Racism in the Workplace

#1

I want to tell you about my cousin. She worked for one of the oldest law firms in the UK (which, for my own legal protection, shall remain utterly nameless). She is a qualified solicitor, and was qualified before joining. She worked there nearly a year, but not quite.

One day, between juggling client work, she was called by her boss in the office. There and then they sacked her, with no explanation necessary, although they did say, she ‘wasn’t a good fit’. All her previous appraisals were glowing, and this was the first of her knowledge about ‘not being a good fit’. It turns out, from a legal point of view, she has no leg to stand on. In the terms of her contract, they can sack her for whatever, whenever, within a certain period, and not explain themselves.

Now, this law firm services super-posh people, i.e. the royal family. She, is an arab, although she is white. The partners of this firm spend there time going to the cricket, and talking about their public school rugby days.

Now, I’m not saying there’s racism involved here, and neither is anybody else, but I bet secretly that might have been the cause.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you there’s no racism in the work place. It happens everywhere.

#2

That’s totally outrageous. She could really use some audio recording evidence of discussions prior to her sacking.

Believe it or not, racism is still commonplace within the recruitment proceedures of many top companies. For legal reasons again, I can’t tell you who wouldn’t hire a Scottish guy because they “didn’t like Scots. Don’t send any more Scots” or who dismissed a great on paper candidate within 5 minutes because “they wouldn’t have fit into the team”. They happened to be Asian. The firm happened to be a very posh London retailer.

It’s not all doom and gloom though… many companies operate very strict policies on hiring from a mix of cultures and ethnicities, which sometimes the best candidates don’t get hired so that race quotas are filled…

…so on second thoughts, perhaps it is all doom and gloom!

#3

Well, I am white, male, heterosexual, mature and non-Russell group/Oxbridge. I think there has been discrimination against me on the basis of each of those attributes at one job or another since graduating from bar school in 2009, but I cannot say for sure, and it would be a waste of my time to dwell on them. My view is that it is unlikely that prejudice plays a bigger part than competence and merit in hiring and firing decisions, but that it is almost impossible to do anything about the decision-maker’s discrimination if it does. When you peel away the accusation of racism, sexism, or whatever, competence and merit usually lies at the heart of such decisions. However, while there are people in the world willing to assign their failure to get or keep a job because they perceive they are the victim of discrimination, those individuals are unlikely to do anything about the real reasons for the failure and not compete as well as they could - which is good for me in a highly competitive jobs market.