Racial discrimination in the workplace isn’t always obvious. It can be subtle yet pervasive – and just as harmful. Surreptitious forms of discrimination happen all the time in every sector, from small organizations to large institutions, causing irreparable damage and eroding opportunities for people of color.
Employees and employers alike need to be aware of signs that indicate subtle discrimination in the workplace. They include:
Lack of diversity (especially among supervisors or management)
When job hierarchies are stratified by race, it’s a clear warning sign that discrimination may be afoot. People of color might not be afforded the same promotional or career opportunities. As a result, they don’t have a fair shot at upward mobility.
Likewise, when the entire workforce of a company is strikingly nondiverse, subtle biases in recruiting, screening and hiring practices may be at play. Uncovering those biases – and dismantling them – requires taking a close look at the many stages of the employment process, from hiring to firing and every step in between.
“Equal pay for equal work” is the mantra of the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits pay disparities between men and women. The same principle applies with regard to race.
Often, disparities in pay and benefits might not be apparent on an individual level. When you step back and look at discrepancies on a company-wide scale, however, they become significant.
Social relationships in the workplace are complex. At an individual level, personalities may clash and conflicts can brew in any work situation. When you add conscious or subconscious biases into the mix, cliques start to form, and people of color can end up feeling excluded.
While employers can’t micromanage every friendship or social relationship in the workplace, they can – and must – foster a culture of inclusivity that encourages breaking down barriers while respecting each others’ differences.
Don’t stay silent
If you see signs of racial discrimination in your workplace, don’t stay silent. Nobody should have to endure racial discrimination, whether subtle or overt. You may have grounds for taking legal action. Talk to an employment attorney about your concerns.