What is the impact of Harassment and Discrimination?

The impact of harassment and discrimination in the workplace is not confined to the victim. It can affect others around the victim and the entire company.

“I lost out on a promotion and I know it’s because of my racial background. My confidence is shattered. I suffer from depression as a result, and now I’m worried I’ll lose my job because of my sick record. I’m devastated by the whole situation.”

“Ever since Sonny was passed over for promotion, he has become less of a team player. He now associates only with people who have a similar racial background. It’s creating an ethnic divide and killing our team spirit.”

“The media is reporting that we discriminate against people because of their skin color. We are facing a backlash from our customers who are refusing to purchase from us. Our partners are pulling out because they don’t want to be associated with us. It is difficult to recruit top talent to our organization because outsiders think we have discriminatory practices and do not promote diversity. This is destroying our brand and reputation.”

“Our productivity has dropped significantly since the discrimination claims were filed. We’ve seen a complete erosion of employee commitment. Managing productivity is difficult due to absenteeism that I am sure is associated with this case.”

“As the CEO, I wasn’t aware of the situation until the claim had been filed. I had no input in Sonny’s promotion review. Now the company and I are being held responsible and the courts could impose serious penalties if we are found guilty of a breach of anti harassment and discrimination law. I could lose my job.”

I’ve just come from lunch and when I was leaving I passed Raheem, Doug, and Daljeet. Raheem and Doug were openly mocking Daljeet for wearing a turban. I know they there were just having fun, but Daljeet seemed really offended. He’s a devout Sikh and he looked genuinely upset. Ben overhears Raheem and Doug mocking Daljeet, who is a devout Sikh, for wearing a turban. He knows Raheem and Doug believe this is just harmless fun, but Daljeet is very upset.

  •  Have a word with Doug and Raheem to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
  •  Report the incident immediately because this is clearly a case of discrimination and Raheem and Doug should be disciplined.
  •  Speak to Daljeet and explain that Raheem and Doug are only joking around and they didn’t mean any offense.

In some cases the perpetrators of inappropriate behavior don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong. The best course of action is to speak to them and make it clear that not only is their behavior upsetting their colleague, it also qualifies as discrimination when the target’s religion means he is a member of a protected class. If mocking behavior continues, and the target continues to be upset, you will have to report the incident.

The next day Ben is walking by a conference room when he again overhears Raheem ridiculing Daljeet for what he’s wearing.

  •  Ben should report the incident to the appropriate manager.
  •  Ben should ask Raheem to stop and then explain to Daljeet that Raheem is only joking and he needs to stop being so sensitive.
  •  Ben should ask Raheem to stop making fun of Daljeet because Daljeet could file a discrimination claim against him if he continues.

When the perpetrator doesn’t change their behavior after being spoken to, it’s best to report the incident before the situation escalates. Remember, once you have decided to take formal action, it’s advisable to leave any conversations about workplace behavior to the individual’s manager.

Aside from a potential discrimination claim, what is the wider impact that Raheem’s discrimination against Daljeet could have in the workplace? What do you think are the three most likely impacts?

  •  Daljeet may become withdrawn and disengage from team meetings, which could lead to him not contributing important information.
  •  Daljeet will work harder and better to impress Raheem.
  •  Some people may be intimidated by Raheem’s actions, causing them to be less active in team meetings.
  •  Some of Daljeet’s colleagues may not want to work with Raheem, causing a divide in the workforce.

Discrimination may cause a colleague to become withdrawn and less engaged in the workplace. This could have an adverse effect on the workforce, as it may make other colleagues uncomfortable and could cause a divide in working teams and groups. Remember, it’s important that you stand up to inappropriate workplace behavior, including bullying and other behaviors that may violate internal policy, and make it clear that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated. It’s vital that you recognize and identify harassment and discrimination in the workplace and recognize its impact on you, the company, and those around you.

This content is an extract from the Anti Harassment and discrimination course.

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