The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, conducted a comprehensive study in November and December 2022 to explore workers’ perceptions and experiences of racial and ethnic discrimination in the workplace. The study involved 3,277 full- and part-time U.S. workers representing various racial and ethnic backgrounds. Here, we discuss the study’s key findings, define workplace discrimination, and explore the relevant laws in New Jersey.
Understanding Workplace Discrimination
Workplace discrimination refers to the unjust or discriminatory treatment of employees based on their race, ethnicity, or other protected characteristics. It encompasses various actions, including unfair treatment, bias, harassment, and exclusion, which can impact an individual’s career and well-being.
The study reveals alarming statistics about workplace discrimination in the United States:
Perceptions of Discrimination: Many Asian-American, Black, and Latino workers believe that racial and ethnic discrimination occurs in private-sector and government workplaces.
Racial Disparities: Black workers are twice as likely as White workers to view workplace discrimination as a significant problem in private companies.
Gender Disparities: Black female workers report higher levels of discrimination than other races, ethnicities, and gender identities, generally and in their workplaces.
Unconscious Bias: A substantial percentage of workers, regardless of race, believe that unconscious bias contributes significantly to workplace discrimination.
Impact on Career: Workers of color are more likely to report experiencing situations like being treated as less competent, earning less, and having undesirable tasks assigned.
Retaliation Concerns: A substantial percentage of Black and Asian-American workers fear retaliation after reporting discrimination.
Impact on Success: Racial and ethnic discrimination adversely affects workers’ career advancement, with Black and Asian-American workers experiencing more obstacles.
Support for Anti-Discrimination Laws: Most workers support laws protecting against discrimination in hiring and promotions based on race and ethnicity.
Diversity and Inclusion: Most workers believe diversity and equity are essential and want to work for companies that actively combat racial and ethnic discrimination.
Workplace Discrimination Laws in New Jersey
New Jersey has several laws in place to combat workplace discrimination:
Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD): The NJLAD is a comprehensive law prohibiting discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and other protected characteristics. It covers all aspects of employment, including hiring, promotion, and harassment.
Equal Pay Act: This law requires employers to provide equal pay for substantially similar work, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA): CEPA protects employees who report workplace discrimination from retaliation.
Family Leave Act: This law allows eligible employees to take family leave without fear of discrimination.
Anti-Retaliation Protections: New Jersey law prohibits retaliation against employees who report or oppose racial or ethnic discrimination.
Affirmative Action: Employers contracting with the state must comply with affirmative action requirements to promote diversity and inclusion.
Workplace discrimination remains a significant issue in the United States, with racial and ethnic disparities affecting employees in various ways. New Jersey has implemented laws and protections to combat discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion. However, the study highlights the need for employers to address unconscious bias, improve reporting pathways, and actively demonstrate a commitment to diversity and non-discrimination in the workplace. Collaboration between labor unions, advocacy groups, and employers is essential to create sustainable pathways to address workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.