US

BITS ‘N’ PIECES

October 5, 2018
By Usama Rasheed

Loaded looks. Repeated glances. Too much eye contact, or not enough....

Can eye contact or weird looks count as discrimination?

Loaded looks. Repeated glances. Too much eye contact, or not enough.

Such small actions may seem insignificant to some, but can still create a hostile work environment and make it difficult for some workers to do their jobs.

This kind of subtle discrimination can often go unchecked in the workplace. It’s so low-level and under-the-radar that it can almost be more damaging because it happens so frequently.

Employees are taught to recognise signs of overt discrimination - like comments or touching - but they often don’t know how to categorize anything beyond that, especially when it’s something seemingly minor, like a look or a glance, or even something well-meaning like an offer of help.

For example, an employee who repeatedly insists on helping an older employee down the hall, or someone who can’t stop staring at a coworker’s pregnant belly. Some actions are even more insidious, like staring at a minority employee every time someone brings up race in a conversation, or male partners refusing to look their one female colleague directly in the eye.

Over time, these acts of subtle discrimination may damage workplace relationships, even to the point of affecting someone’s ability to do their job.

All employees should feel okay bringing a complaint to HR, no matter how small it may seem or how awkward it may feel to spell out exactly what’s making them feel uncomfortable. From there, it’s up to HR to make the delicate decision of which behaviors are actionable, and which are not.

Where have all our insects gone?

An insect Armageddon is under way, say many entomologists, the result of a multiple whammy of environmental impacts: pollution, habitat changes, overuse of pesticides, and global warming. And it is a decline that could have crucial consequences.

The best illustration of the ecological importance of insects is provided by our birdlife. Without insects, hundreds of species face starvation and some ornithologists believe this lack of food is already causing serious declines in bird numbers.

Insects also play invaluable roles in other parts of the environment - for example as pollinators of our orchards and fruit fields.

Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth, but there has been some kind of horrific decline. If we lose the insects, then everything is going to collapse.

Intensively farmed wheat and cornfields support virtually no insect life, and this means that as intensive agriculture spreads there are fewer and fewer islands of natural habitat left to support them.

And then there is the issue of urban spread. Housing schemes continue to encroach on our woods and heaths so that streets and buildings generate light pollution that leads nocturnal insects astray and interrupts their mating.

In addition to habitat changes, there are the dangers posed by pesticides, in particular neonicotinoid pesticides, which have already been blamed for recent crashes in bee populations.