The jarring message — “White Power” — was scrawled in fire-engine-red marker in one of the busiest spots at Massachusetts Eye and Ear hospital, near an elevator that hundreds of patients, visitors, and workers pass every day.
Emotions were already raw in the days following the presidential election, and the graffiti, discovered Nov. 18, was a “big slap in the face,” said Dr. Rebecca Hammon, a resident at the Boston teaching hospital, which employs many people of color.
While the incident was a first at the hospital, such workplace events nationally grew increasingly common over the course of last year’s presidential campaign.
A May survey of businesses by a human resource trade group found about one-fourth reported more political volatility in their workplaces compared with previous presidential campaigns. By late October, that had risen dramatically: Deep in the throes of an invective-laden campaign, 52 percent of employers nationally said their workplaces were more volatile.
“Most employers are seeing these low-level comments that workers think they can throw around because they hear it in the public square, and they think it’s OK to use in the workplace,” said Oneida D. Blagg, who has worked as a diversity officer in businesses and serves as a specialist on the issue for the Society for Human Resource Management, which conducted the workplace surveys.
Many of those responding to the survey said employees had become more vocal about their political opinions, discussing and arguing in the workplace.
Data from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also suggest flash points from the divisive campaign are heating up in the workplace.
Complaints about religious discrimination in the workplace filed with the commission had been declining each year since 2011, then jumped last year. So, too, have complaints about discrimination based on race, and on national origin. Both were on the decline until an increase in 2016, the EEOC numbers show.
And that was before millions of people across the country took to the streets in recent weeks to protest and many businesses closed in a nationwide action called a “Day Without Immigrants,” designed to illustrate the effect immigrants have on the US economy.
With future workplace strikes planned — a national “Day Without A Woman” action is slated for early March — employers are seeking guidance about how to respond, Blagg said.
“This is a real thing that is fueling additional…