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Discrimination and Stereotypes in the Workplace

Info: 2834 words (11 pages) Law Essay
Published: 8th Aug 2019

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Jurisdiction(s): US Law

In the business world of today, there are many employers that claim to be “Equal Opportunity Employers”.  This means that the company pledges to its applicants that their employees are treated without regard to race, religion, sex, color, age, national origin, physical or mental disability.   This pledge encompasses employment, promotions, transfers, recruitment, compensation, and ensuring a work environment that is free of harassment.   In order to maintain such an environment, employers must provide training and resources to enhance diversity awareness of these issues in the workplace.

In the scenario with the hiring of a new human resource manager, the employer has interviewed a candidate who has the necessary skills and background for the position.   But for some private reasons, his coworker feels that the person may not be fit for this position.   Although there is the fact that the candidate has the necessary experience and education, this is a sign of social bias or stereotype.

Moreover, there still exists another negative phenomenon in the workplace, this is discrimination. Despite everyone also agree that there is no place for discrimination in business world of today, not every people knows laws or regulations which can protect their rights and help them to avoid discrimination.

In this assignment, discrimination and stereotypes in the workplace will be discussed to find the original reasons of such phenomenon and offer some potential solutions for these one.

Theory about discrimination and stereotypes:

Discrimination (1)

Most of countries in over the world make laws to regulate equal opportunities aiming to create a ‘level playing field’ so that people are employed, paid, trained and promoted only because of their skills, abilities and how they perform their jobs.

Discrimination is happened when an employer treats one employee less favorably than others or that employer treat unfairly to one employee. It could mean a local employee being paid less than a foreign colleague for doing the same job, or a female employee being refused the training opportunities offered to a male colleague.

There are some reasons leading to the phenomena of discrimination at workplace:


Marriage or civil partnership

Pregnancy and maternity leave

Sexual orientation




Cultural background


Religion or belief

Economic class


Gender, pregnancy and maternity are illegal for an employer to employees on the basis of discrimination. It is discrimination if someone said that black people are dirty, the women are not good at counting and pregnant women should not be required to work overtime because it can affect to their health. Another example of this case is the inequity in paying for women doing the same work with men. Women also have fewer opportunities for promotion than men.

Ethnic, religion, disabilities are characteristics that employers or employees have to bear for unfair treatments from their colleagues. Most of government in over the world made laws to protect employees and employers from acts of discrimination. An example of this case is the discrimination against Muslim people. After the 11/9 incident, the whole Muslim Community was suffering from the prejudice and stereotype of the larger American population. Muslim employees were suffered discrimination everywhere, from public place (school, job, market…) to their own community (by the white Americans living among them). The main characteristic of the conflict between white Americans and Muslim community was the generally misunderstanding of the white Americans about the Indian community (Sikh) due to their clothing are alike to those wear during the 11/9 attacks (Muslims veil). The Indians, as well as others Muslims look-alike, were suffering during this period of time.

If you are treated unfairly but it is not for one of the reasons listed above, it may be that you are being bullied. Bullying should never be acceptable in the workplace, find out what you might be able to do about it.

About the types of discrimination, we can distinguish into 4 types:

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination is pretty straightforward in most cases. It happens when you’re dealt with unfairly on the basis of one of the grounds (compared with someone who doesn’t have that ground) and in one of the areas covered by the Act. For example, a female candidate with the best qualifications and experience does not get an interview, but a male candidate with less qualification does.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination that takes place in the situation whereby the effect of certain requirements, conditions or exercises enforced by an employer has an adverse impact disproportionally on one group or other. For example, an employer who requires staff to commit to working from 8pm to 11pm every evening indirectly discriminates against women, who are more likely to be primary cares of children, unless this can be objectively justified as above.

Indirect discrimination is illegal if it cannot be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. For example, a company policy requiring all employees to read and write English fluently when this is not needed for all jobs within the company.


The standard definition for harassment can take many different forms conduct on the grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation etc. It is commonly sympathized as behavior intended to disturb or upset. In the legal sense, it is behavior which is found threatening or disturbing. Not all workplace harassment is illegal. For instance, allowing displays or distribution of sexually explicit material or giving someone a potentially offensive nickname.


