Table of Contents
Every company has a responsibility to foster a healthy work environment. Indeed, all employees should feel safe and secure whenever they come to the office without fear of being bullied or harassed. As per The Federal Government’s Fair Work Act, no employer should ever take adverse action based on an employee’s age, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or any physical or mental disability, among others.
Unfortunately, many Australians still experience daily acts of discrimination. Some may be afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs, while others feel powerless and unable to fight back. In some cases, employees may not even be aware that they’re being discriminated against. They may have been conditioned to believe that the discriminatory acts are normal or even necessary in the workplace.
If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable in the office and don’t know what to do, worry not. Always remember that under the Fair Work Act, it is your legal right to lodge a complaint against any individual who bullies or harasses you at work. This gives you a possible course of action for whenever your work situation starts to become intolerable.
However, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have enough grounds to take legal action or not. To help you identify instances of discrimination in the workplace, here are four warning signs to look out for:
A Questionable Interview
Work discrimination can become apparent as early as your first interview. Think back to the questions that the interviewer asked. Were there any questions that were inappropriate or otherwise imposed a negative stereotype onto you?
Of course, there may be times when an interview segues into a friendly conversation about your personal life. However, there are certain questions that interviewers are prohibited from asking.
Generally speaking, interviewers cannot ask questions about matters such as marital status, pregnancy, financial status, religion, and disabilities. They are also not permitted to ask proxy questions, which are worded with the intent of having the candidate reveal some personal information about themselves.
While some may not think much of these questions, these types of interviewers are likely to continue behaving inappropriately even after they’ve hired you.
A High Turnover Rate
Have you noticed that your company seems to be recruiting new employees all year round? Are your co-workers resigning one after the other at an alarming rate? Does it seem like high-performing co-workers suddenly decide to quit without any warning or reason?
A high turnover rate could indicate that employees are unhappy about their experience with the company. While it’s true that most people have a certain degree of tolerance for imperfect work environments, it is unusual for a large number of employees to leave a company not long after they were first hired.
While you may not necessarily be directly affected, unfair work practices can cause a negative domino effect in any workplace. Hence, it’s best to stay alert and be mindful of any potential problems that may inadvertently affect you if you choose to stay there.
Unfair Assignments or Promotions
Employees who experience discrimination may be assigned less important tasks, which greatly hinders their opportunities for growth and advancement. Without a record of meaningful tasks to their name, they’ll likely be seen as unqualified for a promotion.
Another discriminatory tactic you should be aware of is being given an impossible workload. By making sure you’re assigned tasks that you cannot accomplish even with your best efforts, you’ll end up appearing incompetent at work. This may be used against you during your performance evaluation, making you seem unfit for bigger responsibilities at work.
If any of these discriminatory tactics are happening to you, try to gently bring it up with your supervisor and ask for more or less challenging tasks. Should they refuse, you may escalate the issue to HR.
Alienating and Demeaning Communication
Pay attention to how other people at work converse with you. While it’s normal to occasionally slip up and say something hurtful by accident, what’s important is how the person acts after the fact. Do they quickly catch themselves and apologise for the error? Was it only a one-time incident, or do they repeatedly speak to you in a degrading manner?
If any of your co-workers make an offensive joke at your expense, try your best to speak up against it. Should you feel that it’s unsafe to confront them directly, make sure to course the issue through your supervisor (if applicable) or to your HR Department.
These are just a few examples of how discrimination can happen at work. Keep an eye out for any instances like these, and make sure to document them for reference. If the problem persists despite repeated attempts at getting the attention of HR or your employer, then it may be time to formally lodge a complaint.
When you do so, be sure to get the assistance of an experienced law firm such as MKI Legal. They’ll be able to help you navigate the technicalities of the Fair Work Act and will do their utmost to fight for your rights in court.