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3 steps for dealing with racism at your job

When you start a new job, you expect it to be a welcoming environment. You may start to connect with your colleagues and management. Suddenly, someone makes an offensive comment about race that rubs you the wrong way and you may not know how to react. 

It is a sad reality that racism is still alive and well and often rears its ugly head in the context of work. When you hear a rude remark, tasteless joke or outright slur, you may feel a mixture of shock, anger and confusion. Here are some easy steps for dealing with racism at your job.

1. Say something

It is against the law for racial discrimination to occur at the workplace. Make this clear and stand up for your rights by letting the person know that you will not tolerate racism of any kind. You may be able to resolve the situation and teach the person how to be more respectful and open. But if the individual is persistent or you fear the consequences of speaking up, you can take other actions. 

2. Document the incident

Even if you choose not to say something at the moment, you should write down what happened. Write down any details you can think of, including the following:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Witnesses
  • Nature of the comment

Do this as soon as possible after the discriminatory behavior takes place. You can document the interaction in a journal or in a note-taking app on your phone or computer.

3. Report it to a supervisor or HR

When you are ready and have legal guidance, you may want to take the next step and report the issue to your workplace. You should give a written letter so that there is strong documentation of the discrimination taking place. Your employer has a legal obligation to ensure you are working in an environment that is free of harassment and discrimination based on race.

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