Source: E-mail dt. 21 September 2011

Discrimination at Workplaces


Dr. B. Adalarasu

Dean, RVS Faculty of Management,

Kumaran Kottam Campus, Kannampalayam, Coimbatore- 641 402.




Mr. S. Eliza John Paul,

Assistant Professor, RVS Faculty of Management,

Kumaran Kottam Campus, Kannampalayam, Coimbatore- 641 402.




Discrimination is nothing but unfair treatment against a person or a group of persons based on prejudice. Differentiating people on basis of certain characteristics like age and gender or on grounds such as race and religion is discrimination. Discrimination at work is a matter of serious concern for organizations all over the world.


The most common and prevalent form of discrimination is the one based on race and religion. Judging an individual by race and not by performance comes under discrimination. Such behavior of an employer can humiliate an individual and put him under stress and depression. Differences in compensation packages between employees on basis of color or race are also an unhealthy practice. In terms of age discrimination, younger workers are often being paid less for they are assumed to be inexperienced. Moreover, there is a negative attitude among employers for recruiting and retaining older workers. Talking about gender biases, women in India still remain the largest group that faces discrimination. Women today comprise only 2 per cent of the total managerial strength in the Indian corporate sector. While more and more women are joining the corporates now with better salaries and even at senior levels, pay equity compared with their male counterparts is still a disappointing. Migrants in Asia are also facing discrimination with low wages, menial jobs, and exploitative jobs contracts.




·       Workplace discrimination refers to a work environment that exhibits bias in the treatment of employees. This ranges from marital status, gender, pregnancy, gender change, sexual preference, pregnancy, race, color, nationality, belief and age. It is also seen among coworkers who display discriminatory behavior toward each other.


Unemployment Rate


·         Workplace discrimination is a common cause of the nation's skyrocketing unemployment rate. If a company does not hire women, then the female applicant does not get the job. The same reasoning applies to all of the aforementioned categories affected by workplace discrimination. These individuals are without job opportunities and therefore unemployed.




·         The discriminated party is usually smart enough to know why he wasn't hired. This instills anger and hurt in him. How he releases these feelings may result in violence. His self-esteem is shattered and he unleashed his negativity on those around him. Many mass murder and domestic violence cases are a result of workplace discrimination.




·         An employee subject to workplace discrimination is apt to lose interest in his duties and in the company. For example: He's of a different race than his peers, who make subtle inappropriate jokes about his culture. He tells his supervisor, who waves it off, stating, "Oh, that's nothing." This sends his morale into a downward spiral, which results in lack of productivity.




·         Workplace discrimination can have harsh effects on the psyche. When hopelessness sets in, he feels unworthy and like a failure--he thinks it's all his fault. His drive to succeed is elusive and he gives up on life. This deteriorating stage can lead to severe depression.


Employee Rights


·         Inform your employer of the discrimination. Keep a log of the discriminatory acts you suffered. Read and keep a copy of your company's anti-discrimination policy. Educate yourself on federal and state laws regarding workplace discrimination. One of the federal laws citing discrimination is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title V11. It states: "This federal law prohibits discrimination in terms and conditions of employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex and religion."

·         Workplace discrimination refers to a work environment that exhibits bias in the treatment of employees or discriminatory behavior by any employee to other employees based on factors such as marital status, gender, pregnancy, sexual preference, race, color, nationality, disability, belief, and age. Such discrimination occurs at all stage and levels of employment, from recruitment to layoffs, and from pay to fixing of job responsibilities.

·         The International Labor Organization holds workplace discrimination as a persistent global problem, with efforts to eradicate the menace leading to emergence of new and more subtle forms of discrimination.


The direct effects of workplace discrimination are violation of federal and state laws


Title VII of The Civil Rights Act, 1964 prohibits “discrimination in terms and conditions of employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex and religion.” The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination of workers over 40 years of age. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates employers to make "reasonable accommodations" to allow disabled persons access buildings and workplace functionality. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers not to discriminate against employees taking care of personal or family medical needs. Several other federal and state laws also tackle workplace discrimination, and most companies develop anti-discrimination policies based on such laws.


Failure of the company to implement these directives or to prevent instances of workplace discrimination can lead to employees filing discrimination lawsuits against the company.


Poor Work Atmosphere


The biggest negative effects of workplace discrimination are the poor working atmosphere it creates. The workplace of the 21st Century is increasingly multicultural, and instances of discrimination demoralize not just the victim, but also a significant number of workers who affiliate with the victim’s group. This leads to a culture of mistrust, suspicious, resentment, hostility, and rivalry among the workers, and formation of cliques. All these developments spread negative vibes and harm relationships at work, especially free flow of communications and teamwork, hampering the smooth functioning of the organization.


A 2005 Gallup poll showed that job satisfaction was at its lowest when employees experienced discrimination.


