Coronavirus Triggers Workplace Discrimination

By John D. Winer

Coronavirus Triggers Workplace Discrimination

The coronavirus, COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of our workplaces and has increased the potential for discrimination based on xenophobic fears and social stigma towards certain people.

As the deadly virus spreads across the globe, coronavirus is causing widespread panic in every facet of life, including our jobs. People of Asian descent, especially Chinese-Americans are reporting an increase in racism as they find themselves subjected to suspicion and fear.

The behavior is being reported around the world but is especially harmful and damaging for American employees who experience occurrences of discrimination in the workplace. It’s critical that managers and HR professionals quickly address these issues and discourage this type of behavior from creating a toxic work environment. Part of that includes dispelling myths and factually incorrect information that people of Asian descent are not more likely to be infected or are the cause of spreading COVID-19.

It doesn’t help that some of the messaging out of Washington appear to blame China for the spread of coronavirus. According to the Washington Post, President Trump refused to denounce a White House staffer’s reported use of the phrase “Kung flu” to describe the coronavirus in a conversation with a Chinese-American reporter for CBS.

If you are experiencing discrimination by co-workers or supervisors are steps you can take to protect your rights.

Focus on facts not emotions: While experiencing discrimination is extremely painful, it’s important to remove the emotional elements and concentrate on the facts. Feelings and hunches don’t make a case. You’ll need concrete facts and details to prove a pattern of behavior.

Document the behavior: Make a record of the discriminatory behavior by keeping a detailed journal of the offensive actions. Make sure to include the time, date, location and names of the people who witnessed the behavior. Your notes should include a description of what happened and how you responded to the incident.

Report the discrimination: If the offensive behavior is repeated, report it to your HR manager. Your employer is required by law to investigate the incidents promptly. If you don’t receive any response from your employer, you may consider contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which is a federal agency responsible for overseeing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. Getting the government involved in your case will likely get the attention of your HR department.

Prepare for retaliation: According to the EEOC, most retaliation cases involve a worker who made a complaint. If you experience continued harassment, demotions or are terminated you should contact the EEOC.

Workplace discrimination happens to people of all races and genders and is more common than most people think. Inappropriate behavior frequently happens at work but not all inappropriate behavior warrants legal action.