Discrimination Hurts Us All
We all want a fair shake at life. We want to be regarded with respect and have an equal shot at opportunity, on the job or off. But discrimination denies some people access to opportunity and puts them in a defensive position. Discrimination sets our workplace, our community, and our world on edge. It’s unfair, unnecessary – and it’s also against the law.
In the U.S., anti-discrimination laws were enacted to promote fair treatment and equality of opportunity. The legislation gives all of us the right to be treated fairly. It also places responsibility on us to take action if discrimination occurs. Our university policies and regulations support the law. As employees we are expected to recognize, minimize, and prevent discrimination in all its forms.
Effects of Discrimination
Discrimination can have a serious and damaging effect on people’s lives. People may have difficulty finding accommodations or housing, or be excluded when they seek goods or services. In the workplace they may be denied a job interview because of their race or accent, or singled out for menial or boring work. They may be taunted or subjected to racist jokes or comments, or excluded by co-workers.
People experiencing racial discrimination often feel angry, afraid, humiliated, confused, depressed, or powerless. Apart from the effects on the individuals or groups of people who experience it, racial discrimination can have a much wider impact. It can create a stressful working environment, reduce productivity, and cause tension and conflict in the wider community. Racial discrimination is bad for everyone.
Examples of Racial & National Origin Discrimination
Most of us easily recognize blatant racial discrimination when it involves direct confrontation. But often, racial discrimination is not direct. It occurs whenever people are treated differently from others of a different race.
- A group of young Hispanic men are refused entry into a local nightclub because they do not meet the dress code. Later they see others being allowed in who are dressed in a similar way but are not Hispanic.
- An African-American woman is asked for rental references when others are not. A Middle Eastern man is told by a real estate agency that a rental property is no longer available, yet he still sees it advertised the next day.
- A Vietnamese man applies for employment with a large company and is refused. When he contacts the personnel manager about the decision, he is told that the company does not employ Vietnamese workers because they do not “fit in.”
All of these are examples of unlawful racial and national origin discrimination.
Who is Responsible?
The last example is direct discrimination based on race. If the incident happened at our university, who would be held responsible? Certainly the personnel manager who made the statement about “not fitting in” would be liable under the law. However, because employers are obliged by law to protect staff and clients from unfair discrimination, our university might also be liable for the behavior or statements of its employees or agents.
Our university policies and regulations demonstrate our commitment to prevention of all forms of discrimination. We educate our staff, especially managers and supervisors, about fair treatment for all. We take steps to remove or eliminate racially offensive materials. We examine our employment and working conditions to ensure that direct and indirect racial discrimination does not occur.
Discrimination Goes Beyond Race
Remember that discrimination, and the laws that protect against it, go beyond issues of race. In addition to race, it is against the law to discriminate against people because of:
- Sex (whether male or female), gender identity, or gender expression
- color or ethnicity
- marital status, whether married, single, widowed, divorced, separated, or living with someone as if they were married (de facto)
- parental status, including whether they are pregnant or breast feeding
- veteran’s status
- age, whether young or old
- impairment, including past or current physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities, injury, or illness (including whether they are HIV positive), or use a guide dog, wheel chair, or some other remedial device
- religion or spiritual beliefs
- political belief or activity
- trade union activity
- genetic information
- sexual orientation
What You Can Do
You can help our university prevent discrimination by upholding the law and our university policies and regulations. This duty begins with treating others fairly and taking responsibility for our own behavior. It continues with a commitment to speak out if you observe discrimination, or if you experience it yourself. Our university fully supports employees making complaints in good faith.
It is not easy to stand up to racist jokes, comments, or harassment. People experiencing racial discrimination or harassment may be afraid that others will say that they are “too sensitive” or “don’t have a sense of humor.” They may also fear that things will get worse if they complain. Anyone who is experiencing racial discrimination or harassment has the right to speak out and to be protected.
Discrimination in all forms is wrong. Anti-discrimination legislation makes it easier for everyone to have a fair chance. Be sure you understand your rights and responsibilities under the law and our university policies and regulations to make and resolve complaints about discrimination.