Loss of Focus and Productivity


Another negative effect of workplace employee discrimination is loss of focus and wasting of time. Discrimination in the workplace is not just the focus of the victim, but also tends to take priority in various meetings. The time and resources spend on discussing discrimination, pondering over it, and implementing remedial measures, could be better spent focusing on core activities.


The loss of morale as a result of discrimination directly translates to loss of productivity. Discrimination also un-motivates employees, again leading to loss of productivity.


Employees who feel wronged also tend to switch jobs, forcing the organization to spend more time and resources on hiring and training new employees, besides coping with the low productivity of a new employee.


Loss of Patronage


News of workplace discrimination tends to spread fast, and this can hurt the company’s reputation and lead to backlashes with customers having affinity to the victim shunning the company’s products and services, thereby having a direct impact on the company’s bottom-line.


Impact on Individuals


Workplace discrimination usually has a debilitating effect on the employee’s psyche. The victim feels unworthy and at fault, and with advancement opportunities turning elusive, falls into a rut of depression.


There have been many instances of workplace discrimination victims indulging in domestic violence and even murder due to the anger caused by loss of self esteem.


Impact on Society


Workplace discrimination is also a major cause for the nation's skyrocketing unemployment rate. Many people remain unemployed not because they are unemployable, but because companies refuse to hire them due to certain biases. Many companies, for instance do not hire women, and with no other suitable candidates, do not hire at all.


Workplace discrimination spreads all round negativity and has a debilitating effect on any organization, the individual, and society.


The impacts of discrimination are serious in the workplace and in society.


The effects of discrimination in the workplace are mainly two parts. Firstly, discrimination directly deals to the unemployment rate increase. In some companies have sex discrimination they do not employ women as their staff, so these women lose their job opportunities. And others have age discrimination. Young people cannot find jobs after graduation, because these companies think youth have not work experience. Secondly, discrimination results in work efficiency decline. If company discriminate women, they have not female employee, this company will lose work balance because women are more patiently and carefully, which are men’s weakness. Furthermore discriminate age is also harmful to a company. For one, senior people are full of experience and youth do not lack of energy, so these two groups are all important for a company.


The effects of discrimination in society are reflecting on race, religion, and disable discrimination. One of the main reasons cause violence is race discrimination. It is easy to find evidence from Hollywood movies. The black people always fight with white people because they were discriminated. Now in Australia, the aboriginals are discriminated. Many people do not understand their culture, so the Australian looks down on these people, but it is not equally. In addition religion discrimination can endanger the world peace. Different religion has different god and the numbers of believers are huge. Once the conflict between different religions break out, which can easily cause a world war. At last, the disables discrimination is the most important one. The society should pay more care and love to these people. However not all the people do, so the commit suicide rate of disable people is still rising.


To sum up, the discrimination can cause many problems. The government should constitute laws to avoid it. And the society should also set up some organizations or communities to help these people.


Impact on a person’s physical health


"Does Perceived Discrimination Affect Health? Longitudinal Relationships Between Work Discrimination and Women's Physical and Emotional Health", it was noted that “psychological distress, blood pressure and self assessed health may be most affected by the stress produced by either a major discriminatory event such as being fired from a job or reactions to chronic daily discrimination in the workplace (e.g. racist or sexist jokes or hostile work environment).”


In another study, it was found that racial discrimination led to increased cardiovascular reactivity. (Sutherland and Harrell, 1986) Work related stressors identified that contributed to the decline in physical health were inability to communicate candidly with supervisors; imposing heavy workloads or hectic schedules that exceed their ability; lack of respect; continual conflicts on the job; women receiving job discrimination due to their gender; and feeling forced to maintain a professional demeanor despite the overt attempts at discrimination.


The physical impacts of job discrimination have also occurred in other parts of the world. Europeans have also reported signs of stress because of such factors as discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and physical violence, all taking a toll on both their physical and psychological well-being. All of this suggests that work-related discrimination or workplace harassment has harmful effects on physical health.


Can lower a person’s mental health


"Does Perceived Discrimination Affect Health? Longitudinal Relationships between Work Discrimination and Women's Physical and Emotional Health", women were being tested and their level of stress increased after experiencing job discrimination. (Pavalko et al., 2001) In another study testing African American women, perceived racial discrimination at work led to higher levels of depression and decreased levels of psychological well-being. (Snapp, 1992) This suggests that mental distress is compounded by work discrimination.


Negative impact on a person’s behavior


Discrimination at work can lead to decreased job performance and lower productivity. This in turn affects the employee’s level of satisfaction and morale. Passive behavioral responses can also be demonstrated by how some victims respond to the discrimination at work. Passive behavioral responses would be either accepting the abuse or ignoring the abuse. An unsupportive employment environment can also lead to feelings of anger when if held inside, can lead to outbursts both at work and at home. Grappling with discrimination can lead to an assortment of suffering for others.


