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Discrimination: Is it more discreet than we may think?

We have often discussed different types of discrimination and harassment in this blog. In some cases, this behavior is quite overt and there is no question in a victim's mind that he or she has been mistreated. Mistreatment could involve offensive comments, an offer of employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors or even being passed up for a promotion for unlawful reasons.

However, in many instances, harassment and discrimination is much more discreet. People may not even realize they are threatening others' rights to a safe and fair workplace, but that doesn't make it any less upsetting. It is up to employers to be sure that they have strict guidelines in place to prevent these behaviors and tackle any issues of unlawful behavior head-on.

For example, a recent article in The New York Times explored behaviors happening in workplaces across the U.S. Studies and observations suggest that women are more often interrupted, criticized or disliked by others when they speak up on the job when compared to men who speak up.

What this can mean is that women may feel diminished or less valued on the job, even when they are in authoritative positions. While this dynamic may not necessarily be grounds for a lawsuit, it can contribute to a negative environment and even make it appear as though similarly discriminating treatments are appropriate.

In order to keep a workplace fair and balanced, employers may need to explore alternative solutions to allow everyone's opinion to be shared and appreciated more equally. In the article we mentioned earlier, it was suggested that employers enforce certain practices across the company, whether this means not allowing people to interrupt during meetings or leading by example and treating all employees and their ideas fairly.

It is all but impossible to treat every single employee the same. However, allowing one type of employee to be consistently mistreated or minimized can become a very real problem if it turns into a hostile work environment. Being proactive and finding ways to keep workplaces safe and fair for everyone can be the best way for employers to avoid a messy and costly lawsuit.

Source: The New York Times, "Speaking While Female," Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, Jan. 12, 2015

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