How to challenge workplace discrimination

Even when you know you're in the right, it may be difficult to report workplace discrimination. Victims of discrimination often fear being penalised, fired or subject to other repercussions. If workplace discrimination is not challenged as soon as it occurs, history is likely to repeat itself. Whether observed or experienced, you have an obligation to speak out against discrimination.

Write down the details of the incident or incidents exactly as you remember. Document dates, times, locations and any exact discriminatory words or actions or possible witnesses. Print and retain a hard copy of the complaint.

Read over the human resources policy at your workplace. Understand the specific steps required for documenting and reporting workplace discrimination--this may vary between jobs and between states.

Know that under federal law, one may not be discriminated against at work on the basis of race, colour, national origin, sex, religion, age or disability. Realise that the same laws have not been passed in every state to protect variations in sexuality or gender expression.

Understand the definition of workplace discrimination, which occurs when a person or group of people are treated unfavourably at work in regards to firing, transferring, promoting, benefits and other situations.

Move past the fears of being blamed, not being believed, getting in trouble or losing your job. Know that you are protected by federal law when reporting workplace discrimination, even if the ruling is not in your favour.

Report the incident verbally or in writing to your direct supervisor. Report the incident to another manager or the human resources department if you cannot, for any reason, speak to your supervisor about it.

Follow up on your report. Know that the company must immediately investigate the complaint and hold the HR department to this policy. Know that your complaint and the investigation must be kept confidential by fellow employees, supervisors and management whenever possible.


Know your company's HR policy in detail before you make your complaint. Whenever possible, follow the traditional chain of command to prove that you mean to report the incident in a calm and respectful way.


If the issue is serious, do not confront the person directly. Wait until there is a third party in the room. Resist gossip and only tell the members of management that can help you solve the problem objectively.

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About the Author

Michael Monet has been writing professionally since 2006. At the San Francisco School of the Arts, he studied under writers Octavio Solis and Michelle Tea, performed his work in Bay Area theaters and was published in literary journals such as "Paradox," "Umlaut" and "Transfer." Monet also studied creative writing at Eugene Lang College in New York and Mills College in Oakland.

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