I am a middle eastern working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field in Europe. In Academia, I experienced no discrimination, but after I joined a local company with good pay things changed drastically. I am facing discriminations of different sorts, and to give a context of how they look like I could name some:

  • My mistakes are extremely magnified and my work is getting way heavier criticized, and if there is a small flaw, the conclusion that Non-Europeans are silly is immediately drawn.
  • My boss tells me to my face that girls are always at the middle or bottom of STEM, and they are just not contributing much.
  • They tell to my face, I have such a good luck that I look less like middle-eastern, and more like European, which I find extremely offeinsive. -...

I have a big problem with how I am treated by my colleagues and also am extremely afraid that evaluation of my work will be done in the same manner they criticize me and also I get a bad recommendation letter.

So far to solve this issue, I went to several people seeking how to resolve it , none of them gave me useful info and instead offered that I could talk to them when having problems to feel better and warned that going to HR would deteriorate my situation. My questions are:

  • What are the consequences of going to HR? Is it really as bad as they say? Could I use HR as a consulting source without my employer knowing it, cause I have the feeling that people in HR have a close eye on everyone working and history track and could give better advise how to deal with a specific person?
  • If not going to HR is my solution how can I solve this issue personally? Is there any way I can demand my employer to evaluate my work equally to my local co-workers and what is the right way of putting it out there?
  • Is there an independent place which could assess my work in comparison with my colleagues and decides if I really deserve a bad recommendation or not.

PS: For sure I prefer to do things as peaceful as possible, and just end up in a win-win situation.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jul 4 '17 at 22:05

Right, my advice is to not get a lawyer- at least not straight away.

What you do first is go to these people and ask them if they're aware that they hurt your feelings by doing these things. I say this because there is a chance that they simply are unaware that they're making you feel like this. Most people don't like to watch others suffering, and they hate it when they realize they are the ones causing it. I actually think this might be the case because true racists would never be nice to you- and you stated that these guys have been at times.

If they realize their mistake, and it was genuine, you should hopefully be able to continue the rest of your contract without problems. If not, it's time to get a lawyer (look at Philipps answer)

Keep a calm demeanor during this. Simply state that they have hurt your feelings, and see what they say back to you. In the future, do not engage in topics that you feel strongly about. If you can, sidetrack the conversation to the best of your ability.

I wish you the best and also advise not to delve too deeply in these matters.

  • They have been really nice to me at times, either by helping me figuring something out in the German system or carrying my stuff around once they were really heavy or hard for me to do so... I will tell them that it is hurting me. For a long time I thought I will show weakness by saying such a sentence and prove the point that girls can not handle this, but thinking about your answer I believe that they will never understand or appreciate me, so maybe I should stop thinking of their perspective and just make it peaceful for myself. – user73122 Jul 4 '17 at 16:25
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    Don't concern yourself with others preconceived ideas about you. Otherwise, just stay strong and power through. – DCON Jul 4 '17 at 17:59

There is a law in Germany which is supposed to prevent any workplace discrimination due to race, ethnicity, sex, religion etc.: The Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG). It also applies to educational institutions.

You should contact any of the following instances if they exist in your organization:

  • "Gleichstellungsbeauftragte" (equality officer)
  • In a private company: "Betriebsrat" (workers council)
  • In a public company: "Personalrat" (workers council)
  • At a university: AStA (student council)

When they don't exist or are unable to help you, you might want to get legal advise.

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    @Fattie then it should be posted on academia.stackexchange.com. But the AGG also covers educational institutions. – Philipp Jul 4 '17 at 15:48
  • @Philipp Betriebsrat where I was exactly told by our ppl I talked to, to avoid, I also am personally afraid cause I do not even know how to prove that this is happening to me. – user73122 Jul 4 '17 at 15:51
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    @Prelude The abilities of the Betriebsrat varies a lot from company to company. In some places they can be very helpful, in others they are just a debate club. When in doubt, get a lawyer. – Philipp Jul 4 '17 at 15:54
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    @Fattie Why? This is clearly a workplace experience. Should I post in the "The Great Outdoors" if I happen to be truck driver? – armatita Jul 4 '17 at 15:59
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    @Prelude 1. They should usually handle such matters confidentially, but your mileage may vary. 2. There is no such thing as an "ordinary" lawyer. Every lawyer has a specialization. Get one specialized in workplace and/or anti-discrimination rights. – Philipp Jul 4 '17 at 16:22