Workplace Bias is Still Prevalent: What It Is, How to Deal

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biasNearly 40 percent of minority engineers in tech say they’ve experienced workplace bias, according to a new report by Jopwell, a digital recruiting platform.  According to the report, bias was brought on by race in 69 percent of the cases, by gender in 16 percent, and 11 percent said sexuality.

The tech industry isn’t the only field that has workplace bias. It’s a widespread problem.  Another study, a 2002 Rutgers University study, “A Workplace Divided: How Americans View Discrimination and Race on the Job,” found that 46 percent of African-American workers feel they have been treated unfairly by their employers, compared with 10 percent of whites. And 28 percent of African Americans and 22 percent of Hispanics/Latinos have experienced workplace discrimination, compared with 6 percent of whites.

TNJ.com asked workplace experts for feedback about workplace bias and what to do if you are confronted with it.

What are signs that you are a victim of workplace bias, which can sometimes be very subtle?

“Workplace bias is most often subtle. Many people have learned how to disguise workplace bias and cover their tracks with professional, even, wordy emails. One sign that is often an indicator of workplace bias is an inexplicable change in job duties or responsibilities. This is why it is always important to have a specific and clear job description.” explains corporate trainer/executive consultant Chavaz Kingman.

“Yes, this can, indeed, be very subtle. You should keep an ear out for any remarks about your work that are  attributed to your demographics, for example, someone saying, ‘He does not multi-process very well since women tend to do that much better’ or ‘She tends to be late for meetings, but that seems to be common among Black people.’ Also, look for major patterns over time like a certain demographic getting all the promotions or plum assignments,” explains Stan C. Kimer, president, Total Engagement Consulting, which offers career and skills development and diversity consulting.

What are the steps you should take if you are a victim of workplace bias?

“Not all workplace bias is illegal. Some workplace biases also have different statutes of limitations for state versus federal enforcement. One of your first steps should be to see if the bias you are experiencing is a moral wrong, an ethical wrong, a social wrong or a legal infringement,” Kingman points out.

“I would first approach your immediate supervisor, especially if he or she appears friendly and a supporter of workforce diversity. If it is your supervisor exhibiting the bias or you feel your manager would not understand, seek out a person in Human Resources. And be ready with real examples that you can share; not just a ‘general feeling’ that there is workplace bias,” says Kimer.

Should you complain about workplace bias? Why?

“It’s not always a good idea to immediately speak up concerning workplace bias. If your claim is unfounded and you have no evidence, then you label yourself as a troublemaker and you may potentially damage your career. Unfortunately, this is especially the case with women. It is best to have and obtain undeniable evidence prior to making an accusation,” Kingman points out.

“Report bias for two reasons. First, you need to watch out for yourself and your career. Second, this does a service to your company. People cannot contribute their best in their working environment if it includes a lot of bias. And it is possible that if you are feeling bias, others may be too,” advises Kimer.

Is your job protected by law if you complain or take action against workplace bias?

“I would say in most cases, yes. U.S. law prohibits companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who report violations around bias. The US EEOC (Employment Equal Opportunity Commission) is rigorous in pursuing cases where companies retaliate against an employee who files a discrimination charge. But it is very important to remember that when things get heated to have very good documentation with actual occurrences and if worse comes to worse, to be ready to file an official complaint at the state or federal level,” says Kimer.