Despite advances in education and social tolerance, discrimination in the workplace remains a serious issue. Every day, individuals are unfairly judged based on their age, disabilities, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, gender and other characteristics. In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 99,412 individual charge filings for alleged instances of discrimination in the workplace. In all likelihood, this statistic excludes more victims who never choose to file formal charges. Outside of retaliation charges (claims of discrimination for having filed a complaint), the most common workplace discrimination reported by the EEOC is racism, accounting for 33.7 percent of charges filed in 2012.
The U.S. Census Bureau suggests a social definition of race rather than a biological, anthropological or genetic one. The Bureau recognizes the following five categories: white; black or African American; American Indian and Alaska Native; Asian; and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander. For example, white people may include individuals with ancestral ties to Europe, the Middle East or North Africa, like Ireland, Germany, Italy, Lebanon or Morocco. Similarly, black people may include individuals with ancestral ties to African racial groups in Kenya, Nigeria or Haiti. In 2012, the U.S. population was 77.9 percent white; 13.1 percent black or African-American; 5.1 percent Asian; 2.4 percent mixed; 1.2 percent American Indian and Alaska Native; and 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
Racism, or racial discrimination, entails treating others unfavorably based on their race. This behavior can occur when a victim self-identifies with a particular race or displays physical characteristics associated with that race such as skin color, facial features or hair texture. In the workplace, this might take the form of co-workers believing that you're less intelligent or capable than them solely based on your racial differences. While racism typically occurs among individuals of different races, it's possible for victims to suffer abuse from members of their own race.
Filing a Charge for Employment Discrimination
If you believe you're the victim of racial discrimination you can file a charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC. Normally you have 180 days to file a complaint, although this deadline may be extended to 300 days in certain cases. While the EEOC doesn't accept online filings, it does offer an online assessment tool to help you determine how to proceed. Filing a charge will involve visiting your local EEOC field office and following their specific procedures. During your meeting, you'll be given the opportunity to describe the incident and submit evidence supporting your claim.
Reducing Racism in the Workplace
Whether you're a concerned worker or the victim of racism, there are several steps you can take to mitigate workplace racism. If you manage a team, you can actively recruit a racially and ethnically diverse staff. Alternatively, you can speak to your boss or human resources department to inquire about diversity recruiting efforts and encourage them to do more. For example, you might recommend specific local minority organizations and social groups to broaden their recruiting pool. Additionally, you can socialize and band with other employees who don't share your company's dominant race to discuss possible solutions and speak with one voice.
Giulio Rocca's background is in investment banking and management consulting, including advising Fortune 500 companies on mergers and acquisitions and corporate strategy. He also founded GradSchoolHeaven.com, an online resource for graduate school applicants. He holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University.