Sadly, many of us are aware of workplace discrimination and/or have experienced it personally. No one wants to work in a place that they don’t feel like their right to employment is being treated the same as everyone else’s.

In many fields of work, the need for dedicated, skilled workers is simply too great for this type of treatment to continue. As such, we’re going to take a look at some common examples of workplace discrimination. Then, we will talk about some ideas that employers and employees can use to help fight workplace discrimination.

Let’s Define Discrimination

There are several different types of discrimination. Someone may not be given equal opportunity due to their race or sexual orientation. However, no matter the industry, discrimination also exists in relation to gender, age, religion, etc. Anything that could create a bias in the office and/or could cause a person to be treated differently, and essentially not be presented with the same opportunities as everyone else, is discrimination.

STEM Employment Gap

For example, many fields of work have historically been dominated by men. STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are still largely given to men over women. This isn’t to say that skilled workers, regardless of gender, aren’t needed. In fact, the situation is actually quite the opposite. Experts in areas like technology and engineering are projecting that a staggering amount of jobs in these fields will be opening up in the next 20 years. Due to demand and overwhelming need, more female engineers have been brought on in the last several years. The same can be said for the technology sector, although, it’s still not quite enough to even the playing field.

Age Discrimination

In addition, other issues like age discrimination are preventing good employees from being hired. This is an issue that hasn’t received nearly enough attention but is a serious issue for individuals over 40. Those who are even closer to retirement age, 60 and up, have an even harder time getting hired. For some employers, this has to do with a prejudice against an older worker’s skills and whether or not they can adapt to ever-changing environments and protocols. What’s more, some employers prefer to not take on employees that are higher in age simply due to the fact that they will require more from employer-garnered retirement plans. Both of these examples are forms of workplace discrimination.

It’s important to understand just how widespread discrimination can be. Individuals do experience mistreatment and unequal possibilities due to all of the above listed factors and more. With that in mind, let’s dive into how both employers and employees can do something about this enormous issue.

How Employers Can Address Discrimination

First and foremost, I think it’s incredibly important for all employers to become familiar with workplace discrimination. If you’re not sure if discrimination is taking place within your business, it’s a smart idea to become educated about all types of discrimination. Education on the subject will undoubtedly help you to better recognize when your office has a case of workplace discrimination.

If you do recognize a form of discrimination taking place in the company, remember that people from all walks of life offer different experiences and expertise to their job. By allowing any form of discrimination to continue, your company is simply missing out on incredible, hardworking employees. As such, you can make a difference in how your business operates. Anti-discrimination policies are already in effect in every state, but it’s the job of the employer to make sure they are being enforced. In order to keep the idea fresh in people’s minds, regularly scheduled trainings for all staff are also a wonderful idea.

In addition, if you are made aware of a case of discrimination taking place in your office, it’s important to handle it quickly. Hear out the employee coming forward with the case and make sure that you do everything you can to protect them from any retaliation. Reporting discrimination is no easy task. Appropriate disciplinary action should be used on any offending employees and then policies and training should be reinforced.

What You Can Do as an Employee

To start, keep notes and detailed information regarding the incident. Dates, times, and names are very important to record before you go forward with your report. Any physical evidence, such as photos or emails, should be kept as well. From there, you can decide how you would personally like to handle this case of discrimination.

Don’t Speak for Someone Else

Coming forward is a very scary thing, and it’s understandable that an individual will handle things completely differently than the person next to them.

For example, your situation might directly pertain to you as an employee of this company, or someone else might start to see signs of discrimination in another worker. Depending on where you’re sitting, you might need to handle it in a particular manner. If you are noticing an issue with another employee, it’s important to understand their situation. They may not want to have someone come forward and discuss their discrimination. So, you should always talk to the victim first before ever making a decision for them.

Talking to Your Employer

If the discrimination is happening to you, then you can start to think about what kinds of options you have. Some individuals may choose to handle the discrimination problem on their own; however, this isn’t always proven to work and may make the experience worse, so take caution if you’d like to handle it discreetly. What’s more, employers should be made aware if there is a pattern of discrimination taking place. I know this is easier said than done, but in an ideal situation, you’d be able to report the issue to the employer and have them stop it at the source, as well as offer training and support to other employees.

If you do decide to talk to your employer about it, it’s a good idea to try to go to a person that you trust if you can. Find someone that can sympathize or empathize with your situation and who will be an ally during this difficult time for you. Unfortunately, many employees don’t feel like they will be protected by their coworkers and managers when they come forward.

If you feel this way, and you don’t believe that your employer can end the issue properly, it might be a good idea to speak to a lawyer. A lawyer will be able to speak from experience and let you know what level of action is necessary in your particular situation, even if you don’t end up ever filing a lawsuit. They can also help you understand all of your legal rights as an employee and the laws against discrimination in our country.

Resigning From the Position

Lastly, you can engage with your local community and find individuals who are also invested in fighting for equal opportunities for all employees. If you feel that you are able, sometimes resigning from your position is the best way to send a message to an employer and, of course, end the discrimination. Doing so, and being connected with other like-minded people in your community, may very well expose them for their negligence.

However, this is also an intimidating position to be in. Some employees feel that cutting all ties and simply walking away is the best plan of action, so as to not receive any form of retaliation against an employer. No answer is the perfect one. The decision is completely up to you. Regardless, no matter what path you take, it’s always a good idea to have someone on your side, like a lawyer.

Workplace discrimination is very real, and sadly it’s taking place somewhere right now as you read this. Although there are laws that protect employees from discrimination, they aren’t always followed. However, educating ourselves about the issue and deciding to take action in some form or another is the first thing we can do to bring light to the situation. The more we fight back against workplace discrimination, the less opportunity it has to continue into the future.

By Trisha Miller

Trisha is a writer from Boise, ID. She writes on a variety of topics such as personal finance, beauty, veganism, mental health, and more. Connect with her on Twitter.

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