Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, including subtle forms that may be difficult to identify.
If you are unsure of whether the subtle mistreatment you’re suffering at work is legally actionable, know that discrimination, harassment and retaliation don’t have to be overt to be unlawful.
What does subtle work-related discrimination look like?
Some examples of subtle discrimination include:
- Microaggressions: These are subtle, often unconscious, comments or actions that can be derogatory or offensive to members of protected classes. For example, a colleague might make a comment about a co-worker’s nationality and insinuate that this background renders them incapable of doing a good job.
- Unequal opportunities: Discrimination can occur when certain employees are not given the same opportunities as others, such as being passed over for promotions or being excluded from important meetings or projects.
- Biases in performance evaluations: Managers may unconsciously rate employees from marginalized groups lower than their peers, based on conscious or unconscious stereotypes and biases.
- Isolation and exclusion: Marginalized employees may be excluded from informal social gatherings or not invited to participate in important decisions, which can create a feeling of isolation and exclusion.
- Pay disparities: Discrimination can occur when employees are paid less than their peers for performing the same job-based tasks.
Subtle discrimination can be difficult to detect and address, as it is often unconscious or unintentional. However, it is important for employees to be aware of the ways that discrimination can manifest in the workplace and to take steps to protect their rights and interests in the event that they are mistreated in subtle, yet unlawful, ways.
By better understanding the often-subtle nature of discrimination in the workplace, employees can feel more empowered to seek legal guidance if they suspect that the ways in which they’re being mistreated could potentially be actionable.