Discrimination in its most general form is the differentiation among persons for the purpose of making decisions about those individuals and can occur on the basis of legitimate factors (e. g. , merit or potential to perform a job). The primary concern of this paper is with the discrimination that can occur against persons on the basis of characteristics that are inappropriate and irrelevant bases for employment decisions (e. g. , group membership). This document deals with the discrimination that can occur in their treatment once they are employed and enter the organization.
Discriminatory treatment includes the formal procedures used not only in selection, appraisal, compensation, placement, promotion, training, and working conditions but also in the more informal and subtle forms of discrimination, such as social exclusion. In this article, the issue of employment discrimination that is well-intentioned and malicious, conscious and unconscious, legal and illegal, and related and unrelated to meaningful criteria of success is explored.
Regardless of the form it assumes, however, the effect is the same. One group of persons is placed at a disadvantage on the basis of group identity, social category, stigma, or ascribed characteristics relative to other groups with comparable potential, performance, or proven success. THE ISSUE OF EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION The disadvantages suffered by racial, religious, and ethnic minorities in the competition for jobs and steady work have been a subject of increasing public concern in this country over the past century.
During this period numerous Federal, state, and local government agencies have been established for the purpose of combating job discrimination and promoting equal employment opportunity for all persons and groups (Barrett, 1998). The efforts of these agencies have been directed principally toward ending employment against women and minorities, by long odds the nation's largest and most disadvantaged groups.
Despite the proliferation of such agencies, however, and despite the significant results achieved by a few of the longer-established state and local bodies, discrimination in employment over the country as a whole has not been substantially reduced. Moreover, the women and minorities' discontent with the treatment accorded them in the job market, far from diminishing, has steadily increased throughout the period.
With the recent rise of a massive protest movement among the nation's women and minorities, the spread of the revolt against job discrimination has reached an all-time high. This movement, which actually began with several sporadic group actions in the middle 1950s but did not take on the character of a mass uprising until five years later, is unique in American social history (Dipboye and Colella, 2005). An overwhelming number of employment discrimination problems decided by legislators, judges, and labor arbitrators have dealt with racial and sexual bias.
For that reason, the racial discrimination impacting blacks and women will serve to highlight the influence that the issue has on individuals, organizations and the society as a whole, forming the historical background and macro context of employment discrimination found in today's workplace. IMPACT OF ISSUE ON INDIVIDUALS, ORGANIZATIONS & SOCIETY For the individual, the issue of employment discrimination influences affective reactions.
As Noon and Ogbonna (2001) demonstrated, categorization in terms of group membership rather than individual identity evokes greater feelings of fear and lower levels of trust in interactions with others. General anxiety may be aroused in inter-group settings for a number of additional reasons, such as unfamiliarity with group members, hostility, self-presentational concerns, and distrust (Sims, 2002). The general evaluative, cognitive, and affective processes form the foundation for the development of more differentiated responses toward specific groups.
These general tendencies translate into more specifically defined stereotypes and differentiated emotional reactions (Shum and Moss, 2002). Employment discrimination creates a foundation for developing general biases; stereotypes and differentiated inter-group emotions provide specific mechanisms that influence the degree and form of discrimination toward particular groups. Discrimination against women in the workplace has forced many women, in effect, to allow their jobs to dictate the timing and terms of their childbearing and child care.