The signs were there — you just didn’t know it yet, or what to do about it. Workplace discrimination is often subtle and difficult to notice right away. If you believe that something doesn’t feel right, you might be hesitant to discuss it with coworkers. Complaints at work are usually frowned upon, and could even make matters worse.  It can be even more difficult to prove discrimination without outside help. Many times, victims of workplace harassment and discrimination aren’t comfortable speaking with their superiors for fear of retaliation, and don’t know where to turn.

Here are a few signs a workplace may be discriminatory towards their workers, or that a single person has been unfairly targeted for workplace discrimination:

Minimum Diversity

If store is only staffed by people who are similar in gender, race, religious or sexual orientation, there’s a chance this may have been intentionally done by the employer. It could be due to the demographics in the area. Other times, hiring managers ensure that only a certain type of people get hired. This can be done subconsciously, as a result of a comfort level with familiar people. Other times, it can be an overt case of discrimination against whole groups of people.

Same People, Same Roles

If an office is diverse, but women are all rank and file workers and only men become managers or executives, this may be a sign of a discriminatory environment. Of course, discrimination is not always that clear cut. There may be a specific reason why certain people are placed in certain roles and others are not, and may not be based on discrimination. A director looking for a group of actors who look Asian will probably not hire any African-American actors.

Skipped Over for Promotions

If you have all the right skills for a better job, and have been working diligently, it’s natural to be disappointed if you’re passed over when it’s time for promotions. You may eventually suspect workplace discrimination. It’s true that employees are not guaranteed bonuses, wage increases, or promotions. However, constantly being overlooked when lesser qualified candidates are receiving promotions can be a sign of workplace discrimination.

Increase in Workload

You could be a victim of workplace discrimination if you’ve suddenly been assigned more work than you can possibly complete in your allotted hours. If other employee workloads seem far more manageable in comparison, it may be worthwhile to ask why you are being assigned so much more work. If you don’t get results by telling your superior that that the work is overwhelming you, there is a strong possibility you are being subjected to workplace discrimination.

Responsibilities Are Being Diminished

Conversely, if an employee with many years of experience is suddenly being given fewer tasks to perform, there may be an issue with workplace discrimination. Speaking with a superior sometimes results in a sensible explanation of why work is scarce. There may be a legitimate reason that is not discriminatory. However, if this occurs continually, especially when other employees are being given more tasks, there may be an issue.

Federal and state laws require employers to to provide a safe workplace that is free from harassment and discrimination. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, harassment of employees is prohibited. But laws don’t solve every problem. If an employee believes they are experiencing workplace discrimination, it’s vital that they speak with a discrimination lawyer, employment lawyer or another civil rights attorney who is versed in labor laws. It’s smart to let an attorney hear about the problem, and let them make the determination if there is case of discrimination. Most attorneys provide a free initial consultation over the phone or via online chat. A good legal counsel will let a person know right away if they believe there is discrimination or harassment. They’ll be able to offer expert guidance on what steps to take next.

There may never be an end to workplace discrimination and harassment, but with the right tools, it can be identified and reduced significantly. Employees who know how to identify workplace harassment stand a better chance of reducing or eliminating hostile work environments. That will make their workplace happier and healthier for everyone to work in!

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