Workforce Treatment and Discrimination in Workplace

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Introduction What is Discrimination? Discrimination is the prejudicial and/or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, "in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated. It involves the group's initial reaction or interaction, influencing the individual's actual behavior towards the group or the group leader, restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group, leading to the exclusion of the individual or entities based on logical or irrational decision making. Discriminatory traditions, policies, ideas, practices, and laws exist in many countries and institutions in every part of the world, even in ones where discrimination is generally looked down upon. In some places, controversial attempts such as quotas have been used to redress negative effects of discriminationbut have sometimes been called reverse discrimination themselves. Work discrimination is defined here as unfair and negative treatment of workers or job applicants based on personal attributes that are irrelevant to job performance. The nature of work discrimination has been addressed in literature pertaining to oppressed groups such as women; ethnic minorities; people with disabilities; and lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. There is a lack, however, of a framework that integrates the various conceptualizations of work discrimination. In response to this deficiency, I discuss and integrate into a three-dimensional model some important conceptualizations of work discrimination. A review of literature suggests that work discrimination is multifaceted. Brown and Ford (1977) discussed two kinds of work discrimination: "access" (discrimination during hiring, such as denial of job offer or lower starting salary) and "treatment"

(discrimination after the person is hired, such as promotion or salary-raise decisions). Chojnacki and Gelberg (1994) identified four levels of work discrimination: (a) overt (presence of explicit formal and informal discriminations), (b) covert (presence of discrimination in the absence of a formal antidiscrimination policy), (c) tolerance (presence of formal antidiscrimination policy, but lacking informal support), and (d) affirmation (presence of both formal and informal support). Chung (1998) suggested another dimension of discrimination: direct versus indirect. Direct discrimination refers to discriminatory practices against individuals who are known or presumed to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Indirect discrimination refers to a discriminatory or hostile work atmosphere experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers whose sexual identities are neither known nor presumed to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Figure 1 presents a three-dimensional conceptual model of work discrimination that extends the aforementioned frameworks.

Workplace discrimination occurs when any individual who is in a protected classification received adverse employment or hiring treatment as a member of that group. Workplace discrimination is forbidden by law for such characteristics as gender, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, and in employment decisions Two conceptual models are proposed in this article--one for work discrimination and the other for discrimination coping strategies pertaining to lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers. The work discrimination model includes 3 dimensions (formal vs. informal, potential vs. encountered, and perceived vs. real). The coping strategies model outlines methods that deal with potential and encountered discriminations. It includes vocational choice and work adjustment strategies; the latter are further categorized under identity management or discrimination management strategies. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons may be considered "sexual minorities" because of the pervasive prejudice, social oppression, and discrimination against them (Croteau, 1996; Elliott, 1993; Hetherington, Hillerbrand, & Etringer, 1989; Morgan & Brown, 1991). Many individuals justify their discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people on the basis of biased biblical interpretations or stereotypes that accuse these populations of being mentally ill, perverts, and child molesters (Levine & Leonard, 1984). Work discrimination has been a major topic in the rapidly growing literature concerning vocational issues of lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons (e.g., Croteau, 1996; Croteau & Hedstrom, 1993; Driscoll, Kelley, & Fassinger, 1996; Elliott, 1993; Fassinger, 1995, 1996; Griffin, 1992; Hetherington et al., 1989; Levine & Leonard, 1984; Morgan & Brown, 1991; Orzek, 1992; Pope, 1995, 1996; Worthington, McCrary, & Howard, 1998). As a contextual factor, it significantiy influences career development and decision making of such populations. In addition, researchers are

interested in studying the coping strategies used by lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons in dealing with work discrimination. Although different scholars have discussed various conceptualizations of work discrimination and coping strategies, a comprehensive conceptual framework that provides an integrative perspective is lacking. Such integrative conceptual models are much needed to guide future theoretical and empirical work, as well as career counseling with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients (Chung, 1995; Lonborg & Phillips, 1996). The purpose of this article is to propose conceptual models about work discrimination and coping strategies pertaining to lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. These models were developed by integrating related theoretical and empirical work in vocational psychology literature with new conceptualizations. After presenting these two models and their relation, implications for counseling and research are discussed.

Formal Versus Informal The first dimension is based on Levine and Leonard's (1984) framework suggesting two forms of work discrimination: formal (institutional policies and decisions such as hiring, firing, promotion, salary decisions, and job assignments) and informal (interpersonal dynamics and work atmosphere, such as verbal and nonverbal harassment, lack of respect, hostility, and prejudice). The aforementioned framework by Chojnacki and Gelberg (1994) may be subsumed under this dimension because their four levels of work discrimination can be treated as combinations of the presence and absence of formal and informal discrimination. For example, their overt level means the presence of both formal and informal discriminations, whereas tolerance level means the presence of regulations against formal discrimination, but lacking informal support. In addition, Brown and Ford's (1977) access and treatment discriminations may be subsumed under formal discrimination. The framework of formal discrimination is based on institutional policies and decisions regarding hiring, firing promotion, salary deductions and job assignments. In contrast, the informal discrimination deals with interpersonal dynamics and work

atmosphere such as verbal and non-verbal harassments, lack of respect, hostility and prejudice ( and , 1984). The second dimension involves the potential and encountered

discriminations. The former deals with actual discrimination in sexual orientation disclosures, for example. The latter refers to encountered discriminatory practices. However, the distinction between the two is subjectivity and objectivity viewed from neutral terms (, 2001). The third dimension is derived from the concept occupational opportunity structures of (1980): the ideal, real and perceived discriminations. In ideal, there is no discrimination. The comparison between perceived and real discriminations varies from perception of individuals. The neutral situation may be interpreted and misinterpreted as a discriminatory practice where in fact, the situation is just a result of misconception/misperception.

Disability Discrimination Not everyone with a medical condition is protected by the law. In order to be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and have a disability as defined by the law. A person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:

A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).

A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).

A person may be disabled if he is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because she has a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when a covered employer or other entity treats an applicant or employee less favorably because she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is controlled or in remission) or because she is

believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even