Everyone deserves to feel safe and seen at work. By our current standards in workplace norms, equal opportunity law, and cultural awareness education, there is absolutely no excuse for workplace discrimination. However, not all instances of workplace bullying and discrimination are obvious at first glance. For this reason, discriminatory behaviors can end up weaving themselves into the fabric of a workplace and sliding along unchecked.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable at work but cannot clearly explain why, it’s worth considering whether any of the following subtle signs of workplace discrimination are at the heart of the problem.
1. Lack Of Diversity In The Workforce
There are numerous reasons why workplace diversity should always be encouraged in a modern workforce. From improved social cohesion to the range of skills and perspectives on offer in a team, it is better for productivity and many other metrics for companies to embrace diversity.
If your employer seems to share a common identity or trait with the majority of their hires, it is a red flag. This subtle discrimination could be based on gender, family ties, ability, sexual orientation, cultural identity, or age.
2. Sick Leave Is Questioned
When a contract includes things like sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, or carer’s leave, employees are entitled to receive the benefit without feeling shamed or questioned by their employer.
Aside from providing medical certificates or documentation when necessary, your health status should not come into question at work or be something you discuss in-depth with your employee. Outside of the requisite documentation, you do not need to disclose your personal medical information unless it directly affects your role.
3. Religious Leave Is Denied
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that employers should make reasonable accommodations to employees in certain instances, and this can include religious holidays. While it’s not always illegal to deny an employee leave, if an employee taking time off for a religious or cultural holiday doesn’t significantly impact the workplace and is being denied constantly without question by an employer, not only is it stressful for the employee but it may very well be a case of discrimination.
4. Offensive ‘Jokes’ Or Comments Are Excused
Offensive comments in the workplace being ignored, accepted, or dismissed as jokes is not acceptable. Everyone in a team or company should feel comfortable amongst their colleagues. If inappropriate language is something that you are noticing in your workplace, you have every right to seek support and raise a complaint so the issue can be addressed. Whether it is the result of ignorance or prejudice, this is a problem that should not be left unchecked.
5. Isolation Or Exclusion
Isolation or exclusion is an unfortunate issue faced by employees in problematic work environments, and it can take many forms in the workplace. It can look like being excluded from work projects or meetings, being constantly passed over for opportunities, or being ignored during team events.
While it can seem intimidating to do so, especially if you are feeling ignored and silenced yourself, this is certainly an issue that deserves to be addressed by HR and managers. If you are a manager and who’s conscious of creating a better work environment, it should be your aim to make everyone feel included through your actions and work systems.
The good news is, all of the above workplace discrimination issues can be addressed and rectified. If you are a manager or employer, ensuring a safe and comfortable workplace for your employees should be prioritized. This can be done through HR programs, inclusive policies, and training.
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