Advice on How to Advocate for a Coworker Who May be Facing Workplace Discrimination

If you suspect that a coworker is the victim of discrimination at work, the best way to handle it is to talk about it candidly and directly.

If a manager is doing it, raise the issue with him or her in a professional manner when you see it. If, for example, you see your manager shifting assignments, and you suspect he is taking work and responsibilities away from a person because of his or her age, gender, race, sexual orientation or religious affiliation, you should talk to the manager about it.

You should question the supervisor as to why he or she is taking an action that appears discriminatory, for example, shifting work that a person is most qualified to handle and moving it to other people. It could be that the manager is new and is making some changes, as many new people do. Or perhaps the supervisor has assigned other work to the person in question that you are unaware of. Or there could indeed be prejudicial motives behind the moves.

Some may advise that the best course of action in situations like this is just to mind your own business, but if racism is involved, you cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. You need to confront it and help out your coworker.

Why You Should Help

First of all, it is simply the right thing to do. You would want help if the discrimination was directed against you. Beyond that, racist attitudes that influence decision making can have a corrosive effect on employee morale and productivity. It can also negatively impact the reputation of the company, influencing the firm’s ability to attract and retain good people and establish a diverse workforce.

Discrimination can take various forms – harassment, demotion, even termination. If you do help a coworker facing discrimination, your employer cannot legally take any retaliatory action against you. If they attempt to retaliate, your best course of action may be to hire an attorney.

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