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Lack of Diversity, Discrimination Can Cause Mental Health Issues, Study Notes

A story in today’s Legal Industry News by KCJ News Service states that many minority workers ‘feel discriminated against’

Employment law developments to promote diversity in the workplace may not be having the desired effect, as many people from minority backgrounds still feel they are being discriminated against, it has been claimed. According to a study by Business in the Community (BitC), the majority of individuals from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups believe they have been overlooked for promotion at least once.

Basically, the study found white British workers average almost four promotions during their careers, compared with 2.5 advancements for those of African, Indian or Pakistani descent, while many staff members from minorities feel they have a lack of support from their managers.

“The survey highlights evidence of racial discrimination, with African and Caribbean workers particularly feeling discriminated against,” the BitC report stated, with one in four African workers and one in seven from the Caribbean saying they have been treated unfairly.

Recently, it was stated by the Mental Health Foundation that discrimination is also a problem for people who suffer from mental health issues.

Makes sense to me. We still aren’t “there” when it comes to diversity. Just a few days ago, I posted a story about a major university in Missouri that refuses to ensure students receive diversity training. What are these professors afraid of?

Is it really a wonder that this can become a mental health issue for some people?

In my new eBook, Cashing In On Diversity, I tell a true story about a recent California Supreme Court decision involving an experienced engineer who went to work for a giant corporation (the kind of company that one would think comprehends and practices diversity).

This engineer knew that going into a high-tech job would mean working in a youthful company, with fewer older workers. But he didn’t expect mistreatment he received by younger workers, including his boss, who immediately started called him names like “fuddy-duddy” and “old man,” he alleged.

The engineer, who had worked successfully for years in major corporations, was suddenly being taunted with words, including “slow,” “fuzzy,” “sluggish” and “lethargic.” Employees allegedly called him an “old guy” and stated that his ideas were “obsolete” and “too old to matter” and that his knowledge was “ancient.”

They allegedly joked that his office placard should be in the shape of an “LP” (i.e. a vinyl record) rather than the customary (then current music format) “CD.” For several years this inappropriate behavior progressed, the engineer alleged, and after a time, when his job was taken away, he left this company, but then sued for age discrimination.

While the case had not been settled at the time I read about it, the court issued a unanimous decision that could make it more difficult for California employers to win summary judgment in certain discrimination cases involving potentially discriminatory comments.

In fact, California courts must now evaluate such “stray” remarks together with all other admissible evidence to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of discrimination for a case to proceed to a jury trial.

This decision reaffirms that employers must do more than simply maintain policies preventing discrimination and harassment. They must take steps, including training of supervisors and non-supervisors alike, to ensure all employees are aware of such policies and the risk of liability posed by potentially discriminatory comments, in any context. In other words, they must learn to manage their company’s diversity.

This story left me wondering who raised these young employees to show such meanness and hostility toward an older, experienced co-worker? Did any professors ever discuss diversity at their schools? Or multiculturalism? Good manners? And what kind of managers and CEO led this company? Had they ever experienced any leadership education?

The failure to raise someone who tolerates people who are different, or who values the very skills and experiences others may have to offer, no matter how “different” they appear to be, has to land somewhere.

Someone failed these employees quite miserably, either their parents, teachers or employers. Perhaps all of the above tried and failed. I hope this book will help fill in gaps that are apparently missing for those who behave in this way and for others who tolerate or encourage this misbehavior, as well.

We are a diverse nation filled with people of many sizes, shapes, ages, religions and sexual preferences — people with missing limbs, stutters, mental challenges and so many other differences.

But too many of us still do not always recognize that all people are deserving of equal treatment. Or that even with “differences,” nearly all of us still have something to contribute, if allowed to participate. As the battles heat up at school and at work, and as the civil rights lawsuits keep piling up, isn’t it about time to change?