Pretty much every day I fight employers who don't take discrimination seriously. HR people and management tend to think people who complain about discrimination are poor performing whiners. But discrimination is real, and it really happens in the workplace.
Not only can discrimination cost you money in lost wages and benefits, but now there are some studies saying discrimination can damage your health or even kill you. So, HR and management folks, please take discrimination complaints seriously. If you don't, you might be helping to kill one of your employees. And if you're a victim of discrimination, take action to report it.
Here are just some of the studies showing discrimination can kill you:
Weight discrimination can kill you: "Weight discrimination was associated with an increase in mortality risk of nearly 60% . . . This increased risk was not accounted for by common physical and psychological risk factors. . . . In addition to its association with poor health outcomes, weight discrimination may shorten life expectancy." This is pretty strong evidence that weight shaming kills. "These findings suggest the possibility that the stigma associated with being overweight is more harmful than actually being overweight," say the authors of the study.
Age discrimination can kill you: "Perceived discrimination was associated with increased mortality risk in a general population of older adults. The results suggest that subjective experience of interpersonal mistreatment is toxic in old age. This study adds to a growing literature documenting discrimination as an important social determinant of health."
Discrimination can cause cancer: Perceived discrimination may contribute to somatic disease. . . . These findings suggest that perceived experiences of racism are associated with increased incidence of breast cancer among US Black women, particularly younger women.
Discrimination can cause insomnia, smoking and poor eating habits: "After adjustment for age and SES, everyday discrimination was associated with more smoking and a greater percentage of dietary fat in men and women. . . . Everyday and lifetime discrimination were associated with fewer hours of sleep in men and women . . . . Burden of discrimination was associated with more smoking and fewer hours of sleep in women only."
Racism can cause illness over a lifetime: Racism in childhood can cause lower cortisol levels, resulting in insomnia, depression, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Bottom line: If you are the victim of discrimination, it may be killing you. Don't just sit there and do nothing. Report it to HR under your company's discrimination policy. Do it in writing because if you don't then they may deny you reported it. Make sure you say what type of discrimination it is: race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, or some other protected status. Don't just say you're being bullied or harassed, because then you aren't legally protected against retaliation.
If the company doesn't take you seriously, then contact an employment lawyer or file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. Don't let a bigot shorten your life.
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