One struggle people in California might encounter in the workplace is the issue of subtle discrimination or harassment. While it may be easy to identify overt speech and action, this can be much more difficult when the discrimination is harder to pinpoint.
Examples might include someone who keeps staring at a pregnant woman’s belly, a man who refuses to make eye contact with a female colleague or someone who looks at a minority employee whenever race is mentioned. It can be difficult for both an employee and a human resources department to determine whether discrimination has occurred when the issue is how one person looks at another. Unfortunately, this can still create a situation in which a person feels uncomfortable in the workplace.
The employee faces the additional challenge of communicating with human resources about the situation and getting the company to take it seriously. In some cases, the interactions may be innocent. For example, some people are simply not comfortable making eye contact with anyone. However, it is still important for employees to feel that the lines of communication are open. Human resources can also do trainings that teach about concepts such as unconscious bias and other subtle forms of discrimination. Colleagues may help by stepping in when they see something they think is inappropriate.
One advantage of reporting these types of actions to human resources is that it starts the process of documentation in case the situation escalates. People who are dealing with either subtle or overt discrimination or harassment at work may want to document the incidents themselves as well as report them. An attorney may be able to help a person decide how to proceed both in reporting the discrimination and in taking the next steps if the workplace does not investigate the complaint or retaliates against the person reporting discrimination.