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Recognizing microaggression in the workplace

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Employment Law

Subtle discrimination in the workplace, also referred to as “microaggression” or “implicit bias,” can manifest in various ways that might not be overt but can still have significant negative effects on employees and the workplace culture.

Awareness of these subtle discrimination practices plays a huge role in addressing them accordingly to protect employees from experiencing bias and working in a hostile environment.

In recruitment and hiring processes

There is often subtle discrimination in the recruitment and hiring processes, which employers can mask as preference. For instance, if an employer uses language or criteria in job postings that inadvertently favor certain groups, it can be a form of discrimination. This also applies when employers rely heavily on referrals from existing employees since it can perpetuate a lack of diversity if the current workforce is predominantly of one race.

In internal opportunities

When employers provide more opportunities for professional development, promotions or high-visibility projects to certain groups over others, often justified by subjective criteria like cultural fit or executive presence, it can be a sign of discrimination.

In daily interactions

Discrimination in the workplace happens even in a non-work context. Everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults towards employees who are part of a minority. Examples include making assumptions about someone’s role or capability based on their race, or frequently mispronouncing or mocking ethnic names.

Addressing these issues involves recognizing the existence of such practices, educating the workforce about them, actively seeking feedback from employees about their experiences and implementing more objective systems for hiring, evaluation and promotion.

In a situation where the discrimination already took place, it is often beneficial to discuss one’s situation with an employment law attorney knowledgeable in workplace discrimination and finding the most suitable remedy.