Project R-9075


Subtle discrimination of ethnic minority and disabled employees at work: Reconnecting inter-individual experiences to macrostructures of inequality


Research on workplace discrimination has increasingly turned its attention towards 'subtle' discrimination. Subtle discrimination in the workplace refers to unequal treatment that negatively affects its victim, yet that is engrained in practices that are generally seen as harmless and potentially enacted unconsciously by individuals without necessarily discriminatory intentions. By adopting a perspective informed by critical race theory and disability studies, this project aims to contribute to the literature on subtle discrimination by 1) investigating the manifestations of subtle discrimination confronting ethnic minority and disabled employees; 2) theorizing about the discursive practices through which these manifestations become (de-)legitimized and 3) explicating the connection between micro-practices and macro-relations of power in the workplace. To do so, the project develops 3 empirical papers which advance the literature on subtle discriminating by 1) exploring how the discourse of soft skills is used in the legitimization of subtle discrimination against ethnic minorities and the reproduction of unequal power relations; 2) studying through which manifestations of subtle discrimination disabled employees become disadvantaged in organizations and 3) exploring the discursive practices used to (de-)legitimize subtle discrimination and the connected structural inequalities. This project will be based on 150 in-depth interviews with employees, employers and stakeholders.

Period of project

01 January 2019 - 15 July 2021