How to Speak Up Against Discrimination in the Workplace
By Megan Grams, Guest Blogger for YWCA Mohawk Valley
Despite being criminalized across the country, discrimination still persists in American workplaces. A Vox report on workplace discrimination based on age, gender, race, and disability notes that while more than 100,000 Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) cases are closed each year, only 18% of these result in proper compensation or changes in working conditions. Race claims are among the most commonly filed, yet have the lowest rate of success, with only 15% receiving some form of relief, often in the form of compensation. Meanwhile, Catalyst.org points out that 46% of LGBT employees are afraid of coming out in fears of being disfavored in the office.
This constant threat of disrespect, marginalization, and condescension cultivates an unsafe work environment for various vulnerable groups. If you or a co-worker have experienced an act of prejudice against you but don’t know how or where to start, here are two pointers that could help.
Carefully Identify Discriminatory Behavior
It’s highly important to distinguish when a co-worker perpetuates an office misdemeanor. Someone commits discriminatory behavior if they have a partiality against age, race, gender, sexuality, and disability, or other legally protected characteristic. Some clear examples of workplace discrimination are sexually loaded statements or comments targeted exclusively to women in the office.
However, acts of discrimination aren’t always obvious. For example, stereotypes around migrants are cemented around terms of division, fear, and hate against the “stranger” among us. YWCA USA’s national Stand Against Racism campaign highlights that it’s important to address immigration rights to attain social justice in the workplace.
There are 28.2 million foreign-born workers in the country, and half of them hold at least a college degree. If they are denied benefits and opportunities by managements despite having sufficient or better qualification, that’s an act of workplace discrimination.
Before you make your report, you should take extra vigilance in determining where bias may appear. Doing so could help you appropriately document the sensitive matter at hand before raising it to your superiors.
Find Comfort in Your Co-Workers & the Law
No one is truly alone in the office, and it’s vital to have an office confidante. They can empower non-offending co-workers and give clarity on how to approach an offending co-worker.
A lot of people find speaking up against office discrimination a risky act because the offender might retaliate. However, this shouldn’t stop you, as the state of New York has strengthened its labor code against employers who retaliate. Moreover, you don’t need evidence to file a complaint, but having proof can strengthen your case. Know that you can send a complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights or US Equal Opportunity Commission, and your identity will remain confidential as they conduct an impartial investigation. So, you can take comfort in knowing that New York has imposed the necessary measures to protect you from discrimination in the workplace.
Driven leaders who strive for workplace equality are needed. Maryville University highlights how today’s management are challenged to practice change leadership, conflict management, and ethical decision-making. Current management techniques underline how important it is to prevent workplace discrimination from happening, and subsequently recommend enacting anti-discrimination policies as the first line of defense against office-based biases.
Leaders should be more proactive in cultivating a discrimination-free environment, as well as formally reprimand people who exhibit discriminatory behavior. It is only through these actions that leaders can introduce positive change, and, as a result, an equal, bias-free workplace can be nurtured.
However, if the management itself is the perpetrator of unjust treatment, it will be harder to ask for accountability and appropriate action. This is partly why, last year, the New York State Human Rights Law added supplemental amendments that aim to protect the jobs of those targeted by workplace discrimination. This legislation stresses that companies should take charge in protecting marginalized employees who experience unjust workplace practices. It is expected that at the end of the year, all New York employers will have done assessments in building safeguards to help prevent office bias and make sounding off on workplace harassment an easier thing to do
About YWCA Mohawk Valley
YWCA Mohawk Valley is a nonsectarian organization engaged in the mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
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