You may have a sense that something is just not right, but you know that pointing it out is not going to win you allies at work. And the environment already feels hostile to you. Are you being paranoid or are you rightly suspicious of discrimination? Here are five signs a workplace may be discriminatory or that you are being targeted unfairly.
Signs of Potential Discrimination
1. Minimum Diversity: If an office is full of people who are all the same age, race, gender, or sexual orientation, it's likely not a conscious culture. Sadly, people are most comfortable with what they already know, which sometimes means they don't consciously choose familiar types but ultimately only hire others like them.
2. Role Ruts: If the office is mixed but women are all secretaries, say, and only men become partners in the firm, this may be a sign of a discriminatory environment.
3. Promotion Pass-Over: If you have all the skills for a role and have been working hard but are consistently passed over for promotions, you might eventually rightly suspect that something stinks about the promotion process. Although no worker is entitled to a job or a promotion, being passed up consistently for less qualified candidates can be a sign of discrimination.
4. Poor Reviews: You do your work with skill yet you consistently get poor performance reviews. If the critiques are about your communication style and you are a woman, what the reviews might really be revealing is a kind of cultural barrier in the listener. Evidence of an expectation that men and women communicate differently to have their ideas received well at work is documented. You should not have to coo to get a good review.
5. Alienation: You may feel alienated in any number of ways, perhaps professionally because you receive uninspiring assignments, or perhaps socially. If you are consistently excluded from opportunities to excel or just for exchange with others, that may be deliberate and a sign of discrimination.
How Do You Know?
No one likes to think that they are discriminating, and certainly no workplace would admit as much given liability issues. Even if you know that what is happening at work is wrong, you still have to prove discrimination to win a claim against an employer.
Talk to a lawyer. Tell your story. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee. Let counsel assess your case and get guidance on what steps to take next.