 40. Doug has joked about your ability to learn certain new applications in the IT department because you are “over the hill.” He says it with a smile, but he has said it more than once, inferring that your age prevents you from acquiring new skills. He is probably trying to goad you into revealing how old you really are, but you need not satisfy his curiosity.
In addition to the well-known federal laws, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prohibits discrimination of any kind in the workplace. An attorney experienced with employment law will tell you that if Doug’s light-hearted joking has turned into disparaging remarks or repeated inquiries about your life that are making you uncomfortable, it is time to take action. Words matter, and you can reach out to an advocate who will help put an end to this kind of illegal harassment.