We go to work to earn a living, but we also want to know that we are equal members of a team, adding value to the world we live in. Words like “diversity” and “inclusion” are frequently repeated in corporate trainings, but despite the many legal and moral implications, people still experience discrimination, harassment, or mistreatment in the workplace. Speaking out against sexism, racism or bigotry is sometimes more difficult than living through it. Raising your voice alerts people to ways their words and actions harm others. In response to your objections, people can react in ways that are agitated, defensive, and uncomfortable, and they can perceive your message as disruptive to the status quo, a place which may be comfortable for them.
In the context of race discrimination, University of Washington social scientists Robin DiAngelo writes: “[W]hen racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is ‘wrong,’ and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color).” White Fragility, 3 Int.l J. Crit. Pedagogy, at 60 (2011). “This blame results in a socially-sanctioned array of counter-moves against the perceived source of the discomfort, including: penalization; retaliation; isolation; ostracization; and refusal to continue engagement.” Id. at 61. Retaliation can be illegal.
Your voice matters, and your good faith objections to workplace harassment or discrimination may be protected by State and Federal laws prohibiting retaliation. If you feel like you have observed workplace discrimination because of your race, sexual orientation, or gender, and your employer fired, demoted, or otherwise penalized you because you spoke up, Teller & Associates may be able to help.