Almost One in Six Americans Report Discrimination at Workplace in Past Year

For Immediate Release

Dec 8, 2005
Reuse Permissions

Retention and Loyalty Highly Related to a Company Diversity Policy

(Alexandria, Va., December 8, 2005)—In the past year, 15 percent of American workers have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace, according to a Gallup Poll conducted in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The poll was partially sponsored by Kaiser-Permanente, The Society for Human Resource Management, and United Parcel Service.

The poll found that while the overall discrimination rate among Americans employed either full-time or part-time is 15 percent, the rate varies considerably by race and gender. Women are more than twice as likely to report that they have been discriminated against in the past year (22 percent) as are men (nine percent). Among racial and ethnic groups, Asians and blacks are most likely to report experiences of discrimination (31 percent and 26 percent, respectively), while 18 percent of Hispanics and 12 percent of whites also report such incidents.

"We are grateful to The Gallup Organization and its sponsors for this important information," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "At the Commission, we deal with concrete charges of discrimination that workers file, and this insight into the perceptions of discrimination by a sampling of the workforce will aid us as we continue our emphasis on proactive prevention, outreach, and law enforcement."

Promotion and Salary Most Likely Areas of Discrimination

The difference in discrimination among men and women is found primarily among whites, with only 3 percent of white men, compared with 22 percent of white women, reporting such experiences. Black men and women report similar rates—26 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Similarly, 20 percent of Hispanic men and 15 percent of Hispanic women report incidents of discrimination.

The poll also found that the two types of discrimination most frequently cited are based on gender (26 percent) and race/ethnicity (23 percent). In addition, 17 percent of those reporting such incidents mentioned age discrimination, 9 percent cited disability, 4 percent sexual orientation, and 4 percent religion.

The work areas that are most susceptible to discrimination are promotion and pay, cited by 33 percent and 29 percent, respectively, of people reporting incidents. Thirteen percent of such workers also cite discrimination in getting a job, and 11 percent mention the way they were treated at work.

"The survey results underscore the importance of Kaiser-Permanente's historical commitment to diversity and inclusion, to cultural competence in healthcare, and to the clear articulation of the business imperative that demands workforce diversity," said Kaiser-Permanente VP and Chief Diversity Officer, Ron Knox. "The survey strengthens Kaiser-Permanente's determination to make workplace discrimination a thing of the past."

Retention and Loyalty Highly Related to a Company Diversity Policy

The survey included a seven-question index that measures employees' evaluation of their companies' efforts to provide diversity and to protect against employee discrimination. The results show that employees' satisfaction with their company, their likelihood of retention, and their loyalty are all highly related to their companies' Diversity Policy Scores.

The Gallup Organization's Government Division Partner, Max Larsen, observes, "These data make it pretty clear that it makes good business sense to have operable diversity efforts in organizations."

"In today's global marketplace, workforce diversity is not a politically or morally correct obligation—it is also a business imperative," said SHRM President and CEO, Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR. "It simply makes good business sense to use the talents of all workers."

Among employees who rate their company's diversity efforts in the upper third of all companies rated in the survey, 61 percent say they are extremely satisfied with their company. But among employees who rate their company's diversity efforts in the middle third or lower third, only 34 percent and 21 percent, respectively, are extremely satisfied with their company.


To mark the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Gallup Organization, Kaiser-Permanente, The Society for Human Resource Management, and United Parcel Service joined resources to document the perceived discrimination situation in the workplace today. These organizations conducted this survey of employees to explore satisfaction, retention, and loyalty—all of which contribute to improved employee, and consequently, organizational performance. During the planning phase of this project, the EEOC willingly shared its broad and varied experience gathered over its 40 years of ensuring equal opportunity in the workplace.

Gallup conducted telephone interviews with 1,252 adults from March 7, 2005 to May 8, 2005, who were either currently employed, had been employed within the past two years, or were actively seeking employment during the survey's field dates. A disproportionate random sampling plan was used to permit breakouts of racial/ethnic minorities; specifically, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics were oversampled. Included in the final analysis were 302 blacks, 310 Hispanics, 104 Asians, 492 whites, and 44 individuals in the "Other" category.

Reuse Permissions


The application deadline is November 11

Apply Today

Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies

Search & Connect