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What makes a workplace ripe for discrimination?

What makes one company or office a breeding ground for hostility and discrimination while others never have a hint of trouble?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asked this same question in an effort to identify workplace elements that lead to harassment. These are just some of the factors they found:

1. A lack of diversity at any level

A homogeneous workforce can create a mentality that excludes anyone who doesn't "fit the mold" with the rest of the employees. For example, an all male workforce may discriminate against and harass a woman who is added to the team. A place filled with mostly Hispanic workers may discriminate and exclude the first Asian employee.

Employers can reduce the problems they have with this issue by continually trying to diversify their workforce at all levels, including management.

2. Customers or clients who are allowed to behave inappropriately

Almost any industry that relies heavily on customer or client satisfaction is prone to this sort of problem, which is why restaurant workers and hotel workers often report the problem. Often, employees are encouraged to tolerate the abuse because management doesn't want to offend a paying customer, but that can set the tone that "anything goes" among both the clientele and the staff.

Employers can stop this sort of problem by backing their employees whenever there's an incident of harassment or discrimination -- even if it costs them a customer.

3. Inequalities of power

Some employers will ignore sexual harassment or acts of discrimination if the person acting inappropriately is highly valued or highly ranked. The elite employees may see themselves as superior to the rest of the staff, particularly support personnel who are tasked with assisting them. For example, the district manager of a company may regard his or her administrative aide as someone who is there just to meet his or her whims.

This is an issue that can only be met from the top down. Every employee, no matter what his or her status, should be held accountable to the same rules of behavior.

There are, of course, other factors that can lead to discrimination -- but management can put a halt to it by taking an aggressive, no-nonsense stance. If you feel that you were a victim of workplace discrimination and your employer didn't take any steps to stop it, you can find out more information from a local attorney.

Source: Infogram, "Workplace Discrimination Risk Factors," accessed May 10, 2017

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