Dealing with racism in the workplace

For as much progress as we have made as a society over the last couple of decades, unfortunately one particular plight has continued to mar our country with its ugly face.

Racism has been a constant source of discussion within our country, and even more so following the Brexit referendum. If just one member of our society is subject to discrimination and violence because of racism, our entire country is put under the spotlight. As ugly and heinous as racism is, unfortunately it is still not adequately addressed or responded to.

A persistent problem however unnoticed

Cases of racism are often overlooked by those not subject to its consequences. Unfortunately this is mainly due to a lack of education regarding the true nature and effects of racism and, of course, lack of exposure to the people that needlessly have to contend with the ugly nature of racism.

While some acts of overt bullying, violence, and discrimination based upon race are recognised by the public and condemned, at least by most individuals, far too often the more commonly seen aspect of racism is felt in silence as the subtleties, though not so subtle to those experiencing hateful discrimination, can go unnoticed or overlooked, especially within the workplace where some might excuse it as simple banter or a bit of fun.

For when it is a head of a department, CEO, or even co-worker exhibiting bullying behaviour because of ethnicity and race, few are willing to openly condemn the actions for fear of repercussions within their workplace. Even worse, some may not notice the discriminatory behaviour or even condone it.

Recognising and realising racism takes place in the work place

While overt displays of racism are quite difficult to overlook, the more prevalent but more subtle displays of racism can sometimes go unnoticed as racism in the workplace is unfortunately very much alive.

Being passed over for promotion for less qualified candidates or refusing employment to a job candidate are more than likely the real face of work place racism. Though that is not to say that every incident of being passed over for a promotion or never receiving a call back from a prospective employer is immediately the result of work place racism. This makes it quite difficult to recognise underlying racist intent but does lead us to the first way of handling racism within the workplace, opening up a dialogue.

Shine a light on the problem

As heinous and infuriating as it is to be reduced down to only one’s ethnicity, engaging in an open dialogue with people that hold incorrect assumptions about their neighbours and work mates is the best way of dealing with the problem. Sadly, much of racism comes from misunderstandings, lack of exposure, or just sometimes simple ignorance. By opening a dialogue and turning an awful experience into a teachable moment, the root problem can be addressed. This would be the ideal scenario for work place racism.

Sadly, more often than not, this is not the case, and for those instances in which the ideal situation does not apply, knowing your rights, and exercising those rights, is the only solution.

Know your rights and protect yourself from work place racism

First and foremost it is important to know as a citizen of the UK, you are protected against discrimination of any type in the workplace as the 2010 Equality act offers protection for a set of individual characteristics, of which race and ethnicity is explicitly stated.

Exercising that protection can take many shapes and forms, but more than likely if the person conducting themselves in a racist manner works for the same company, filing a complaint with the human resource department or lodging a complaint with direct supervisor is the best way to go about resolving the situation.

If you have been a victim of bullying in the workplace because of racism and even suffered violence you might want to seek legal advice as you could possibly claim compensation for bullying at work.

As most companies would like to avoid the legal problems that accompany ignoring discrimination and bullying, the appropriate departments should handle the matter quickly and responsibly.

What can be done if your employer does nothing?

If your employer is unwilling to handle the matter or even worse, decided to retaliate against you, either by dismissal, forced unpaid leave, or other disciplinary actions, unfortunately involving Acas and an employment tribunal is the only way to proceed.

Though it is important to note that there are several governances that must be followed in order to bring a valid claim before a tribunal.

Moving forward

Unfortunately, as a society this is still very much a conversation we need to have and are quite a distance from eradicating racism completely, though this does not mean it is to be tolerated in the time being. If your, or the rights of someone you know, have been violated it is necessary to take the proper steps in rectifying that injustice.