An employee is separated because of using her workplace complaints procedures or exercising about discrimination. For example, bringing a complaint of discrimination or giving evidence or information on behalf of another employee who has brought proceedings for discrimination. An employee will not be protected if they have maliciously made or supported a complaint that is false.

Stereotype (2)

Stereotypes are as old as human culture itself. Stereotypes are often bewildered with prejudices. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified grouping conceptions based on some prior premises.

Stereotypes can be either positive or negative, but they are all unfair and misleading. Some of the ppossible prejudicial effects of stereotypes are:

Justification of ill-founded prejudices or ignorance

Unwillingness to rethink one’s attitudes and behavior towards stereotyped group

Preventing some people of stereotyped groups from entering or succeeding in activities or fields

Stereotyping effects can fluctuate, but they are almost negative and not always apparent until long periods of time have passed. Furthermore, some victims of negative stereotypes display self-fulfilling prophecy behavior, in which they assume that the stereotype represents norms to compete. Negative effects may include forming unfaithful opinions of people, scapegoating, erroneously judgmentalism, preventing emotional identification, distress, and impaired performance. Stereotyping distressingly reminds those being judged of how society views them.

Some typical wrongful stereotype examples around the world:

African stereotype:  Television, books, comic strips, and movies are all abundant sources of stereotyped characters. For much of its history, the movie industry depicted African-Americans as being unintelligent, lazy, or violence-prone and all African Americans outside of the United States are poor. As a result of watching these stereotyped pictures of African-Americans, for example, prejudice against African-Americans has been encouraged.

In the America:

Latino people are stereotyped as needing handouts through welfare and private charity, being Roman Catholic; they are having many children, and being present in the US illicitly. The stereotypes say that they rarely finish high school and cannot speak English well.

Native Americans, on one hand, can be seen as acutely environmentally conscious, spiritual, wise, loyal, or with extraordinary skill in hunting or tracking. On the other hand, they may also be portrayed negatively, as indigent, drunk, violent, or implacable enemies.

By the end of the 20th century, the stereotypes said that black Americans were poor, lazy, ignorant, criminals, and violent, and occasionally ardent adherents of Christianity.

East Asian: East Asian people, who are stereotypically presented as being smart, and particularly talented with mathematics. A common negative stereotype of East Asians is that they are poor drivers who hold up traffic or cause accidents. Moreover, East Asians are stereotyped that they much esteem men than women; women are not allowed to go to school and cannot hold important position in their society.

However, the most popular stereotyping all over the world is gender stereotype. Gender stereotyping leads to wage discrimination, and specifically, the negative effect they have on women in the workplace environment. In the research of US Department of Labor, in 2005, on the average, the wage of women is only 81 percent of men’s wages. These statistics do not derive from various salaries form different job positions that men and women hold, instead, the result come from a survey shows of salaries that men and women earn for the exact same job position and the exact same job obligations. One of the reasons that why women are paid less money for the same work, is that women are paid based on gender stereotypes. Besides that, gender stereotyping also leads to resulting discrimination in employer hiring, firing and promotional practices. A recent study shows that one of the reasons that women do not get promoted to such powerful professional positions is because stereotypes in the workplace pose “serious challenges to women’s career advancement or women are not strong-growing enough or they are not as good at solving problems. Furthermore, gender stereotyping also leads to sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. These types of behavior can lead to uncomfortableness, lose job and forced surrender. Stereotypes against pregnant women and mothers, such as “women just want to be moms and don’t want long term jobs,” and “women don’t devote as much time to work when they have children,” also lead to discrimination against women in the workplace. It is an usual situation of women’s pregnant temporary leave, then come back to work and be forced to work in a less prestigious and low paid position whether she wants or not.

