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Racial discrimination and a hostile workplace may co-exist

You would think that in our enlightened times, racial prejudice no longer has a foothold in a working environment. Unfortunately, this form of discrimination, like other forms, still exists.

The workplace can be harmonious and enjoyable, but it can also be a breeding ground for discriminatory practices. If you are a victim of racial discrimination, you may already know this.

A brief review of Title VII

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful to discriminate against any employee based on race or color. Under this act, it is also unlawful to discriminate against someone because of a medical condition consistent with a particular race. For example, if, as an African-American, you have inherited sickle cell anemia, coworkers may treat you differently or make jokes about your “infirmity.” They may keep their distance or exclude you from working with them as part of a team.

Understanding the hostile workplace

If few of your coworkers are African-American, the group, at large, may know very little about sickle cell anemia. The reaction to you as a carrier of this disease may vary. Some people will simply try to ignore you. Others may cross a line when trying to act nonchalant around you. They may make inappropriate remarks you find hurtful, and this kind of treatment may escalate as your coworkers become bolder. You may feel increasingly isolated, hate coming to work and rue the day you ever accepted a job with this company. This is what a hostile workplace feels like.

Next steps

Start jotting down notes. Keep a daily journal focused on any practice, remark or insinuation with discriminatory overtones, then meet with your supervisor. Perhaps he or she can reassign you to another department. At the very least, your supervisor should launch an investigation into the activities that created a hostile workplace. If you receive no satisfaction regarding the issues, seek legal counsel. Remember that you have options and the right to enjoy a pleasant work environment free of racial discrimination and hurtful remarks born of ignorance.

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