Galdean Law Firm Blog

Friday, June 2, 2023

Microaggression – Discrimination in Workplace

A recent trend in employment law relates to assertions of workplace microaggression as workplace discrimination.  Workplace microaggressions are a form of discrimination that is often overlooked. While some forms of discrimination are overt and obvious, others are more subtle and insidious.

Microaggressions are subtle, often unconscious behaviors or comments that can be directed towards individuals in a marginalized group, such as people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people with disabilities.

So, what exactly is discriminatory workplace microaggression? Essentially, it is a type of discrimination that involves subtle but harmful actions or comments that are directed towards a particular individual or group. These actions or comments may not be intentionally discriminatory, but they can still have a profound impact on the victim.

Examples of discriminatory workplace microaggression can include comments or actions that are based on an individual's race, gender, sexuality, age, or disability. For example, a manager may consistently interrupt and talk over a female employee during meetings, or a coworker may make jokes about a colleague's disability.

Examples of workplace microaggression includes when people say things like “Where are you from? No…I mean, where are your parents from? I mean…where is your name from?”11 it sends a message that this person obviously isn’t “really” American. Another example is when women are told “Smile! You’re so much prettier when you smile!”, it reinforces the idea that a woman’s worth is intrinsically tied to their physical appearance.

An example of workplace microaggression is when a colleague consistently mispronounces a person's name or uses a nickname that the person has specifically asked them not to use. These seemingly small actions can create a sense of isolation and otherness for the victim, which can have a significant impact on their mental health and well-being.

Microaggressions can take many forms, including comments that invalidate an individual's experience or identity, such as "I don't see color," or "I don't think of you as disabled." Other examples include making assumptions about an individual's abilities or intelligence based on their identity, such as assuming that a woman is less competent than a man, or assuming that a person of color is less educated than a white person. Microaggressions can also involve exclusionary behaviors, such as consistently leaving a certain group of people out of meetings or social events.

So, how should an employer address such discriminatory workplace microaggression? Firstly, an employer should have a Policy that addresses handling issues of discrimination in the workplace. Employers should provide regular training for all employees on what constitutes microaggressions and how to avoid them. When discrimination is alleged, it is important for employers to recognize that microaggressions can be just as harmful as overt forms of discrimination.

Finally, employers should take swift action when instances of workplace microaggression are reported. The employer should investigate the reported discriminatory workplace microaggression. Other employer action can include disciplinary action for the perpetrator, as well as providing support and resources for the victim.

In conclusion, workplace microaggression is a form of discrimination that can have a profound impact on the victim. Workplace microaggressions are a form of discrimination that can have serious consequences for employees and their employers. Employers have a responsibility to address microaggressions in the workplace by implementing policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, conducting regular training sessions for employees, and taking swift action when microaggressions occur. 

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