Many employees may not know what “microaggressions” are and how they relate to a happy and healthy work environment. The standard definition of a microaggression is a verbal or nonverbal slight that impacts an individual who might identify as being from a marginalized or non-mainstream community. The microaggressions can be intentional, meaning that the person doing the act is purposefully trying to hurt or insult the target. In many circumstances, though, the microaggression is unintentional because the person doing the act doesn’t even know that they are being insulting. In fact, the actual term “microaggression” is becoming phased out for a description that more accurately describes what’s happening. Nowadays, many people call it “subtle acts of exclusion” or SAE. The problem with microaggressions or SAEs, other than the obvious, is that they can grow into something more when microaggressions become harassment. The NYC employment law attorneys at Ricotta and Marks are here to help you when you are facing illegal harassment at work.
What Are Microaggressions?
Microaggressions or subtle acts of exclusion can come in three distinct ways:
- Microassaults: These are intentional and deliberate insults that were known and meant to do harm to the target person. Examples could be abusive language, clutching or moving a purse or bag when you’re around certain people, or posting offensive signs or pictures intentionally. Other examples are jokes that mock a specific race with stereotypes, physically challenged people, or gender identity jokes.
- Microinvalidation: This is probably the most common form of microaggression and one that most people do not realize they are engaging in. Microinvalidation is when someone attempts to discredit or minimize the experiences of a person who is from an underrepresented group. It happens when someone’s experiences and problems are minimized or lessened, merely because they are from a marginalized group.
- Microinsults: These are rude, insensitive comments that subtly disrespect a person’s racial heritage or identity. Examples of a microinsult is assuming someone isn’t smart or doesn’t have the “right” kind of morals based on how they look. Another example is making comments that someone doesn’t belong in a certain area merely because of how they look or what language they speak.
There are many examples that marginalized people experience on a daily basis that fit within one or several of the above groups. Here are a few examples of microaggressions:
- Following someone around a store because you think they’re going to steal something.
- Eye rolling when someone mentions feeling invalidated.
- Turning away from or avoiding someone altogether.
- Scheduling meetings or events that conflict with religious observances or obligations.
- Ordering food for events and not considering the dietary restrictions of others.
- Only allowing certain people to work on high-visibility projects.
- Saying things like a certain black employee is articulate in his or her speech.
When Microaggressions Become Harassment
If an employee rarely experiences a microaggression, this probably would not rise to the level of harassment that could justify the filing of a lawsuit. If the microaggressions, however, are blatant and persistent and occur on a regular basis, this could justify the filing of a lawsuit claiming a hostile work environment.
If you are facing microaggressions or SAEs on a constant basis at work, you don’t have to deal with this alone. The experienced hostile work environment lawyers at Ricotta and Marks are here to answer your questions and to help you fix this problem. Everyone deserves to work in a fair and comfortable workplace and not have to suffer through a hostile work environment. Help is only a phone call away.