Overall, there is no doubt that discrimination in the workplace adversely affects a person’s behavior, physical and mental health. For employees to be happy and satisfied, it would benefit employers to take active roles in preventing discrimination on the job.


Dealing with Discrimination: Tips for Employees


Discrimination and harassment can take a number of different forms. There are broad-sweeping federal laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment against individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, pregnancy, and age, among other classifications, in a variety of situations. State and local laws may contain similar protections, and may also provide for protection in other situations. Many detailed laws address and prohibit, in particular, discrimination and harassment in the workplace. If you are an employee, and you feel you are being discriminated against or harassed by your employer or coworkers, what can you do?


Make your employer aware that you feel you are being discriminated against or harassed. It is likely that many illegal acts of discrimination and harassment go unrecognized or unpunished because the victim does not make it clear that the conduct is unacceptable and unwelcome. Rare is the case where employers will readily admit to discrimination or harassment and help you to draft legal papers against them. Your employer is responsible for complying with the law, but you alone are responsible for making sure your personal rights are protected.

Note: If your immediate supervisor is the person you feel is being discriminatory or harassing, and you feel uncomfortable confronting him or her directly, report the matter to his or her superior or a human resources representative. Many employers have designated a specific managerial or human resources individual who is responsible for accepting complaints of discrimination and harassment. If that is the case in your situation, report your complaint directly to that individual.


Let your employer know that you are taking the matter seriously. Ask that a written report be made every time you report an incident of discrimination or harassment. Ask that an investigation be made into your allegations and that disciplinary or corrective action against the offenders be taken. Employers are required by law to give prompt consideration to all reports of discrimination and harassment.


Note: If you falsely report to your employer that you have been discriminated against or harassed by another employee or supervisor you could face ramifications, not the least of which may be an uncomfortable relationship with the individual you have accused.


If you receive no response from your employer, consider contacting the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has responsibility for overseeing compliance for many federal anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, or your state equal employment agency. Getting the government involved in your case, and potentially having the state contact your employer, will most likely get someone's attention fairly quickly.


Keep a diary of any incidents of discrimination or harassment. Record the date, approximate time, location, parties involved, witnesses, and details of the improper conduct or speech.


Example: A diary entry could contain information such as, "On May 10, 1999, I was standing by the copy machine on the 4th floor when Kelly Douglass (supervisor) said 'I hope you realize that I won't have to put up with an old goat like you for much longer, because as soon as you turn sixty I'm going to fire you.' Jack Straup and Kurt McCann (coworkers) were there at the time and heard her say it."


Keep any objects or pictures which were posted, left for you, or given to you in the workplace that you believe were discriminatory or harassing.


Example: You are an African-American, and you arrive at your desk one morning to find a picture of a burning cross taped to your chair. Keep the picture. Although you will certainly find it reprehensible and upsetting, try to control your urge to tear it up or throw it away. Having the actual offensive item to help prove your case is much easier than having to try to describe what it looked like, and having to hope that your version will be believed.

Note: If an item is posted on a bulletin board, wall, refrigerator, or other common and visible area in your workplace, and you find it harassing, you may confiscate it or make a copy of it. By posting the item in a "public place" the perpetrator has allowed others to see it and, consequently, you have the right to remove it or copy it.


Example: You notice one day at work that someone has taped a pornographic picture onto a bathroom stall door. You do not know who did it, but you find it very offensive. You may take the picture down and keep it, or you may take the picture, photocopy it, and replace the original (however much that may turn your stomach).


Review your company's anti-discrimination policy. The fact that your employer may have put it in writing, and acknowledged that it will not act in discriminatory ways may serve to benefit your position. If you have a copy of the policy in a handbook or other handout, retain a copy of it.


Review federal and state laws to see what your rights are. These laws are available at law libraries, some general libraries, and on the Internet. Some major federal anti-discrimination and harassment laws include:


·                 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. This federal law prohibits discrimination in terms and conditions of employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.

·                 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. This federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age for workers over the age of 40.

·                 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. This federal law prohibits discrimination against certain disabled individuals and requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" to allow access to buildings and functionality in the workplace.

·                 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. This federal law requires employers to allow employees time off, and to not discriminate against them, for taking care of personal or family medical needs.

Note: Not all employers are required to comply with these federal laws. Title VII and the ADA only apply to employers with fifteen or more employees. The ADEA applies to employers with twenty or more employees, and the FMLA only applies to employers with fifty or more employees.




            Overall, there is no doubt that discrimination in the workplace adversely affects a person’s behavior, physical and mental health. Discrimination itself is a terrible disease of the heart, mind and body, which if left without remedy only serves to divide and conquer. In some cases, this can lead to workplace anger and violence. When employees develop these types of concerns, it is essential that they learn about workplace violence prevention. If employees to be happy and satisfied, it would benefit employers to take active roles in preventing discrimination on the job.