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How do Microaggressions Impact Employment Discrimination Cases?

By Dan Atkerson on January 16, 2017

What are Microaggressions?

You may not have heard of microaggressions, but you have certainly heard them. Examples of microaggressions include questions like “what are you?” and comments like “you speak English well” (to someone Hispanic).

Microaggressions aren’t usually intended to be discriminatory and may even be intended as compliments. That does not mean, however, that they do not negatively impact the lives of those whom they are directed towards. What one person views as an offhand comment can have a significant effect on another’s life.

Microaggressions cause disadvantaged individuals to feel excluded by perpetuating stereotypes against them. Furthermore, they have been shown to create a hostile work environment. There are laws in place to protect the disadvantaged from such forms of conduct. In employment discrimination law, Title VII prohibits subjecting an employee to a hostile work environment.

Though microaggressions may lead to a hostile work environment, they are rarely hostile in and of themselves. Title VII does not prohibit conduct that is merely offensive, and most cases of microaggressions fall into this category. Be that as it may, several microaggressions from one person (say a supervisor) towards one group of people could certainly influence the outcome of a case.

As of now, microaggressions are, for the most part, still not seen as a form of discrimination on their own in the court of law. Even if microaggressions might not stand alone as basis for an employment discrimination lawsuit, however, they could still be used to bolster a case.

Dan A. Atkerson is a Dallas employment lawyer who believes that no person should face racial or other types of discrimination in the workforce. He strives every day to help people fight back when this happens.

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