The disturbing new findings about discrimination at work

Sixty-one percent, or about three in five employees responding to a Glassdoor survey, reported they have either witnessed or experienced discrimination involving age, race, gender or LGBTQ identity in the workplace.

Harris Poll conducted the global survey in July, attracting responses from 1,100 U.S. employees. While 45% experienced or witnessed ageism, 42% pointed to racism; another 42% encountered gender discrimination and 33% observed or experienced LGBTQ discrimination at work.

“This survey is really shining a light on this issue,” says Carina Cortez, chief people officer at Glassdoor, a global job and recruiting site. “This is a wakeup call for employers and managers, leaders and employees, that we need to do something about it.”

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The 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Study also revealed more disturbing results. Employees in the U.S. reported witnessing or experiencing the highest percentage of discrimination compared to those in the U.K. (55%), France (43%) and Germany (37%). Likewise, 50% of younger U.S. workers between the ages of 18 and 34 experienced or witnessed discrimination at work, compared to 29% who were 55 years of age or older.

Cortez suspects the reason is because younger workers are more aware of or educated about discrimination–they know what it looks or sounds like, can name and label different types of discrimination and are better informed about how to report such incidents and access company resources to help remedy them, she says.

More than half of respondents (55%) also believe their company should do more to increase diversity and inclusion efforts.

“This is a huge call to action,” Cortez says. “We need to face it head on, force the conversation [about discrimination] and make sure people feel comfortable having this dialogue.”

At Glassdoor, which supports 1,000 global employees, she says, HR actively encourages feedback and dialogue among employees, has instituted a company-wide diversity speaker series that dives into real employee experiences and educates employees on available internal and external resources. Cortez also spends a lot of time with employee-resource groups, listening to and addressing their needs.

The company’s Economic Research Study, also conducted earlier this year, revealed that there’s a 30% increase in hiring for diversity- and inclusion-related jobs. She believes that’s an indicator that employers are fostering more transparency and action planning around workplace discrimination.

Still, there’s more HR can do.

“This isn’t something we can hide behind,” Cortez says, adding that many companies also support ethics hotlines for employees to anonymously report incidents of discrimination. “While there’s definitely less tolerance in the workplace for discrimination, we can’t [continue] to let this happen.”


Carol Patton
Carol Patton is a contributing editor for HRE who also writes HR articles and columns for business and education magazines. She can be reached at