How to Handle Racism in the Workplace

Racism can take the form of slurs, symbols, or derogatory remarks.

Racism can take the form of slurs, symbols, or derogatory remarks.

When you work with a group of people every day, you want your relationships to be as easy and as free of conflict as possible. Unfortunately, people's opinions and cultural views about race can sometimes clash and create uncomfortable situations in which you may decide to take action. Hopefully, letting the person know your feelings will solve the issue, but if not, you have a number of options for seeking help.

Tell the person, respectfully and without anger, that you do not appreciate the racist comments or actions. Sometimes, people are not aware that their actions are inappropriate in others' eyes, and simply informing them can help to solve the problem. Find a time when you can talk to the person one-on-one, so he does not feel that a group is ganging up on them. Then, cite a particular instance in which you felt the person was being racist, and let him know how it made you feel. If his comments or actions continue, move on to other measures.

Document the racist remarks or actions. In a notebook or computer document, write the date, time and location of the incident, and the details about what happened. Keep the notes in a safe place in case you need them for proof of harassment later on.

Speak with your Human Resources department about the racial remarks or actions. While you can also go to your boss or supervisor, if your company has an HR department, it is typically more well-versed on dealing with these situations. The HR staff may also be more removed from the day-to-day activities of the department in which you work, and thus, will be less likely to have personal opinions about who is right and wrong. Since it is HR's responsibility to deal with interpersonal issues, its staff may provide you some guidance on what to do. If that still does not solve the issue, you may have to move on to more drastic measures.

Speak with an attorney about filing a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is against the law to harass a person based on his color or race, according to the EEOC, so you may have some recourse if the harassment is continual and doesn't stop after you've asked.

Tip

  • Read your employee handbook or other workplace documentation to find out what the protocol is for handling these situations. If your workplace has this type of documentation, follow the protocol -- which may include documenting the harassment or speaking to certain supervisors about the issue.
 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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