Discrimination At Work: Can Your Name Limit Your Job Opportunities?

Updated: Apr 19


Discrimination At Work: Can Your Name Limit Your Job Opportunities?

The world is filled with many beautiful different countries, cultures, ethnicities, and races. Our planet is filled with diversity. What is not to like about it? Well, the most beautiful things come with a variety of opinions perceptions and most sadly – discrimination. Gender and race are sensitive yet familiar topics, but have you heard of name-based discrimination at work?


Yes, even a name can limit your opportunities and employability. Let’s explore this problem in more detail with true case studies.


I would like you to tell the true story of Rahul Jain. He worked in a telesales company in Leicester. His employers have requested, well, rather demanded, to change his name to an English one if he still wants to be a part of a team. The reasoning of this request was rather silly – to avoid spelling mistakes, but in reality, it was rather racial discrimination at work. Accordingly, Rahul became Rob, Aarti became Anna and Maheel – Max. Their white colleagues on the other hand were still privileged to carry their own birth name. Rahul claimed race discrimination against the organisation, but unfortunately, that had resulted in his redundancy.


Another case belongs to a black woman named Kalisha White. Her job application for Target was ignored completely. Out of curiosity, the lady decided to re-apply for the same position but this time – with a different name. The new name got her an interview straight away. These personal, real-life stories are also backed by statistical case studies made by the University of California Berkeley and the University of Chicago Economists.


They sent out 83,000 applications to 108 jobs. Half of the applications were with traditionally white names and the rest with black-sounding names. The results ended up being quite sad. The replies for applications with black-sounding names were 10% fewer compared to the rest.

Discrimination At Work: Can Your Name Limit Your Job Opportunities?

The possible reasoning behind this could be that every company has different hiring processes. For example, some of the organisations hire people internally with not so many regulations of HR. Meaning, that anyone working the shift that day can make a subjective decision in interviewing the candidate. This way, avoiding biased decisions becomes a task. On the other hand, Experienced HR specialists may have a different approach and pick more diverse applicants.


Name discriminations were mostly found in customer-facing roles, like in retail or restaurant industries, and industries without customer-facing roles showed a low rate of discrimination. Our abilities, skills and personal attributes do not depend on our culture, gender and especially – name.


It’s important that businesses take more caution and unbiased actions while hiring. The same study suggests that callback and interviewing decisions should be signed off by someone higher than a local manager. In the end – all of us have a right to have the same opportunities and chances while carrying our own birth name. Let’s make this world a better place and stop judging books by their cover and title.


By Kamile Puidokaite