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Casual Discrimination in American Workplaces

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins

A study examined how political views and other factors impact office dynamics.

  • 65% of hiring managers felt it was important to know a candidate's stance on racial equality, while only 32% cared about political leanings.
  • 69% of hiring managers looked through a candidate's social media presence to learn some of their views.
  • If an employee is an avid Trump supporter, they will likely be joked about, as 28% said they witnessed someone at work ridiculing a fan of the president.

In our increasingly divided America, it's easy to place each other into "us" and "them" categories. Whether based on political views, sexual orientation, race or some other factor, discrimination is still a problem facing the country. To understand how such differences affect small businesses, a recent study examined how American workplaces are impacted by political and social turmoil.

Released earlier today by Airtasker, the study polled 204 hiring managers and 805 employees about whether they had witnessed any discrimination, gossip or layoffs at work.

Researchers found that not only was workplace discrimination alive and well in 2019, but having certain stances could result in someone becoming a social pariah or not getting the job at all.

Viewpoints and trying to find a job

Despite the current worker-friendly job market, potential candidates have many things to consider when trying to market themselves to a new employer. While your outward appearance and resume will always matter in the hiring process, researchers found that other factors could play a part in determining whether or not you're chosen for the job.

Among the hiring managers polled about the hiring process at work, 65% said it was important to know a candidate's stance on racial equality, and 59% said the same for gender equality. LGBTQ+ rights (54%), immigration (38%) and politics (32%) also placed highly.

Those five issues were so important to some respondents that they admitted to rejecting applicants based on those topics. Among this group, 29% said they turned someone down because of their stance on racial equality, 27% did so for gender equality, 22% did for LGBTQ+ rights, 18% for a candidate's political stance, and 16% for their thoughts on immigration.

Given how divisive some of those issues are in the current political conversation, they are certain to be discussed on social media. According to the data, 48% of respondents said they wouldn't hire a qualified candidate if they were prone to political rants on social media. To that end, researchers found that 69% of this hiring set of respondents said they look through a candidate's social media presence to learn more. Of the most popular platforms, Facebook was the most common at 91%, with Instagram (62%), Twitter (56%) and LinkedIn (55%) rounding out the list.

"I feel it is important to keep politics out of the office as much as possible," a 49-year-old male respondent told researchers. "We look through prospective employees' social media to see if they are overtly vocal and outlandish in their views, not to weed out the ones we don't agree with. We need everyone to get along and work as a team."

Consequences of political talk

Sometimes, a person's political views land them in personal and professional hot water, even though 78% of respondents said their workplace didn't have a policy on discussing politics. The most extreme case of this is when someone gets laid off as a result, which is legal in most of the United States.

According to the survey, 41% of employees felt they had been let go in the past because of their "identity, beliefs or physical appearance," rather than how they did on the job. While those feelings are hard to shake for those involved, researchers found that just 21% of managers said they fired someone based on their "strong, controversial opinions" on racial equality. Firings had also been made based on gender equality (18%), LGBTQ+ rights (16%), smoking and vaping habits (15%), and opinions on the current immigration issue (12%).

While getting fired is the most extreme result of sharing your thoughts on a matter, the more common response is usually being interpersonally or professionally ostracized. According to the survey, 44% of people witnessed their co-workers discussing another person's clothing choices, while another 42% said they chatted about someone's political views behind their back. Other people opted to talk about someone's sexual orientation, gender or race, though at much lower rates.

Among those who felt that their views negatively affected their experience at work, 14% said they felt like they were being treated differently because of their political views, while 13% said the same for their gender identity and 12% for their race or ethnicity.

Regardless, only 27% of people said they spoke up against something they witnessed that violated anti-discrimination laws.

The Trump factor at work

President Donald Trump evokes strong emotions along party lines. For Trump supporters, life at work has reportedly become more difficult. According to officials, 28% of respondents said they witnessed their co-workers joking about a Trump supporter in the office. Approximately 23% said they saw people being overly critical of their right-leaning co-workers, and the same percentage reported seeing people "making assumptions about [the Trump supporter's] character." Roughly 13% said they noticed their Trump-supporting colleagues were excluded from social situations.

When it came to hiring, 57% of managers who identified as politically right-leaning said they would hire a candidate who supported Trump. That's in stark contrast to left-leaning managers, of whom only 24% said they would hire that same candidate. It's important to note, however, that 56% of left-leaning managers said it didn't matter who a candidate supported, compared with the 35% of right-leaning managers who said the same.

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins,
Business News Daily Writer
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I am a former newspaper editor who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.