Systemic Racism in employment in Canada: Diagnosing Systemic Racism in Organizational Culture
This study looks at systemic discrimination in the workplace within a Canadian context. Both pre-employment discrimination or "access discrimination", and post-employment discrimination or "treatment discrimination" are considered.
The aims of this research were twofold. First, it sought to understand and document the personal experiences of people from varying racial minorities with respect to systemic discrimination in the culture of the workplace. Second, it developed assessment tools that identify this form of discrimination, either alone or in combination with sexism, in order to aid employment equity in the workplace. Consequently, two databases were created: one for human rights cases, and the other for transcripts from focus group interviews.
The first objective involved looking at two sources of data: cases brought before the federal and provincial human rights commissions dealing with complaints of racial discrimination from 1980-1998, and results from a series of focus groups with Asian, South Asian, Black or Native individuals. The focus group interviews were conducted separately for each racial minority group and were facilitated by a person of similar background. The groups considered only behaviours that were either witnessed or experienced by the interview participant and not opinion or hearsay. The data collected included the experiences of both men and women.
The second objective dealing with the assessment tools was accomplished by using the aforementioned material, namely, the human rights cases and the focus groups.
The analysis of human rights cases in Canada involving employment-related complaints on grounds of race found an increase in number of cases at the federal level from 1980 to 1998. The researchers suggest that this may be due to increased incidences or to an increase in the willingness of victims to come forward and complain. The researchers also found that in close to half of the cases, boards of inquiry ruled in favour of the complainants, with monetary compensation for pain and humiliation increasing in frequency. Dismissal, refusal to hire, and harassment were amongst the most prevalent complaints. In addition, a majority of the complainants were male and from white-collar jobs. While members of various racial minorities experienced this type of discrimination, complaints from Black employees were most numerous, followed by South Asians.
As a result of the analysis of human rights cases and focus group interviews, a draft survey questionnaire was developed which identified behaviours that members of racial minorities have experienced as racist or discriminatory. Examples of such behaviours that constitute barriers to equality are: creating a chilly or hostile climate in the workplace, limiting access or participation in work-related social interactions, or introducing bias into decision-making in performance appraisal, promotion, developmental activities, job assignment, and compensation. Experiences of discrimination differed among the four racial minority groups interviewed, as well as between men and women, and the assessment questionnaire incorporates this diversity. The assessment instrument contains three main sections: (1) information about the respondent, (2) questions about various aspects of the work culture, including the informal social behaviour that the respondent has observed or experienced in the workplace, and (3) behaviours that have been found discriminatory by human rights tribunal and courts.