Workplace Discrimination: Impacts and Resolutions

Executive Summary

Workplace discrimination is a serious problem that can greatly affect the work atmosphere and finances of a business. Workplace discrimination can be briefly defined as the application of a prejudiced perspective regarding some individuals as a result of personal biased beliefs or simple ignorance. In other words, employment discrimination occurs when an employee is treated in a manner he or she did not deserve, whether through being hired or fired. Thus, while many people associate workplace discrimination with the treatment of an individual negatively due to factors such as race, gender , age, weight, the fact is that this type of unethical behavior can also occur if someone is favored or promoted when that was not deserved. In addition to hiring, termination of employment and promotion, workplace discrimination includes also the problem of unequal compensation and job reassignment. Workplace discrimination is manifested trough any these five immoral and professionally flawed scenarios. Workplace discrimination is thus a very serious problem with grave financial and emotional ramifications for the business and employees, a fact that particularly underlines the need to find plausible and effective resolutions.

Workplace discrimination is a serious and unfortunately very prevalent problem in today’s work force suggesting thereby the immediate need to find more comprehensive solutions through which to combat the phenomenon and curb its occurrence. This interdisciplinary study will examine the effects of Workplace discrimination on business management on the one hand through the analysis of productivity, the business’ finances and the hostile work environment while exploring the psychological impacts on employees on the other hand through the detailed scrutiny of coping responses among victims, depression and anxiety.

Though the law has forbidden discrimination based on traits and beliefs, employment bias continues to be a problem. The current law protects against discrimination based on traits such as race, gender, national origin, medical condition, political beliefs and sexual orientation. In areas where treating people differently at work are an offence, bias can nevertheless still happen in a subtler form. This includes for example the mandating of certain requirements that make it harder for certain groups or individuals to apply.

The most prevalent form of employment discrimination is based on religion and race. Gender discrimination is another highly problematic phenomenon in the business world despite the progress made over the last few decades by women. The difference grew bigger the more work hours the female had. Gender discrimination occurs thereby through sexual harassment at work, whether verbal, physical or emotional. Unlawful employment discrimination is thus an unacceptable, yet undeniable reality of the contemporary business world despite the fact that the elimination of the prejudice would only wield greater benefits for more financial profits and the promotion and enhancement of a positive atmosphere at work. In the light of these observations, the causes of workplace discrimination become particularly relevant to examine before an examination of the current, and recommended, resolutions. Recommendations and solutions for the existing ambiguities, conflicts and controversies surrounding sexual harassment will be included in conclusion.


When a person or a group of people are being treated in a certain way based only on the class or category they belong, we classify this term as discrimination. The subject which discrimination relates to is sociology. Many people have different attitudes towards others, but the true attitude, which they have towards a particular group or person, is discrimination. The process of discrimination is very basic; this involves restricting or excluding a group of people from certain opportunities, which is otherwise available to others not belonging to that class.

There has been extensive research that has been performed about discrimination. Based on this research a lot of categories have been found, such as if we look at them in a specific way we can say that there are three specifics; Ethnic, Religious and Social. The categories, which are further, divided; all fall under these three broad heads. Some of the more generalized forms of discrimination include ageism, racism, sexism, reverse discrimination, religious intolerance etc. All of the stated above types of discrimination can be set in different environments; this can be at school, at the office or even in a coffee shop. After conducting comprehensive research, it has been found that there is a heavy presence of discrimination issues workplaces around the world (Agarwal, 78).

Discrimination at the Workplace

Workplace discrimination occurs when the employee is being treated unfairly. Not only do the people who are different face such issues, but those who are present to protect them or report the behaviors to the authorities may also become the target of discrimination. There are a number of areas which are protected by federal laws of many states including recruiting, job evaluations, training, disciplinary areas etc. However, despite the fact that these laws are present, we hear of many discrimination related issues and cases in these are particular areas as well. At times, it happens that certain unlawful matters are the cause of discrimination, there are laws that cover this as well; bottom line of which are to give equal opportunities relating to the jobs to all employees. This was the company is on the safe side (England, 145).

Workplace discrimination can occur as a result of different reasons including most prominently the identification factors of race, religion, sex, age, retaliation, medical conditions, ethnicity, etc. Discrimination at work is brought about by psychological and social factors. Psychological causes include racism, sexism or mere ignorance and narrow-mindedness. This is psychological as those who are in the position to discriminate against others feel often powerful and in control. Thereby, competition at work is a social cause that can play a great role in the emergence and enhancement of discrimination. A more competitive environment brings the fiercest in people out leading colleagues to go after each other’s weaknesses to use them in order to advance and gain more. A relevant example to note is when a promotion or certain position is made available, employees can discriminate in these instances against a competitor to destroy their sense of self-confidence and make them hence uncomfortable enough to fail to give the right impression or simply want to withdraw (Nielsen and Nelson, 102-103).

