You may be working in a hostile environment where discrimination is common, even if you don’t get fired or see any other overt signs of discrimination. The things that people say matter, and they can create this hostile environment by making discriminatory comments, insulting you and generally just treating you differently than they would other employees.
For instance, someone may make lewd jokes around you that are derogatory to your gender. Or they may make comments about your religion when they know that you’re close enough to hear, even if they’re talking to someone else. Perhaps they’ll talk with other employees about how someone your age can’t be a productive part of the team. There are many different examples of this type of discrimination.
If you ask them about it, one thing they may tell you is that they were just joking and that you’re taking it too seriously. Don’t accept this as an excuse. This is still discrimination.
An uncomfortable workplace
Whether they were joking or not is up for debate. You may think they weren’t and they’re literally just using it as an excuse. But even if they were genuinely joking, this type of behavior is unacceptable. It creates an uncomfortable workplace where not all workers feel like they are equally valued and respected.
This can be a problem when it happens between co-workers, but it’s especially a problem when it happens between supervisors and those that they’re in charge of. If your supervisor is making comments or jokes about how you are inferior to the other employees, you know you’re probably not being treated fairly in all sorts of other ways. Maybe you’re getting written up for things that other employees are allowed to do or maybe you’re getting passed over for promotions. These “jokes” are just the tip of the iceberg.
So what can you do?
Many employees assume that they just have to put up with discriminatory behavior. But you do have legal options. If you’ve lost your job, seen your hours cut, watched promotions go to other workers or just had to endure day-to-day discrimination, make sure you are well aware of the steps you can take.