In some cases, discrimination in the workplace is driven by very deliberate bias. A person clearly feels like others of a certain ethnicity, age, gender or religion are less important than others and acts against them.
However, workplace discrimination is not legal, and many people are not so overt with their intentions. That doesn’t mean that discrimination does not occur. It may just take a different form, such as unconscious bias.
This type of bias is something that happens automatically, without the person even actively thinking about it or meaning to discriminate. The brain just makes a snap judgment and the person thinks differently about others as a result. They don’t realize they’re doing it, but they are. It’s based on their background and the past experiences they have had, in many cases.
For instance, maybe your boss hired a college student five years ago and had a bad experience. The worker was not dedicated, did a poor job and soon quit. When you got hired right out of college, your boss automatically assumed you would be the same and treated you differently as a result — even though you are nothing like that other worker.
If taken far enough, this could be a clear case of age discrimination. That’s illegal. Your boss may not even realize that they’re doing it, though, just passing you over for promotions or giving you a low pay rate because they naturally “feel” like it’s the right thing to do.
If you are discriminated against on any grounds, from age to race to religion, make sure you know what rights you have.