In addition o the psychological and social factors, discrimination at work is also related to the “Established organizational rules, structures and cultural practices {that} govern much of what happen between individuals in the workplace”(Crosby, Stockdale and Ropp, 200).

These structures can be exploited to discriminate against an employee when they are based on implicit stereotypical ideas about for instance men and women. A classic example of a seemingly neutral organizational practice is the awarding of extra credit to veterans by employers when hiring. This is discriminatory since women were not permitted to participate in the military. Thereby, the connection between a person’s status as veteran and his future work productivity and suitability remains unclear (Crosby, 200-201). Thus, though not particularly constructed to discriminate against women, rules alike do undermine women’s chances. This does of course affect the employees and organization in numerous negative ways. Taking a deeper look at workplace discrimination, we can find that there are various areas where workplace discrimination is taking place. Some of the areas, if not all, of workplace discrimination include job, disability, age, racial, sexual orientation, national origin, religious, gender or sex etc.

Impacts and Resolutions

The effects of employment discrimination tend to vary from one individual to another. Thereby, it is also only logical that the effects are also relational to the severity and the duration of the offensive act. However, being a victim of workplace discrimination does generally bring about certain psychological and emotional difficulties among patients, which impacts performance, work productivity and atmosphere at work. This leads generally to financial losses for the company, particularly if a lawsuit is filed. Discrimination at work is by no means a light issue and can affect the person(s) involved to the extent of decreasing work performance because the victim(s) becomes too occupied with dealing with the harassment. The problem can also affect productivity as the victim’s absenteeism from work increases as a result of health effects due to stress or simply because of the desire to avoid work for a day or two.

Workplace discrimination can spread very fast in the company as well as society leading to higher rates of unemployment among particular ethnicities and races not as a result of lack of qualifications but because of a narrow-minded, unethical and unprofessional work ethic. The aforementioned effects of discrimination on employers, employees and businesses in general underline the importance of strong and immediate solutions for the problem. In this context, it is relevant to examine what has been done so far by the government and field of justice.

Current employment discrimination laws prohibit bias and prejudiced treatment based on traits ranging from race and sex to age and medical history, among many others. A few of the laws enacted to curb workplace discrimination is the Equal Pay Act in 1963 which forbids employers and unions from setting different wages based on gender differences. However, this law was flawed by its lack of attention to the problem of discrimination in hiring. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 takes the rules against employment discrimination a step further by including race, national heritage, religion and gender as relevant factors in the hiring or drafting of contract process. Employers could no longer state different conditions and terms for those minority groups. This was followed by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in 1968 that was further amended in 1978 and 1986. As the title suggests, discrimination based on age is strictly forbidden. Discrimination based on disability was made illegal by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. More recent and prominent laws include the 1993 Nineteenth Century Civil Rights Act that further affirmed the importance of equality in the workplace. The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008 prohibits the use of the genetic history of employees when hiring, firing or promoting a worker (US EEOC, 9-32). Thus, all these laws seek to protect individuals from all diverse backgrounds of being subjected to prejudice and injustice at work because of something they have no say or contribution in.

Workplace Racism

Race is better known as one person’s ethnic characteristics or ancestry. Judging a person by his race is illegal. This also applies to the employment sector. For example, if a company fired a white person because of the color of his friends, then a serious lawsuit can be held against the employer (Kyser, 12). It is also illegal for a company to place an advertisement giving the specifics of the person that they wish to hire. According to employment laws, everyone should be given an equal opportunity. When it comes to racial discrimination at the workplace, there are two main types: disparate treatment and disparate impact.

Reported cases of workplace racial discrimination.

The above graph shows reported cases of workplace racial discrimination. The reported cases are not in any uniform growth but zigzag.

Disparate treatment is only straightforward discrimination against a certain race. However, when we look at disparate impact, we find that this is a sort of accidental discrimination. In this case, what happens is that some policies exclude a certain class, but this was not the intention of the company. As intentions are difficult to prove, the company has troubles in handling such accidental discrimination. A typical example in this case can be the fire department. One of the requirements in fire departments is of strength because of which women were unable to apply. Now not hiring women in the fire department was not the intention. The intention was that they required strength and this is automatically excluded the female class.

