The Dark Side of Organizational Behavior

By Ricky W. Griffin; Anne M. O'Leary-Kelly | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Subtle (and Not So Subtle)
Discrimination in
Organizations

Robert L. Dipboye, Stefanie K. Halverson

Not so long ago unfair discrimination in the workplace was open, tolerated, and even encouraged. Blatant discrimination against women and minorities, the disabled, and older workers only began to diminish to a substantial degree in the United States after the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. After three decades of enforcement of these laws, the workplace has become more open and tolerant. Nevertheless, a variety of groups continue to suffer from unfair treatment in the workplace despite laws, court decisions, and social pressures against discrimination. In this chapter we focus on discrimination against four groups: racial and ethnic minorities, women, older persons, and the disabled. A fifth group, gays and lesbians, is not covered here because it is the focus of another chapter in this volume. Differential treatment is not necessarily unfair but becomes unfair when it is based on “attributes irrelevant to judgment of a person's competence or worth” (Piper, 1993, p. 293) and is “selectively unjustified” (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986, p. 3). Consistent with these views, we define unfair employment discrimination as occurring when persons in a “social category” (Jones, 1986), persons with a particular “group identity” (Cox, 1993, p. 64), or persons with certain “ascribed characteristics” (Messner, 1989, p. 71) are put at a disadvantage in the workplace relative to other groups with comparable potential or proven

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