Advocating For California Employee Rights

Why the prospect of a workplace return is stressful for people of color

On Behalf of | Jul 22, 2021 | Discrimination

For many people, having to work from home over the past year brought a welcome respite from workplace harassment, discrimination and microaggressions. BuzzFeed News surveyed 80 people of color and interviewed 10 of them regarding their feelings about working at home and returning to their workplaces.

A number said they were less than happy about returning to places where they felt ignored, excluded and/or undermined by colleagues and managers. Some said they hoped to be able to spend less than their full workweek in their workplaces.

Feeling judged and different

Several people talked about the things they’re sometimes asked to do that aren’t part of their jobs, like Spanish-English translations and providing input about whether something is culturally insensitive. As one Latina attorney says, “These are important conversations to have, but after having them 15 million times, it just kind of reminds you that you’re not really fitting in. … How many times can I tell people that you shouldn’t call people ‘illegals’?”

As one employee with an investment firm says, “Being a Black person in the office is difficult because every little thing you do is judged and possibly misread.” Several Black women said that they felt like they were constantly being judged in their workplaces – even if they left their desk to get a cup of tea. One says, “That whole feeling of people thinking you’re lazy, or that you don’t even work here, or how’d you get this job — yeah, I used to feel that.”

Remote working has brought peace

A common feeling shared by many of the employees was a sense of peace and lack of stress that they experienced when they didn’t have to work in a predominantly white workplace. One even said she could see it for herself on her Fitbit as her heart rate dropped.

Thoughtless comments, questions and microaggressions, like being mistaken for a janitorial employee, don’t necessarily rise to the level of unlawful discrimination. However, when allowed to continue, they can be reflective of a workplace where real discrimination can affect a person’s physical and emotional well-being and their ability to achieve their goals. That’s why it’s wise to know what your rights are and when you can and should look at your legal options.