As it turns out, people tend to read quite a bit into a name, and for good reason; because names often tell something about a person. What some employees have found, however, is that a name can impact your career. While sometimes this impact can be beneficial; at other times, it means you might unwittingly be the target of discrimination.

For instance, perhaps an employer is personally biased against people with a specific ethnic background. They know that in 2020, there is no way they can have a policy saying they won’t hire people with that background. Doing so would be a blatant disregard for equal opportunity laws, and they could be sued.

However, they don’t have to ask you for your race on an application to attempt to figure it out and making hiring decisions based on it. Researchers call names “race signals” and find that people will guess at race based on one’s name.

What’s in a name?

So, if you have a name that the employer assumes means you are part of that race or that you have that ethnic background, they may choose a different employee — even if that person is less qualified than you — because of their bias. Even without meeting you or getting to know you, they’re making dangerous assumptions and already discriminating against you.

In fact, some applicants have tested this theory by using fake names that “belong” to another race. They simply seek to see if they have more success job hunting under that name, showing that they are being profiled as a result.

You do not deserve to be discriminated against at work, even if it is subtle and not nearly as blatant as it may have been decades ago. When this happens, make sure you are aware of the legal options that you have.