When residents in the Los Angeles area hear the word racism, images from the civil rights movement of the 1960s often spring to mind. Modern forms of racism, however, are often much more subtle and frequently arise more from helping certain individuals over others. Regardless of how acts of racism are expressed or carried out, all serve to ultimately harm individuals of a certain and often minority race or culture.

The modern American workplace is made up of people of all sexes, races, religions and ages. Whether explicit or not, many U.S. employees are guilty of committing acts that could be considered racist or discriminatory. So say the authors of a new research paper that will soon be published in the professional journal American Psychologist.

When looking at the issues of discrimination and race, the researchers took a different approach. While actual comments, physical acts and explicit behaviors can all denote racist and discriminatory opinions; in most cases acts of racism are much more difficult to discern and therefore prove.

For example, upon meeting a newly hired manager for the first time, an employee may discover that they grew up in the same area near Los Angeles and know some of the same people. When another employee of equal qualifications and position meets the new manager he or she may make small talk that, while pleasant, doesn’t uncover any similarities. Upon considering the two candidates for a promotion, the manager may select the employee with whom he or she had more in common, who also happens to be of the same race.

The example above illustrates how subtle modern-day acts of racism often play out. The researchers reason that, as human beings, we all have a tendency to seek out commonalities in one another. In short, we tend to favor individuals who are more like us and with whom we share something in common. As a result individuals of minority races, cultural backgrounds and religions that are different from those of the majority may suffer.

Employees who believe they have been the victim of workplace discrimination may choose to consult with an employment attorney. A legal professional who handles matters related to racial, religious and cultural discrimination can provide advice on how best to proceed.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, “Commissioners recommend doubling apartment units in controversial Palisades development,” Julieta Chiquillo, June 4, 2014