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Facing Discrimination At Work? How to Tell & What to Do

Facing Discrimination At Work? How to Tell & What to Do

Are you familiar with the glass ceiling? It’s a term used to describe the obstacles that many women and members of minority groups face when trying to advance in their careers or professions. It’s no secret that historically, women as a whole have earned less, on average, than their male counterparts. No matter how much progress we have made in terms of equality in recent years, that fact has not changed.

However, what a lot of people may not know is that women are at risk of coming face-to-face with a lot more than just career advancement hurdles. Women are supposed to be protected by the U.S. Employment Equal Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws to protect women against gender-based workplace discrimination. But, we don’t live in a perfect world, and not all acts of discrimination are reported or even noticed. So, how can you tell if you’re facing discrimination at work?

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Discrimination Against Women In The Workplace

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to discrimination at work. Generally speaking, workplace discrimination typically occurs by way of sexual harassment, withholding promotions or bonuses, disallowing women from taking part in training opportunities or other work-related activities, and more.

Sexual Harassment At Work

According to the American Association of University Women, sexual harassment, in its most general form, is described as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” That includes bribes for sexual activity, suggestive jokes, “pervasive displays of materials with sexually illicit or graphic content,” and more. Sexual harassment against a female isn’t always perpetrated by a male employer, as women can sexually harass other women.

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As noted by the AAUW, a one-time occurrence of sexual conduct or a single remark is generally not enough to create what’s known as a hostile environment. To argue that a woman is being sexually harassed and therefore is working in a hostile environment, proof of a pattern of offensive behaviors is typically required. However, just one severe incident of harassment can potentially be enough to qualify as a violation. The more severe the harassment is, the less proof is needed, especially if the harassment is physical.

Withholding Promotions Or Bonuses

Particularly in a workforce where physical ability plays a role in daily tasks, women can potentially get snubbed for a promotion for a job that requires physical strength. It can be assumed that, because she’s a woman, she’s not physically capable of successfully completing the job. This is another form of discrimination because it cannot be automatically assumed the job cannot be completed based on gender without allowing the woman equal opportunity to prove her physical abilities.

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Other

Out of fear of missing out on a promotion or bonus, a woman working for the government or for a large company might feel she has to hide a pregnancy because of the 12 weeks’ maternity leave women in these jobs are allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Additionally, women may avoid telling potential employers about their desire to have children for the same reason. There have also been situations in which a female faces discrimination because of her physical appearance. Some potential employers may hire women they personally find more attractive, arguing that those women are “likely to bring in more sales,” according to Lisa Finn, a writer for Our Everyday Life. On the other hand, an attractive female may not get hired because the employer is worried about how men in the workplace would react to her.

Despite the glass ceiling mentioned before, a woman with the same job title as a man, with the same seniority and responsibilities, should be paid equally. Otherwise, she’s being discriminated against. Employers found to be guilty of such discrimination can be sued under The Equal Pay Act of 1963. Consequences for the employer might include fines and the requirement to pay back lost wages.

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What Can You Do?

If you believe you are the victim or have been the victim of workplace discrimination, you should keep track of every case in which you felt you were being discriminated against. You should contact your employer’s human resources representative and inform them of the issue. You can also file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but if they don’t find any proof of discrimination, the case will be closed. You then have 90 days to file your own lawsuit. There are several law firms that specialize in workplace discrimination and EEOC, such as Hutchison & Stoy, the “Warriors for Justice.”

Featured photo credit: salty_soul/Flickr via flickr.com

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Emily Hayden

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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