Working From Home: Employees May Face Discrimination From Participation in Videoconferences

When a business holds meetings remotely using video conferences, some employees who participate in the meetings might face two forms of discrimination – inequities during the video conference and unfair judgment in the future because of personal details revealed by the meeting. A Washington employee rights attorney can help you evaluate your legal rights and options if you feel that you face discrimination from participating in video conferences when working from home.

Discrimination During Video Conferences

Overt discrimination can happen during virtual meetings, in that the host or other participants might interrupt or disrespect a participant because of factors that amount to discriminatory practices. Just as some people feel comfortable engaging in hateful commentary on social media that they would be unlikely to express to a person’s face, some employers and employees show less hesitation about being rude and unprofessional in Zoom meetings than they would in an in-person conference at the office. For example, in a video conference:

  • A person of color might not get an opportunity to state an idea or opinion without someone else barging in and stealing the “floor.” 
  • An older worker might get ignored because some younger employees consider the person irrelevant.
  • A person with an alternative lifestyle might get treated with disrespect because of a co-worker’s prejudices.
  • Differences in conversation styles can lead to some people losing the opportunity to be heard in virtual meetings. A person who waits for an opening in the conversation might never get to speak and participate, while more assertive co-workers dominate the meeting and steamroll anyone whose input they do not want to hear.

Those who host workplace video conferences should create a protocol for participating in the meeting, such as posting in the chatbox or clicking the “Raise Hand” icon and waiting for the host to call on people before they speak. Setting a time limit for each speaker and the number of times a person can talk will establish fair opportunities for everyone to be involved.  

Starting at the top of the list of participants and making sure that everyone gets a chance to speak before anyone talks multiple times is another meeting strategy that can be effective. Some people who engage in discrimination refuse to let people they perceive as unequal participate in the covnersation. The host must anticipate these problems and take measures to prevent discrimination from occurring in online meetings.

Discrimination After Virtual Meetings

Because so many people now work from home, holding job-related conferences remotely allows participants to see things about your home and life that you may keep private at work. Those who are inclined to engage in illegal harassment or discrimination against members of particular groups might find plenty of “evidence” about co-workers during online meetings. Items that you no longer notice, like wall hangings, artwork, or decorations, might indicate things like your religion, country of origin, political affiliation, interests, lifestyle choices, or sexual orientation. In a sense, working remotely can invade employee privacy, which could lead to illegal discrimination.

If you think that you might be the victim of discrimination during or after work-related video conferences, a Washington employee rights attorney could help you evaluate and pursue legal remedies. Contact us today.