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.
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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 is 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.