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Report racism in the workplace when you see it

Racism is a hot-button topic these days, thanks to a lot of media exposure of racially-charged incidents across the country. There's an ugly undercurrent of racism happening in a lot of businesses — and both customers and employees can be damaged as a result.

How do you stop racism at work? You can report it. A company's human resource department will often be highly responsive to allegations of racism in an effort to protect both the affected employees and the company. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also takes reports and enforces federal laws designed to prevent workplace racism.

However, in order to report racism, you first have to be able to recognize it. Some examples of discrimination are easier to see than others.

What are some of the most obvious signs of disparate treatment and racial discrimination?

  • Assigning a worker of color demeaning job duties, like fetching coffee or filing, despite his or her obvious qualifications and job title.
  • Promoting workers of one race over another consistently.
  • Giving higher performance reviews to employees of one race over others.
  • Not hiring a qualified candidate because he or she "wouldn't fit in" due to his or her race.
  • Assigning laborers of one race to the most dangerous job tasks while giving the safer, easier jobs to workers of another race.

These are the sort of things that can often be easily spotted because the workers of one race are clearly being treated as if they have less value — or are even expendable.

These microaggressions are more subtle, but are still examples of racist behavior:

  • Comments about a person's race, including ones that are positive on the surface about the worker but denigrate that person's race as a whole, e.g., "You're well-spoken for a black man."
  • Jokes about a person's race or about the race of a worker's spouse or children.
  • Unusual scrutiny given the actions of an employee of one race as opposed to others — as if he or she is somehow deserving of suspicion.
  • Dress codes that are designed to prevent "ethnic" looks by controlling someone's hair and clothing in a way that's not necessary for the job.

Racism only ends when everybody pulls together to stop it. A hostile work environment for one person creates a problem for everyone else. Report it if you see it happening in your workplace.

Source: Fiscal Tiger, "Racism in the Workplace: Recognize, Report, and Prevent Racial Discrimination," Katie McBeth, accessed May 11, 2018

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