Case law relating to racial workplace discrimination

Age Discrimination

As the name suggests, this is the type of discrimination that relates to age. Age discrimination may be perceived by many as to apply to all age groups but this is not the case; its application is usually against three categories – the youth, people who are 40 or older and the elderly. The most commonly practiced tradition around the world in most companies is the hunt for fresh blood. These companies reject candidates beyond a certain age because of the fact that they required, what they call, individuals that are more dynamic. On the contrary, according to there is a high population of Americans who despite being at the age of 55 are either working or still seeking work. The reason for this is that some organizations wish to have a much-experienced workforce as compared to new generations.

Handling Age Issues at the Workplace- At times it happens that even if a person of a young age has significant experience, the company does not hire that individual, based on the justification that a person at his age cannot have gained such experience. This is a classic example of age discrimination. In order to counter this problem, laws have been developed to protect the employees regarding the hiring and firing cycle. In some cases it might even happen, that the due to a bureaucratic culture within the organization the policies is rigid regarding the age of employees. This causes problems because of the grouping and lobbying.

Some of the areas, which are covered by the employment laws, may be as follows:

  • Hiring and firing decisions cannot be made based on the person’s age
  • Age cannot in any way be used as a factor to bar an employee’s work
  • The wages cannot be set based on the employee’s age etc (England, 21).

Even with the presence of such laws, there are many cases still being done in this context. If a person is facing certain problems, then he can easily sue the employer based on his claims under the relevant employment laws.

Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Many people subjected to discrimination at work through for example sexual harassment, choose to resign rather than face the possibility of retaliation from the harasser if they speak up. In addition, the psychological trauma resulting from public gossip, suspicion and defamation can prevent many victims from speaking up. This particularly applies to women. Resigning and losing a stable source of income only adds to personal financial losses. Financial losses can be also the outcome of increased health care costs related to the stress caused by the harassment. Thereby, a company that does not effectively combat the problem of workplace discrimination can lose its credibility and ethical standards among employees, which is another factor that hurts the integrity of the sphere at work and damages discipline and loyalty to the company (Nielson and Nelson, 168-169). In the current multicultural world, discrimination against one individual can pull others into his world of emotional suffering, which aggravates the amount of resentment, mistrust, hostility, rivalry and lack of cooperation at work. A direct consequence of this is the isolation of people into cliques.

Gender discrimination, as the name suggests, is the discrimination that is being done against the different sexes. More specifically, this is being done towards women. The reason for this at times is the male dominant society that we live in today. Thought this backward concept has been reduced to a certain extent, due to education, but still there are many people who do not wish for women to move forward (Kelan, 72).

Gender discrimination in the America Corporations

The graph shows cases, gender discrimination in the America Corporations.

Though there are not many laws that give protection under the specific head of gender discrimination, there are ways to prevent this from happening. A bypass to such issues is the use of equal opportunity statements and laws that are present within the organization and the general work environment. Based on this, people may claim against the company that they are gender biased, though at times this is not the case. In some cases, there might be policies that prevent women from doing certain forms of work because of the fact that some areas of work may be hazardous for women, e.g. heavy box lifting in the marts.


Keeping in view all of the above findings, we can pretty much conclude that even though with the presence of such heavy laws regarding discrimination, the matter still prevails in many organizations. The only way in which this can change is with the change of the people’s attitudes. In other words, we can also say that this is a twofold process; with the person being able to have knowledge about the antidiscrimination laws and also to be able to analyze whether or not such practices are taking place.

Discrimination in the workplace is hence an unwelcome and highly destructive problem that can greatly affect the success of the business and the overall happiness and productivity at work. It can turn a work environment into a hostile place where people do not feel comfortable and do not cooperate limiting thereby the success that could have been attainable. Workplace discrimination spreads fast and requires hence immediate solutions (Longley, 12). The government has been involved in the problem through the different laws that prohibit discrimination at work. Yet, the crisis is still ongoing and underlines that more needs to be done to solve the issue. The cooperation of businesses and the establishment of clear company guidelines and transparent communication channels between employees and management can help reduce the problem. Companies need to become more assertive and aggressive and an enhancement of federal supervision could also curb the problem Punishment will need to be strictly enforced to underline the gravity of the issue and the lack of tolerance for it. Companies can also contribute to solving the problem through paying more attention to warning signals and isolated incidents often brushed away as nothing but an act of flirting or a moment of anger. While it is obvious that a single isolated incident will not be enough to change a work place into a hostile environment (unless extremely outrageous), it is also important to take into perspective that not doing anything about the matter by the company can encourage the repetition of the behavior and the aggravation of the problem. All these factors can help limit the problem of sexual harassment at work if taken into account by businesses.


