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Microaggressions & the Workplace

May 15, 2020 Legal Team

Whether you like or dislike your job, you should never feel as though you are being treated unfairly at work. While schools and colleges have policies and complaint procedures for harassment and discrimination, these are known as microaggressions in the workplace.

A microaggression is generally considered any verbal or nonverbal behavior that intentionally or unintentionally targets a person based on a certain characteristic or marginalized group membership. Below, we discuss microaggressions in the workplace and what you can do if you believe you are experiencing them at your job.

Examples of Microaggression at Work

Microaggression can be caused by a superior, such as a supervisor or employer, or by a coworker. Keep in mind that a microaggression doesn’t have to be something ill-intentioned. A person you work with can do or say something that degrades you, even if they did not intend it to come off that way.

However, just because they did not intend it to be an insult or degradation does not justify their actions in behaving a certain way.

Some examples of microaggressions at work include:

  • Telling someone they “seemed” or “looked” gay or transgender

  • Asking a person who looks of a different race, “Where are you from?”

  • Telling a person of color that they are “very articulate”

  • Someone clarifying a woman’s verbal message with, “What she means to say is that…”

What Can You Do About Microaggressions

Offensive comments or other behaviors that fall under the category of microaggressions cause a potential liability for employers, who are required to take the steps necessary to identify and avoid microaggressions in the workplace.

Before it escalates to any of this, employers can take steps to foster a work culture that welcomes everyone who works there, regardless of what they look like, who they are, or where they come from. Here are some ways that employers can help protect microaggressions at work:

  • Define diversity at work. This term is not just about race or ethnicity, but it’s also about gender, sexuality, age, socioeconomic status, among many other factors.

  • Understand the problem. Employers should understand why their team is how it is. Take a look at the similarities between workers. Are they all the same age, race, and gender? Have past employees who don’t fit into this mold left after a few years? This may show that a workplace is not fostering a diverse or accepting culture.

  • Change the hiring process. Once employers have assessed the diversity of their current employees, they can expand their search and change the way they hire.

  • Foster an inclusive work environment. After bringing more diversity to a work team, it’s important to make it stay that way and not go back to what it looked like before. Educate the team and address issues without bias.

Contact an Employment Law Attorney

You should not have to put up with any kind of hostile or discriminatory behavior at work because you think you have to. You also have the right to not feel anxiety just going to do your job. Never leave your job because of microaggressions at work before speaking with an employment law attorney first.

If you believe your workplace is a hostile or uncomfortable work environment because of microaggressions, you have legal options for making it right. Our employment law attorneys can help you file a claim and hold your employer accountable for allowing a potentially toxic work environment to grow instead of taking the proactive steps to fix it.

Want to learn more about your legal options? Contact Aegis Law Firm at (949) 379-6250 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.