Learn About Workplace Microaggressions and How They lead to Discrimination Claims

7 Employment Discrimination Claims Starting as Microaggressions. Learn About Workplace Microaggressions and How They lead to Discrimination Claims.

Microaggressions in the workplace are small and indirect actions of employment discrimination in the workplace. They may be seen as “back-handed compliments” or passive-aggressive actions. Many times, they are linked to bias that many people do not even know they have (unconscious bias).

No matter how small or indirect these actions and comments may be, they are still hurtful and can create a hostile work environment for the victims. Many times, people do not even know that microaggression is occurring at first. However, after several microaggressions occur, they start to feel the discrimination and an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Below are seven types of microaggressions that can occur in your workplace.

1. Race-Related Microaggressions

Race-related microaggressions are very common in the workplace. When they occur against the same person or the same racial group, they can become evident as a form of racial discrimination.

Some examples of race-related microaggressions at work may include the following:

  • Telling an African American employee that you didn’t think they needed to wear sunscreen.
  • Praising your Asian American coworker for having no detectable accent
  • Telling a Latina coworker that she is quite stunning for a Latina

These comments and actions may not seem discriminatory. However, they are offensive to many people because they are targeting them for their race and the misconceptions many people have about race.

2. Religious Microaggressions

Religious microaggressions target employees based on unconscious bias relating to religion. For instance, when an employer, coworker, or customer makes comments against employees or job applicants based on a religious misconception, they may be committing an act of religious microaggressions. Such microaggressions can lead to claims of religious discrimination when they continue to occur even after they are addressed.

In these situations, employees and job applicants may openly practice their religion. As a result, their coworkers, manager, employers, and even clients may assume they should wear certain clothing, speak a certain language, or pray a certain way. Some examples of religious microaggressions may include:

  • Asking a Jewish coworker where his yarmulke is, even after he has repeatedly told you he chooses not to wear one
  • Saying “Praise Allah” to your Muslim coworker every time you pass him in the break room
  • Asking your Catholic coworker about the “dirt” on her forehead after she informed you it was Ash Wednesday, and they are ashes

3. Disability-Related Microaggressions

People with disabilities are able to complete their job in the same manner people without these disabilities can complete their job. They may require some accommodations. However, they are perfectly capable of working and completing simple tasks.

However, disability-related microaggressions often lead to insulting disabled employees and assuming they are in constant need of help. While it may not be an issue the first time you attempt to help a disabled colleague with a simple task, it can become a case of disability discrimination when you continue to offer the same help even when your colleague has told you it is not necessary.

Some examples of disability-related microaggressions may include:

  • Jumping in to help your disabled colleague grab a box of pens that are within their reach and easy for anyone to carry.
  • Telling a disabled employee that they don’t look disabled
  • Excluding disabled employees from company outings at the park or places you assume would not be fun for them due to their disabilities.

4. Gender-Related Microaggressions

Gender-related microaggressions can be among the most common forms of Workplace microaggressions. Many times, aggressors do not even know they are doing anything wrong or uncommon. However, they create a form of gender discrimination at work.

They can occur from men towards women. However, they can also occur from women toward men. A gender-related microaggression in the workplace may look as follows:

  • Male employees constantly interrupt their female coworkers in company meetings, yet they never interrupt their male coworkers
  • Women employers may repeat instructions several times for their male employees. However, they never repeat instructions for their female employees
  • Only scheduling company outings that are known to be favorites of male employees and are known to make female employees uncomfortable

5. Ethnicity-Related Microaggressions

Unconscious bias related to specific cultures is among the most common forms of unconscious bias. People may think certain ethnicities are great at cooking. Sometimes a culture is thought to be known for its math skills. Some cultures or ethnicities are thought to be very loud and rowdy.

Holding these biases can lead to workplace microaggressions. They may become fodder to make coworkers and employees feel targeted and unwelcomed. Some examples of ethnicity-based microaggressions may include the following:

  • Asking your Asian coworker to help tutor your son in math
  • Asking your Italian employee to cook for all company events
  • Telling your Greek coworkers that the acoustics carry in a specific space, so try to keep their voice down (even when you are not in that space, and they are not being loud at the moment)

6. Age-Related Microaggressions

Age discrimination occurs when employees are over age 40. While in most cultures, 40 is not old. However, stigmas and jokes still exist surrounding 40-year-old individuals and older.

Age-related microaggressions at work play on these stigmas. They occur when employees and employers assume someone may not be able to complete a task because of their age. Some examples of age-related microaggressions at work include:

  • Insisting an older employee sit through a technology tutorial before being allowed to work on a new project
  • Speaking very loudly for any employee over 60
  • Over-explaining technology to employees over 50

7. Sexual-Orientation Microaggressions

Sexual orientation is still a hot topic in the workplace and beyond. More and more employees are coming out of the closet and proudly living their lives as an out member of the LGBTQ community.

However, many people still do not understand what it means to be out or gay. They have preconceived notions about what a gay man or Lesbian should look like and how they should act. Their biases come out as microaggressions (and LGBTQ discrimination) at work. Some examples of these microaggressions may include:

  • Your coworker says that you do not look gay
  • Your employer asks who the “butch” person is in your relationship
  • Your client assumes you will not do anything that gets your “hands dirty” because of your sexual orientation

What Are Your Rights Regarding Microaggressions in the Workplace?

Microaggressions may appear innocent the first time they occur. However, in the same manner as other forms of workplace discrimination, they create a hostile work environment and violate employment laws if they continue.

If you face job discrimination in the form of workplace microaggressions, you have the right to demand your employer take action and protect your rights at work.

If your employer ignores your complaints, you have a right to seek a job discrimination lawyer to help you put an end to this form of employment discrimination. Your workplace discrimination lawyer can work with you to help you fight for your rights and demand your employer be held accountable for their actions.

If you are looking for an employment discrimination lawyer to help you fight microaggressions in the workplace, the lawyers at the Derek Smith Law Group in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego can help. Call us today at 800.807.2209 for a free consultation.

About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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