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Different examples of subconscious employment discrimination: leniency bias, recall bias, personality bias, skill bias

Employers cannot openly use race, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. when they make hiring, firing, promotion, or other personnel decisions. What about less blatant forms of discrimination? Discrimination can be subtle but equally insidious and wrong. Courts have held that ingrained bias is just as illegal as open bias.

Here are some examples I’ve seen of subtle or subconscious bias:

Leniency bias: When a black women is busy, she has “trouble with deadlines.”  When a white woman is busy, she is “managing a heavy workload.”

Recall bias: A younger employee’s mistakes are soon forgotten. An older employee’s mistakes are a sign that the older employee “doesn’t have what it takes.”

Personality bias: He’s assertive. She’s abrasive or too aggressive.  He knows his own worth.  She is a braggart.  He is a “team player.” She has weak “soft skills.”

Skill bias: A man has the “right stuff” and is given larger rewards for competence and accomplishments.  A woman has to prove herself over and over again.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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