Discrimination and stereotype conflict in the workplace:

Coca Cola in USA

In April 1999, the Coca-Cola Company was sued by four current and former African-American workers for racial discrimination under the US Civil Rights Act. On behalf of themselves and 2200 similarly colleagues who supposed that they suffered discrimination in pay, promotions and performance evaluations, the complainants provided statistics showing their average salary was one-third less than whites in the company. African-Americans had advanced to senior levels were very few in the company, compared to the significant representation ones among all salaried employees. The Coca-Cola Company was argued of fail to prevent and remedy this discrimination by the plaintiffs.

In 2000, Coca-Cola had to pay $192 million which was the largest settlement of companies’ racial discrimination around the world at this time. In the settlement agreement, Coca-Cola disclaimed accusation, but agreed to change its staff policies and procedures. Furthermore, with the approval of the court, Coca-Cola and the plaintiffs’ lawyer chose an outside panel, which was the Task Force, to limit authority to revise the company’s personnel policy. The Task Force supervised in 5 years and was charged with evaluating Coca-Cola’s compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement. Finally, Coca-Cola was appraised as “mission has been a success” and “made significant process” in the report of the Task Force in December 2006.

We can see that people are progressing in the area of equal opportunity. This is how the world changes one company at a time.

Sexual harassment in China

A human resources manager in Sichuan, a southwestern Chinese province, named Liu Lun hired Chen Dan, who just graduated college, into his office and asked her to be his girlfriend. When she refused, he grabbed her neck and kissed her so strongly. Other employees heard and called police. Chen Dan escaped.

Another case was in Shanghai, Xiong Jie says that she accompanied her foreign manager after a company dinner, he suddenly kissed her. When he apologized, Xiong forgave him – until he did it once more time, she protested and he fired her then.

Whilst Xiong searched for a new job, Chen Dan filed suit, using the 2005 amendment to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, which recognizes women’s right to arbitrate or litigate cases of sexual harassment and to seek legal or judicial aid in case of financial difficulty. Chen became the first to win a criminal case using the amendment in July 2008 and Liu Lun went to jail 5 months.

Stereotype in workplace:

As observing above, women usually are objectives of sex stereotyping in workplace. For example, women in the United States historically have been socialized as passive, deferential, and soft-spoken, while men have traditionally been socialized to be aggressive, emphatic, and dominant. During the past 20 years, society has experienced dramatic cultural and social changes that have challenged traditional gender prescriptions. Nonetheless, years of socialization have left many managers and employees, consciously or unconsciously, clinging to sex stereotypes based on antique attitudes. In a recent of survey by Fortune (Ferman 1990), 81 percent of CEOs recognized that women are barred from reaching the top forces of corporate America because of sex stereotyping and gender preconceptions. Vietnam also is a typical example of sexual stereotype. There are 18 ministries in Vietnam Government. Yet, there is not any woman working in role of a Minister.

Solutions: 6 solutions

People have to be responsible for working to avoid teaching stereotypes or wrong prejudices to children. Parents and teachers, made aware of their own prejudices, may work to modify their behavior to encourage lower levels of prejudice in children;

Expanding knowledge to help people learn from things that they do not understand. To do so, people will be more patient in considering their quest so that Stereotypes will be eliminated from the workplace;

Set up a clear regulation in corporation so that any action relating to discrimination or stereotypes will be fined strongly;

Media also must be responsible. They have to usually send strong educational messages to increase people acknowledged to remove discrimination and stereotypes in the workplace;

To prevent discrimination at workplace, government has made so many different laws that both employers and employees have to study such laws to protect themselves from discrimination.

To avoid a hostile work environment, people should organize a conference for both employers and employees to discuss about the topic how to prevent discrimination at workplace.


In the last few years, we can easily see that the phenomenon of discrimination and stereotype in the workplace has decreased. However, they still exist in reality and develop into complicated type. Managers have to safeguard against discrimination or stereotypes in his or her workplace.

Dealing effectively with discrimination is a twofold process: become knowledgeable with regard to antidiscrimination laws, and pay close attention to what’s happening in your company.

Everyone in an organization performs a function, from the Kitchen Assistant to the Managing Director.  If an individual can’t respect the job someone else is doing, then it’s a subtle form of discrimination. We are all the same – therefore we should treat each other in the same way. This is the easiest way to remove discrimination and stereotypes in the workplace.

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