It’s taken a long time, but people in this nation are finally having substantive conversations about what it means to have privilege — and what it means to be marginalized. In the wake of several different movements and social upsets, more people than ever have pledged to be allies to people of color, disabled people and other marginalized groups.
It’s important to understand, however, that being an ally doesn’t just mean educating yourself on diversity and inclusion, it also means bravely using the privilege you have to defend those without it. This includes taking action when you witness workplace discrimination.
Your voice may have more power than you know
If you witness discriminatory behavior, you can be a real ally by:
- Speaking to your targeted co-worker: They may feel entirely alone, so knowing that someone else is aware of what happened and supportive can be very helpful. Just remember to respect their boundaries if they don’t want to talk about it or take any immediate action.
- Speaking to someone higher up the ladder: If the discrimination came from another co-worker, you can approach your manager. If it came from the manager, you may need to go to the person above them or to your human resources department. Explain what you heard and saw and raise your concerns.
- Speaking to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): If your concerns are dismissed (or you’re threatened in some way and told to be silent), you may need to file a complaint with the EEOC. You can even do so anonymously.
- Speaking up in court: Finally, make sure you document everything you see or hear that is discriminatory in nature, and all the steps you took to address the problem. Be prepared to testify if the issue ever goes to court.
Workplace discrimination is real, and it’s wrong. If you or someone you care about has experienced workplace discrimination, you can fight back.