There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: racism has no place in the professional work setting. Whether it’s a direct racist act rooted in maliciousness or an offhand, casual racist remark made out of ignorance, racist behavior of any kind should never be tolerated, and always confronted and dealt with.
Please be advised, however, confronting a coworker about racism is an extremely sensitive matter that needs to be handled with care. If you react in anger or frustration, you may be the one who gets in trouble, no matter how in the right you are. Therefore, if you find yourself face to face with a racist coworker, it’s best to resolve the issue in a discreet and professional manner. Here’s how:
Respectfully Confront the Coworker
Believe it or not, the coworker may not be aware that their actions are being perceived as racist by other employees. Give them the benefit of the doubt and confront them privately in a respectful yet firm manner. Tell them in clear and direct language that you find their remarks offensive. Ideally, the coworker will feel embarrassed, apologize for their behavior, and walk away with a valuable lesson.
If It Doesn’t Stop, Start Taking Notes
If the coworker fails to cease their racist behavior even after you confront them, start keeping a log. Record the dates and times of each incident, as well as the names of witnesses (if applicable). If the coworker sends you racist notes or emails, keep them. Basically, document everything to do with the coworker’s racist behavior and in as much detail as possible.
First, consult your employee manual to determine to whom to report the misconduct. This will often, but not always, be your immediate supervisor or someone in Human Resources. Whatever the case, be sure to provide copies of the aforementioned log to whomever you report to. Wait a week or so for a response. If there is no response and the coworker’s behavior doesn’t change, report to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Get a Lawyer
Legally an employee cannot be fired or otherwise retaliated against for filing a report to the EEOC. However, you should retain an experienced employment discrimination lawyer from Wilshire Law Firm just in case. We can help you submit all EEOC paperwork on time and, if necessary, file your complaint with the court and serve a copy on your employer or anyone else named as a defendant.