Workplace Discrimination Case Study

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Discrimination in the workplace is a prevalent issue that affects millions of employees worldwide. It comes in many forms – from unequal pay to microaggressions and exclusionary practices. In this article, we will delve into a specific case of discrimination in the workplace and explore its impact on the employees involved.


Workplace discrimination occurs when an employee or group of employees are treated unfairly because of their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. It can manifest in various ways, including hiring, promotion, compensation, training opportunities, and even day-to-day interactions.

Unfortunately, despite progress towards diversity and inclusion, many companies still struggle with addressing workplace discrimination effectively. This not only takes a toll on the affected individuals but also has a detrimental effect on the company’s culture and overall success.

In this case study, we will examine the story of Sarah (name changed for privacy), a senior marketing specialist at a large advertising agency, and her experience with workplace discrimination.

Background of the case

Workplace Discrimination Case Study

Sarah had been working at the advertising agency for over eight years and had steadily climbed the ladder to become a senior marketing specialist. She was known for her dedication, creativity, and exceptional performance in delivering successful campaigns for clients.

After years of hard work and consistently exceeding expectations, Sarah was ready for the next step in her career – a promotion to a director-level position. However, despite her qualifications and proven track record, she couldn’t help but notice a subtle undercurrent of doubt from the management team whenever the topic of her promotion came up.

Months went by, and while Sarah’s colleagues were getting promoted left and right, she remained in the same role. It was then that she realized that something was amiss. Despite her stellar performance, she was being passed up for promotions and opportunities that she was more than qualified for.

Description of the discrimination

Workplace Discrimination Case Study

The discrimination Sarah faced was not overt or blatant. It was subtle and insidious, often referred to as “silent discrimination.” It came in the form of microaggressions – subtle, indirect, and unintentional actions that reinforce negative stereotypes and contribute to a hostile work environment.

For example, during team meetings, Sarah’s ideas were often dismissed or attributed to someone else. She noticed that her male colleagues received more recognition for similar work, and their opinions were given more weight. In one instance, Sarah’s supervisor made a remark about her appearance, saying she should “dress more professionally” if she wanted to be taken seriously in her role.

Apart from these microaggressions, Sarah also faced systemic barriers to advancement. Despite having the qualifications and experience, she was consistently passed over for promotions and leadership opportunities. These positions were instead given to less experienced, male colleagues.

Impact on the employees

The discriminatory treatment took a toll on Sarah’s mental health and well-being. She started questioning her abilities and self-worth, wondering if there was something wrong with her performance or qualifications. This led to increased stress, anxiety, and eventually, burnout.

Aside from the personal impact, the discrimination also had a detrimental effect on the workplace culture. Other employees also noticed the unequal treatment towards Sarah and began feeling demotivated and disillusioned with the company. The lack of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace created an environment where employees felt undervalued and excluded.

Company’s response

When confronted with reports of discrimination, companies are expected to take swift and effective action to address the issue. However, in this case, the advertising agency’s response was lackluster at best.

Sarah brought up her concerns to her supervisor, who dismissed them as baseless and accused her of being too sensitive. When she escalated the issue to the HR department, she was told that there was no proof of discrimination and that she should focus on her work instead.

The lack of support and acknowledgement from the company only added to Sarah’s frustration and sense of helplessness. It also sent a message to other employees that their concerns would not be taken seriously.

Legal actions taken

Feeling like she had exhausted all avenues internally, Sarah decided to take legal action against the company for discrimination. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and provided evidence of the discriminatory treatment she had faced.

After an investigation, the EEOC found that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Sarah had indeed been discriminated against based on her gender. The case went to trial, and the advertising agency settled out of court, paying a significant sum in damages to Sarah.

Lessons learned

The case of Sarah serves as an important lesson for companies on the impact of discrimination in the workplace. It highlights the need for companies to create a culture of diversity and inclusion, where all employees are treated fairly and equally.

Additionally, it shows the importance of taking employee concerns seriously and addressing them promptly. Had the company addressed Sarah’s complaints before they escalated, the costly lawsuit could have been avoided.

Furthermore, this case also sheds light on the need for regular training and education on diversity and inclusion for all employees. Many times, discrimination is unintentional, and people are not aware of how their actions or words may contribute to a hostile work environment. By providing proper education and resources, companies can prevent discrimination and promote a more inclusive workplace.


The story of Sarah and her experience with workplace discrimination may be just one case, but it is a reflection of the larger issue at hand. Discrimination, whether overt or subtle, has no place in the modern workplace. It not only harms the affected individuals but also creates a toxic work environment that hinders the company’s success.

It is up to companies to take a proactive stance against discrimination and work towards creating a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equality. By doing so, they not only benefit their employees but also contribute to a more just and fair society.