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Understanding systemic discrimination

If you work in Texas, you may benefit from learning more about systemic discrimination in the workplace. A July 2021 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a massive study and concluded that illegal systemic discrimination was concentrated among a select set of large U.S. employers. Systemic discrimination, or institutionalized discrimination, involves a method of discrimination that is inherent in the workplace and creates disadvantages through interactions and processes based on characteristics like gender, race or disability.

Systemic discrimination at work

Systemic discrimination is often subtle in an organization’s practices and policies. The NBER study found that 20% of the employers involved in systemic discrimination may be responsible for nearly half of all lost contacts. Systemic discrimination perpetuates disadvantages that broadly impact the profession, the industry, the public and other companies in the geographic area. Systemic practices often involve discriminatory barriers in hiring, recruitment or gaining access to management and other high-level positions.

Identifying systemic discrimination

Systemic discrimination occurs when qualified women are excluded from traditionally male-dominated fields of employment. Another form of employment discrimination occurs when pre-employment inquiries are unlawfully used to discriminate against the disabled. Systemic discrimination may be involved when reduction in force and retirement benefits are used to alienate employees by age. Yielding to customers’ preferences resulting in discriminatory assignment or placement may also qualify as systemic discrimination.

Fighting systemic discrimination

Often, systemic discrimination involves consistently offering lower wages to specific demographics. Systemic discrimination can also be defined by the impact on the ability of the business to meet the demands of the relevant legislation or the ability to perform its role. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers involved in systemic discrimination may face compensatory and punitive damages ranging between $50,000 to $300,000 depending on the number of people employed.