Topic 10: Protected Class Bias


Topic 10 requires that students have an understanding of protected class groups in the workplace and learn how discrimination of these groups is illegal and in many instances unethical. There are many real-life cases in the empirical research and professional literature of discrimination which have led to the creation of all the laws and mandates that protect these groups of employees in the workplace. As students examine these scenarios, it should be with the understanding that laws and mandates to do not eliminate discrimination. Only changed behavior and actions of leaders and employees can help eliminate workplace discrimination.

Culture of Disbelief

Ben arrives at least 20 minutes before his work shift. In his 15 years working for the company, he has never been late. He also has a spotless disciplinary record. Ben is the only Black male working in a lab full of women. There are only two Black women working in the lab, the remaining 10 women are white. Ben tries his best to keep a low profile because he understands the southern culture in the community where he works and does not want to be perceived as offending the white women with whom he works. He knows, from witnessing the experiences of other Black males, that the company where he works has a culture of disbelief when  it comes to accepting the word of a Black male when he has to defend himself against the word of a white woman.

Ben would do anything requested of him, on the job, by his peers an supervisors. One day one of the white women told one of the Black women that she had observed Ben staring at the Black woman a little too long. Therefore, she decided to turn Ben into human resources and accuse him of sexual harassment through 3rd person sexual harassment. The Black woman never saw Ben looking at her inappropriately neither did the supervisor. HR representatives spoke with Ben about the report and Ben quit his job without saying anything to anyone. Upon hearing that Ben had quit, many of the employees were upset and angry at the woman that reported Ben to HR. The supervisor learned, from HR, that no negative action was taken against Ben.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can the supervisor do to improve the work environment?
  2. Why do you believe Ben quit?
  3. What could have been done to prevent Ben from quitting?
  4. How can a company get eliminate a culture of disbelief?

Culture of Inaction

Mary and her colleagues have reported situations of covert racism through all avenues available to them throughout their organizations for the past 20 years. They have watched as those in positions of leadership note that they have been told of the situations, but there have been absolutely no visible changes in the treatment that Mary and her colleagues have received from their supervisors. In fact, the treatment has consistently worsened. None of the young Black employees will stay beyond a year with the organization beyond a year, if that long, because of the culture inaction displayed by leadership. It is futile to report anything perceived as discriminatory, so Mary and her colleagues have remained silent abut any ill-treatment. They have chosen to just go to work, do their job, and go home. The productivity in the company has significantly deteriorated because of the high turnover and low morale of employees. There is very little camaraderie among employees.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can an organization do to change the culture into a culture of action instead of inaction?
  2. Why do you believe the younger workers are leaving and the older workers choose to stay?

Supplemental Readings

Bampton, R., & Maclagan, P. (2009). Does a ‘care orientation’ explain gender differences in ethical decision making? A critical analysis and fresh findings. Business Ethics: A European Review, 18(2), 179-191.

Banks, C. H. (2006). Career planning: Toward an inclusive model. In M. Karsten (Ed.) Gender, race and ethnicity in the workplace, (Vol. 3, pp. 99-116). Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

Barnes, C., & Mercer, G. (2005). Disability, work, and welfare: challenging the social exclusion of disabled people. Work, Employment and Society, 19(3), 527-545.

Bowe, F. G., McMahon, B. T., Chang, T., & Louvi, I. (2005). Workplace discrimination, deafness and hearing impairment: The national EEOC ADA research project. Work, 25(1), 19-25.

Brandt, A. M. (1978). Racism and research: The case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Hastings Center Report, 8(6), 21-29.

Knapp, D.E., Faley, R.H., Ekeberg, S.E., & Dubois, C.L.Z. (1997). Determinants of target responses to sexual harassment: A conceptual framework. Academy of Management Review, 22, 687 -729.

Share This Book