Every year, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of workers experience workplace discrimination. Of these, only a fraction ever get reported. But why is this? To answer this question, and to help you know what to do if you ever experience this, it is important to start at the root of everything.
What is Workplace Discrimination?
By definition, worklplace discrimination happens when a person or a group of people is treated unfairly or unequally because of a wide range of characteristics. These include, however are not limited to, gender, ethnicity, race, disability, sexual orientation, age or religious beliefs.
Typically, workplace discrimination comes from someone who has authority over a group of people; however, this isn’t always the case – such as when an employee could verbally discriminate against another employee.
Now, some will say that you need to just suck it up if this happens to you. Yet, if the roles were reversed, you would likely be without a job. For that reason alone, it is important to act, not just for yourself, but for many others who may not have the courage to take their own stand.
So what do you do? After all, it can be scary to confront an employer who controls your paycheck.
Have a Conversation
In today’s society, we tend to let things slide until we hit a breaking point. When this happens, oftentimes irrational behavior ensues, which is where bad decisions are normally made.
Let’s avoid that.
The truth is, most human beings are decent and don’t want to harass anyone. Harassment can be a total accident, or even just an act of being naive. Oftentimes, the following exchange is all it takes to resolve any issue.
- (Employee) Hey boss, do you have a minute?
- (Boss) Sure, what’s up?
- (Employee) I’ve noticed that in our brainstorming meetings, you tend to listen and ask more questions to the male employees and ignore some of the females.
- (Boss) I didn’t realize that. I’m sorry, I will make a better effort to let everyone participate.
- (Employee) Thank you.
Most of the time, this is all that needs to happen. However, when that doesn’t happen, that’s when things need to be taken up a notch.
Time for Action
If you talk with the person harassing you and nothing changes, that is when things need to change. And no, the answer should not be leaving your job. That will only embolden the harasser and leave you in a worse spot.
While there isn’t any perfect answer to what to do next, there are a few options that include the following:
- Go to your bosses’ boss – If you work for a large business, odds are, your boss has a boss, and they almost always side with you, because at the end of the day, you can do a lot more damage to them if things didn’t improve and the incident went public.
- Schedule another meeting – At this meeting, you need to be even more bold and tell them what you are going to do next, whether that be sue, go to their boss, or get HR involved. Again, we are trying to fix an issue, not burn bridges.
- Get attorneys involved – If you are being harassed, you will likely win a court battle. Many attorneys will even offer a “win or you pay nothing” scheme, taking much of the risk of things going sour. A judge is very likely to rule in favor of someone experiencing harassment, as long as there is sufficient evidence.
Throughout this entire process, you need to document everything. Write down every time an incident happens to you or another coworker. This will help you in your conversations with anyone you report the incident to.
No matter what, just remember, if you go through all of these steps, you will certainly end up in a better spot than if you just sit back and take the harassment.