Rutgers Report: Workplace Discrimination Still a Disturbing Reality

September 11, 2023

Discrimination based on one’s race and ethnicity is alive and well in the workplace, according to research out of Rutgers University.

Attitudes among workers today about divided workplaces are similar to decades ago,  so companies should use the new data as a reminder to do an assessment of their own atmosphere and policies, the research suggests.

In the nationwide survey of more than 3,200 full- and part-time workers, conducted by the John J. Hedrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, approximately one-third of Black workers, a quarter of Latino workers, and a quarter of Asian-American workers said that they have been treated poorly or unfairly in their current job because of their race or ethnicity.

Two-thirds of these Black workers believe the discriminatory actions have been intentional.

Workers of color mainly cited being treated as less competent, being assigned undesirable shifts or tasks, and earning less than a co-worker doing the same job.

“Many say they’ve thought about quitting because of their experience or witnessing what they consider to be discrimination because of race and ethnicity,” said Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center.

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Compared to white workers, Black workers are twice as likely (49%) to say that discrimination is a major problem in private workplaces.

“The percentage of white workers who feel that they’re being treated unfairly because of their race is very, very low,” Van Horn said.

Six in 10 respondents said they have clear non-discrimination policies at work. Most said they want to work for companies that actively speak out against discrimination, but fewer respondents said this is actually the case.

“The study’s findings provide evidence to support the mandate that employers must think critically about addressing the specific ways in which racial and ethnic discrimination experiences may manifest in their own workplaces,” said Ronald Quincy, senior fellow for diversity studies at the Heldrich Center.

Companies may need to reimagine the role of human resources and diversity, equity, and inclusive staff, Quincy said.

“Even for the country’s smallest businesses, these are top-of-mind considerations that will improve the workplace experience for workers of color in the United States,” Quincy said.

Surveys and interviews for A Divided Workplace in 2023 were conducted from July 2022 to April 2023. The survey sample included 605 Asian-American workers, 915 Black workers, 802 Latino workers, and 955 white workers.

NJ 101.5, September 11, 2023

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