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Don’t be like Ronny – lets rule out discrimination in the workplace

Sitting in a team meeting last week, discussing car allowances and dealing with some concerns over a stagnation of payment of these, employee Ronny (* not his real name) openly remarked that his line manager, who was standing in the room at the time the comment was made, would not have the same issues with his car allowance as the rest of the team, as his salary was much higher than others and stated that it was more than likely that, his line manager, Cyd (*also not his real name) was being paid a much higher percentage than anyone else in the room.

This resulted in a number of co-workers jumping on the proverbial bandwagon, jeering and laughing at Cyd in what appeared to be good-natured teasing, in agreement with Ronny. After it was pointed out that this type of comment was insensitive and inappropriate, Cyd removed himself from the meeting.

This particular team has a history of singling out co-workers for comparison or reference during meetings. Previously, the same employee, Ronny, during a discussion about medical aid benefits related to a certain medical aid company which offers discounts on gym memberships, singled out a colleage, this time, female, “joking” that she would need to chose the gym option saying that she needed to go to the gym more than others in the group, eliciting a similar response from the team.

Discrimination in the workplace is alive and well.

Singling out anyone in such a personal manner, making reference to their salary, benefits, their personal status or physical requirements, borders on workplace bullying and should be nipped in the bud immediately. While it might feel light-hearted and non-offensive to some, consider what it must feel like to be the person on the receiving end of these remarks? Discrimination comes in all shapes and sizes and subtle or not, it cannot be permitted within the workplace.

During a briefing in March 2021, Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi introduced the idea that company’s will soon enjoy limitations on the number of foreign nationals they will be able to permit to be employed within their organisation’s. Foreign nationals are already openly discriminated against in South Africa, regardless of their permit status, as they bear face homophobic attacks on an on-going basis. During the height of the pandemic, foreign nationals reported that food packages, funded by business and government for those who were left destitute during the lockdown, were provided to South Africans only. 

When an applicant, a trans-female, who happens to be 1 of 7 candidates applying for one of five available positions, scores the highest score on the pre-employment examination and meets the education requirements required for the inherent function of the position, but is not successful in her application, it is easy to make the assumption that she simply is not welcome in the company for reasons related to that other than her suitability for the position.

The Employment Equity Act promises to set the goals and targets for each industry and sector, public and private entities yet there appears to be a distinct lack of attention to details when it comes to protecting the actual rights of disadvantaged employees on the coal face. Lets rule out Discrimination in the workplace