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Report Finds Racism Prevalent in the Workplace

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 5/24/2021 Tim Smart
a group of people standing around a bench: A grocery store worker pushes shopping carts as fellow workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), hold a boycott rally in front of a Food4Less Supermarket in Los Angeles, California on May 12, 2021, protesting alleged lack of progress on contract negotiations which began in January. - US job openings reached a record 8.1 million in March but businesses are struggling to find enough workers. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) © (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) A grocery store worker pushes shopping carts as fellow workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), hold a boycott rally in front of a Food4Less Supermarket in Los Angeles, California on May 12, 2021, protesting alleged lack of progress on contract negotiations which began in January. - US job openings reached a record 8.1 million in March but businesses are struggling to find enough workers. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

More than a third of Black workers report being treated unfairly in the workplace in the past year because of their race or ethnicity, a new survey released Monday by the Society for Human Resource Management found.

That number rises to 42% for Black workers over a longer time period of five years, the Cost of Racial Injustice report found. The percentages for Asian workers was 26%, while 21% of Hispanic or Latino workers said they were unfairly treated during the five-year period. For white workers, the number was 12%.

The coronavirus has disproportionately affected workers of color, as the economic lockdowns that resulted from it most directly affected the lower-income service sector, in which Black and Hispanic workers are clustered. The past year has also seen a spike in anti-Asian crimes and abuse, stoked in part by the false characterization of COVID-19 as the "China flu."

The report put a price tag of $172 billion as the cost of turnover due to racism in the workplace over the past five years. Many workers reported feeling angry at the treatment they suffered, often suffering anxiety or stress that reduced their productivity.

In the past year, the survey found racism may have cost American businesses $54 billion in absenteeism and $59 billion in lost productivity.

Over the past year, businesses and other institutions have made commitments to tackle systemic racism but the pandemic also has exposed the economic vulnerability of workers of color.

The report comes one day before the one-year mark since the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis when former police Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knees on Floyd's neck and back for more than nine minutes while he was handcuffed, face down, on the street. Chauvin was convicted on April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's killing. Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16.

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