Basic Concepts of Discrimination at Work. A Literature Review

Literature Review, 2011

11 Pages

Vastal Shah (Author)



1 Introduction

2 Defining and Measuring Discrimination at Work
2.1 Discrimination and Equality at Workplaces: Defining the Concepts
2.2 Measuring Discrimination at Workplace

3 Employment Discrimination: An International Historical Overview

4 Theories on Discrimination at Workplace
4.1 Disparate Treatment Theory
4.2 Spontaneous Discrimination
4.3 Other Theories

5 Managing Diverse Workplace: Does it solve the Issue of Workplace Discrimination?

6 References

1 Introduction

This text focuses on the historical and theoretical models of discrimination in a culturally, racially, ethnically and nationally diverse workplace. This is achieved by reviewing a variety of academic books and renowned journal articles, getting a sound know-how of the theories pertaining to discrimination, its role in different diverse workplaces, focusing on South Asia, especially Pakistan, and then studying them thoroughly by comparing and contrasting different case studies of countries globally. All great insights into the issues of the variables under scrutiny are connected and related with the overall theme of this study and thrown light upon elaborately.

2 Defining and Measuring Discrimination at Work

Before discussing the historical trends of employment discrimination and its effect on the modern world, it is important to define discrimination in general and in the context of a workplace and mark its perimeters accordingly: how it is measured and how it will affect this study. Businesses around the world are interested in recognizing the dire need to address the diversity and multicultural issues in workplace practices (Arredondo, 1996; Cox, 1993; Daly, 1998; Sue, 1995). Contrary to popular belief that diversity encourages tolerance and broadmindedness in a work setting, there has been incidents recorded stating otherwise. (State reference)

2.1 Discrimination and Equality at Workplaces: Defining the Concepts

There are several forms of discrimination throughout history. For this study, discrimination will be discussed in the context of a diverse workplace. These include discrimination against an individual’s race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and nationality. In the previous literatures, several definitions of discrimination has emerged. According to Dipboye and Colella (2006, p.1 & 2) discrimination at workplace or employment discrimination is when employees are treated unfairly on the basis of their race, gender, nationality etc as compared to the majority or the host country national.

2.2 Measuring Discrimination at Workplace

Burkard et al. (2002) have described and critiqued five measures of workplace discrimination, prejudice, and diversity. These are as follows: the Workplace Prejudice/Discrimination Inventory (WPDI) (James, Lovato, & Cropanzano, 1994), the Attitudes Toward Diversity Scale (ATDS) (Montei, Adams, & Eggers, 1996), the Organizational Diversity Inventory (ODI) (Hegarty & Dalton, 1995), the Workforce Diversity Questionnaire (WDQ) (Larkey, 1996), and the Perceived Occupational Opportunity Scale–Form B (POOS) and Perceived Occupational Discrimination Scale–Form B (PODS) (Chung & Harmon, 1999).

The Workplace Prejudice/Discrimination Inventory (WPDI) measures the employee’s perceptions of prejudice and discrimination in their workplaces (James et al., 1994). It uses the 7-point Liket type scale that reflects the measure of prejudice and discrimination prevalent in the work environment.

The Attitudes Toward Diversity Scale (ATDS) was designed in order to scale the behavior of elements involved in their dealings with diversity. There are 10 components that make up these elements and they are categorized into three parts. These parts are made as elements in their association towards colleagues, bosses, and decisions related to promotions as well as human resource (Montei, Adams, & Eggers, 1996).

The Organizational Diversity Inventory (ODI) has 20 components divided into five categories: the presence of discrimination, discrimination with respect to a specific party, management of discrimination, management of people in small groups, and finally, mindset towards smaller groups (Hegarty & Dalton, 1995).

The Workforce Diversity Questionnaire (WDQ) was created with the goal of measuring relationships between diverse kinds of groups. It has scales that measure qualities such as acceptance, ideation, the ability to understand others, and the type of behavior that is shown (Larkey, 1996).

Lastly, the Perceived Occupational Opportunity Scale–Form B (POOS) and Perceived Occupational Discrimination Scale–Form B (PODS). It was created in order to explore the apparent professional chances given to Black Americans (Chung & Harmon, 1999).

3 Employment Discrimination: An International Historical Overview

Several scholars and researchers have studied the trends of the nature of discrimination and how it is important to strive for equality in the workplaces (Krieger, 1995; Reskin, 2000; Sturm, 1998, 2001). In United States of America, the Title VII of the Civil rights Act was formed in 1964 against the acts of discrimination in workplaces (Green, 2003). This was the time when multinationals started to appear in the business arena and globalized workforces, labour mobility increased, which resulted in the need to set more modern egalitarian rules in the international work setting for flexible governance in the organization in order to enhance productivity.

Discrimination has been prevalent in the workplaces throughout the world since the dawn of time. In the previous era, the form of discrimination was clearly identifiable. It was prevalent in “social interaction, perception, evaluation and disbursement of opportunity” (Green, 2003, p.91). Keeping the World War II as a bench mark, looking at the pre-World War II era, there was strong racial discrimination against the Jews throughout Europe. They had different public place areas, they were exempted from certain public places. Natives Europeans casted them out socially and politically so they were forced to live in ghetto. While there was strong racial discrimination against black from whites, may it be South America or South Africa. South Africa was subject to the strongest form of racial discrimination as termed to be the Apartheid Era in their history. Such racial discrimination against the Black population, just like the Europeans Jews pre-world war II, they were also forced to live in the ghettos dues to social and political exclusion, while the basis of the Civil war in America was that North Americans were in favor of equal rights with the American Black population while people from South America strongly opposed it.

During the post-world war era, when women started to take active part in the workforce, the nature of their jobs mostly involved menial work with jobs such as secretary, nurses and so on. Their bosses were mostly men. This was the era when feminism was at its peak and women were striving to make a mark in the business world edge-by-edge despite the gender discrimination they had to face. Now, in the modern era, although minorities and women have managed to make a mark in the workforce successfully, “inequality in advancement and wages persists” (Green, 2003, p.96).

4 Theories on Discrimination at Workplace

Scholars have introduced theories to explain different discriminatory practices in workplaces throughout history.

4.1 Disparate Treatment Theory

Disparate Treatment Theory is one amongst two of the theories of discrimination in United States Civil Rights Act. Disparate Treatment Theory understands and views discrimination as specific, personal, possible to measure ad well as still, seeing the framework of the understanding of the respective person who makes judgement at the time. Disparate treatment doctrine needs as a condition that discrimination has to be intentional, that is to say, it should be possible to see a clear, awareness in discrimination of the event (Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod., Inc., 2000). It is this condition that led in the following years to the perception of discrimination as an act undertaken by a singular individual who has prejudices and discriminating beliefs in his mind against those that he discriminates against. In simple words, it can be understood by seeing that the disparate treatment theory is basically an investigation into the mind of the person who takes the decision in a case of discrimination. In order to understand the do justice to a victim affected by discrimination, the important thing was to consider what was the decision-maker’s choice and mindset, understanding his biases and motivations for the particular act. Moreover, it was to be understood in relation to the particular time when the act took place.

It is possible to see this ideology and determiner of discrimination act by understanding the mind of the decision maker not only when the victim is an individual, but even when a group of people have made an allegation of being discriminated because of their personal characteristics.


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