The identification of discrimination is not that difficult, but at times, it may happen that there are certain misconceptions or misperceptions concerning certain people that may lead to a person thinking that he is a victim of discrimination. The identification of the existence of discrimination can be done by following some, if not all, of the mentioned guidelines:

read between the lines: some things are not always visible; favoritism doesn’t always work: stop trying to be the favorite; be neutral; don’t take things too personally; always tend to choose your words properly; be present minded – being able to answer questions at a rapid rate; and do your homework.

Therefore, we can say that in order to handle discrimination issues, we first have to identify them and then apply the laws that relate to them. However, when we see the world around us, we can conclude that discrimination is an element that is present at all times and it is a problem worth looking into.

With this in mind, companies to deal with or prevent sexual harassment in the workplace can apply several guidelines. First, prevention is better that cure.The company, upon the initial interview of new employees, should clearly indicate that company policy is against sexual harassment in order to establish the mindset of everyone entering the workplace. Therefore, in order to avoid getting into trouble with the law, it is wise to deal with sexual harassment immediately within the sphere of the company. Secondly, the company should provide reasonable yet strictly, penalties on those who will be caught or proven to have sexually harassed a fellow employee, within the company premises or within the scope of professional work. Obviously, this can no more apply to behavior of employees with another fellow worker in situations outside the workplace, like in a bar or in an alley after office hours. Thus, along with penalties for those abusing co-workers within the scope of work, it would be helpful that the company include in employee benefits, like providing legal advice for employees who experience harassment by a fellow worker or supervisor outside company premises or work, for them to be able to go to the proper authorities. Thirdly, it is also necessary for companies to ensure that their premises are, as much as possible, safe and free from unnecessary privacy. This means that, except for restrooms, premises should have more glass and less walls, so that other employees can see that what is going inside is work-related, and be able to report any unwelcome behavior. In addition, in cases where an employee complains that his/ her supervisor is sexually harassing him/her, the company should, with the consent of the complainant, transfer her to another department or line of work, far from the supervision of the aggressors, even if the complaint is still an allegation. While it is necessary to prove every accusation, it will be an injustice for a victim if companies would disregard such claims just because the incident happened only once or if the victim’s evidence is his/her testimony. Now why is there a need for stringent preventive policies? Aggressors, after noticing that their action was not proven or reprimanded will find more opportunities to continue their harassment. In effect, until those in leadership take action, the victims become more and more vulnerable to harassment and may lead to resignation, or, much worse, suing the company for not taking active action against the alleged perpetrator. Hence, sexual harassment is a serious crime that can happen anytime in a company especially if guidelines are slackly applied or entirely disregarded. Regardless of company, administrators should ensure that the conduct of all employees, as well as theirs, towards fellow personnel is always proper, professional and non-discriminative towards sex.

Discrimination is not the only factor that is present when a person is doing a job; there are other matters to attend to as well. This makes it even more difficult to handle discrimination issues and compete to prove one’s self in the work environment. At times, discrimination may not even occur in the workplace but this is not always the case. The steps to follow in order to get a grip on racial discrimination are to first identify whether you are the victim of it or not. At times, lots of misconceptions and misperceptions mislead a person to believing that he is a victim. Once this has been confirmed and if the person is being harassed on this basis, then the case relating to this may be taken up in court. There are various laws present in order to help protect the people.

Works Cited

Agarwal, Abhishek. Landmark Racial Discrimination Cases – Their Effects On Employment. 2008. Web.

Crosby, Faye, Stockdale, Margaret, & Ropp, Ann. Sex discrimination in the workplace: multidisciplinary perspectives. Malden: Blackwell Pub, 2007.

England, Deborah. The Essential Guide to Handling Workplace Harassment & Discrimination. New York: NOLO, 2009.

US EEOC “Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination: Questions And Answers.” US EEOC Home Page. 2009.

Kelan, Elisabeth. “Gender Fatigue: The Ideological Dilemma of Gender Neutrality and Discrimination in Organizations.” Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 2009 26 (3).

Kyser, Chaz. “Handling Racial Discrimination in the Workplace.” The Black Collegian Online. 2008. Web.

Longley, Robert. FedEx Pays $3.2 Million in Sex Discrimination Case: Brakes of female driver’s truck were sabotaged. 2002. Web.

Nielsen, Bob., & Nelson, Laura. Handbook of employment discrimination research rights and realities. Dordrecht: Springer, 2005.

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