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5 subtle signs of workplace discrimination

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2023 | Employment Law - Employees

Workplace discrimination is often a violation of someone’s basic rights. Employers should not make decisions based on protected characteristics, including race, religion and sex. They should also help cultivate a positive work environment so that no one feels excluded or unsafe in the work environment.

In theory, anti-discrimination laws help ensure that everyone has the same economic opportunities as anyone else in the same profession. Workers generally know that they can speak up to human resources or even file a lawsuit when facing unlawful discrimination on the job. Unfortunately, while some kinds of unlawful discrimination are obvious, other times they can be subtle. What are some of the less-obvious warning signs of discrimination in the workplace?

Refusal to accommodate religious practices

Some employers simply do not have the resources to work around someone’s religious observances, but most businesses have enough employees to allow workers a day off to go to church or to celebrate religious holidays with their family members. A refusal to give people time to observe their religion could force them to make difficult decisions and may constitute discrimination.

Inappropriate dress code rules

Some dress codes are obviously discriminatory because they include provisions that forbid cultural clothing or religious items. Other dress code discrimination may be less obvious because it has a racial element. Refusing to allow workers to wear protective hairstyles or requiring clean shave and faces can be subtle forms of discrimination.

Only promoting certain groups of workers

The internal bias of those in management and Human Resources can lead to discrimination against dozens of others. Although factors like race, age and religion shouldn’t influence someone’s opportunities for promotions for better pay, sometimes management will consider those protected characteristics when making decisions about who gets the next big project or is on the shortlist for a promotion.

Managers who ignore misconduct

When supervisors and others in managerial roles turn a blind eye to work misconduct, issues often only get worse. Managers should act quickly to end any abusive behavior within a team, including microaggressions and insulting humor targeting specific people.

Different standards for different people

Do the women on the team need to work twice as hard to get a compliment, or are there expectations that they will do uncompensated office chores, like cleaning or making coffee, that male co-workers do not need to do? When companies enforce different standards for employees in different groups, such behavior may constitute subtle discrimination.

Recognizing the subtler forms of workplace discrimination can inspire workers to seek legal guidance and to fight for more equitable and fair employment practices.

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