Workplace discrimination not only hurts those who are discriminated against, it can also damage the entire organization. Companies may have trouble retaining employees, and those who stay may be dissatisfied with their jobs and distrustful of each other and of company management. A company that discriminates can also face serious financial losses and potential legal action.
Employees who feel they aren't being treated fairly are likely to leave a company the first chance they get. If the discrimination is widespread throughout the organization, employees may view it as something so ingrained in the corporate culture they can't get around it. In this case, they may not even try to make the situation work. Instead, they may start seeking other opportunities immediately, creating a dynamic where employees come and go so frequently it's difficult to keep up with the hiring and training. The financial investment required to hire and train new employees can also strain a company's budget.
Discriminatory behavior gradually erodes the workplace environment, creating an atmosphere where employees feel undervalued. If they see less qualified colleagues moving up the corporate ladder or getting hefty raises while they stand still, they'll feel unappreciated and unmotivated to do their best work. The same can happen when employees feel they are unfairly punished or given more difficult assignments or working conditions than other employees. Communication will also suffer, both among co-workers and between employees and management. Eventually, productivity may plummet and cooperation may break down as dissatisfied employees stop working together.
Workplace discrimination can fuel jealousy and pit employees against one another if they feel they aren't judged solely on their merits and accomplishments. Instead of collaborating they begin competing against each other to get ahead. Employees who feel they're the subjects of discrimination may grow increasingly angry or depressed and may take out their negative feelings on co-workers or even on customers and clients. Widespread or obvious discrimination also creates an atmosphere where employees don't trust each other and don't trust company leadership.
If an employee can prove discrimination, she can bring legal action against the company in the form of a lawsuit or a complaint to the government. Federal law prohibits several forms of employment discrimination, including that based on age, race, gender, disabilities, religion and national origin. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces employment anti-discrimination laws, can require employers to pay back wages or reinstate an employee who was unfairly dismissed, among other remedies. If the commission cannot resolve the case, it may bring suit against the company in federal court.
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