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Are microaggressions a type of workplace discrimination?

A workplace should be a respectful environment that treats everyone equally while at the same time looking out for the needs of individual employees so that they can do their work as successfully and efficiently as possible. While most workplaces are supportive environments, some can be experienced as toxic or hostile, making one or many employees feel uncomfortable, stressed and isolated.

One way in which a workplace can become hostile or toxic is when another employee, manager or group of employees makes microaggressions toward another employee. Microaggressions, as defined by Dictionary.com are “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a member of a marginalized group, especially a racial minority, that is often unintentionally offensive or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.”

Microaggressions can be targeted toward any protected characteristic: They could be racial in nature, but they could also be targeted toward a person with a disability, a person of a certain sex or who has a certain religion. If you are suffering from microaggressions aimed at you in the workplace, the following are things that you may be able to do to assert your rights.

Take note of all microaggressions that you experience

Microaggressions are particularly problematic because a third party may not see it as an issue, since they have no first-hand experience of how the hurtful and isolating microaggressions can be. This can be frustrating to the person affected, and could even prevent them from speaking out. If an employee experiences many microaggressions over time, this could create a hostile environment, which, under the law, constitutes workplace discrimination. Therefore, you should make a note of every time you experience a microaggression so that you can refer to it later.

Use the law to your advantage

It is not your job to educate your coworkers on what is acceptable and appropriate behavior. Therefore, if you feel that they are dismissing your calling out of microaggressions, use the law to protect yourself. By claiming that microaggressions have created a hostile work environment, you may be able to gain compensation.

Taking action to file a workers’ compensation claim could be an empowering way to assert your legal rights in the workplace. Explore the options available to you under the law in Michigan.