Discrimination in the workplace is a pressing issue that employers face every day. Discrimination simply means treating a person unfairly and illustrating prejudice. Many types of workplace discrimination leave employees feeling unsafe, threatened, uncomfortable, and prejudiced against at work. Unfortunately, situations such as these occur more often thank you think. In fact, the EEOC issued a press release in April 2019 announcing that 76,418 charges of workplace discrimination were reported in 2018. Race, sex, and disability accounted for over 90% of the charges filed.
Employers are mandated by law to protect their employees from discrimination in the workplace. While the employer can cause prejudice, they are also caused by other workers. It is still your duty as an employer to prevent discrimination in the workplace. There are a few simple measures that you can take and policies that you can implement to avoid discrimination in your workplace. They are simple and provide for a pleasant, discrimination-free work environment.
Workplace discrimination occurs when an individual or group of individuals is treated unfairly or different from someone outside of their protected class. For example, gender discrimination transpires when an employer treats an employee differently because of their gender or sexual orientation. Other forms of discrimination include race, employment law, religion, and disability. Pregnancy falls under a “temporary disability,” and employers are required to ensure they are not being discriminated against because of their pregnancy. Employers may also be required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees or other employees with a disability, as explained in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Another common form of discrimination is race discrimination. This includes racial slurs or offensive behavior by management or co-workers. Management should encourage employees to report any discriminatory behavior promptly and not fear any retaliation as a result of their grievance. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advocates an E-Race initiative. The initiative advises employers, as well as employees, to work to recognize and respect cultural differences and refuse to partake or condone in any discriminatory activity.
It is important to implement company policies and discourage a hostile work environment. The key to a successful company is employee satisfaction and appreciation.
It is imperative to educate all employees on all forms of discrimination and the adverse effects it could have on them personally and on the company collectively. A company should construct an employee handbook that establishes expectations and defines discrimination. The employer should also warn of the potential disciplinary actions that could result in participating in discriminatory practices. This can be confronted by setting up an in-house workshop or meeting to review discrimination and ways to not only prevent it but also how to respond or report such activity. Training should be carried out routinely to ensure your company is proactive in tackling discrimination and addressing diversity in the workplace.
Training allows employers to define historical misconceptions and prejudice. It provides an opportunity to explain inappropriate language and potential triggers that can spark a hospital wok environment. If possible, make time for team-building activities. Team-building exercises boost communication and establish an understanding of one another. Some examples of team-building exercises include a company dinner or retreat that introduces cultural discovery aimed to unite employees.
If an employee thinks they have experienced discrimination, they should feel comfortable reporting the discriminatory activity. Many times after experiencing harsh discrimination, especially by a supervisor, an employee feels intimidated and fears they will be retaliated against or fired for reporting it.
Employers should educate employees on how to submit a complaint and encourage an open-door policy without the fear of adverse consequences. A complaint is usually memorialized by speaking with human resources and putting in writing what they have experienced. The company should review each complaint of discrimination and perform its due diligence in conducting a reasonable investigation. The entire process should be documented, and all protocol and disciplinary procedures should be equally addressed based upon the findings of an investigation. It is an excellent practice to be consistent with the enforcement of such policies and continue to work towards a discrimination-free workplace.
Another good practice to prevent workplace discrimination is to communicate with your employees consistently. It is helpful to gain feedback on their experience on the job and if they have experienced discrimination firsthand or witnessed it on the job. Welcoming on-going communication will help your employees feel more comfortable relaying their concerns. It also reassures them that you have their best interest in mind.
To prevent discrimination in your workplace, stay pro-active in company-wide education on diversity, and establish an approachable workplace environment. Discrimination, in its worst form, can have a detrimental impact on an employee and the company as a whole. It all circles back to the classic golden rule principle, treat others the way you would want to be treated.