Anti-discrimination laws have forever changed the American workplace, and overt discrimination is now far less common than it was just a few decades ago. However, experts who study discrimination say that the laws alone did not eliminate discrimination or the attitudes that cause it to pervade so many industries. Instead, it made discrimination more subtle or hidden in many situations. This can lead to microaggressions, which are often based on stereotypes and assumptions.
An employer who did not want to hire employees due to race or gender, for example, prior to the onset of these laws may still feel that way. The laws in place likely won’t stop them from discriminating in terms of hiring practices, promotions or deciding who to fire when they need to downsize.
What are microaggressions?
Microaggressions are small acts that may not appear aggressive on the outside, and which the person may deny when confronted, but they nonetheless can create a hostile workplace environment. Some have called them “everyday slights” and they may be insults disguised as something else entirely.
For instance, a manager may comment that a Black employee is surprisingly well-read. This appears to be a compliment. It is not. What is that manager actually implying about the assumed level of education of a worker of that race – or other non-white employees? Would the manager have had the same reaction to an employee of a different race?
Understanding your options
While this example may not be overt racism, you can still see the problems it creates. Those who have been victimized by discrimination and harassment on the job need to know what legal options they have. Speaking with an experienced legal advocate can help you better understand the next steps you should take.