Discrimination in the workplace is something that business, industry and society in general has worked hard to crack down on over the years. A lot has been done to protect the rights of workers of different gender, race, religion and other demographics and employers potentially stand to face heavy penalties if they are found to be in breach of the regulations. Even if an employer is not directly responsible for an act of discrimination, then they could still be held to account if necessary procedures are not followed.
Following set procedures on discrimination and legal compliance not only helps to prevent instances of discrimination in the future, but it also helps to protect the employer against legal issues down the road.
One of the most important things is to be absolutely clear on just what constitutes discrimination in the first place. Somebody could be acting with what they genuinely think are good intentions while being completely unaware that they are in fact being discriminatory against other employees. “I didn’t know” is unlikely to hold any water should you find yourself at a discrimination tribunal, so there are no excuses for not making sure that everybody is up to speed on exactly what discrimination entails.
Discrimination in the workplace is the act of favoring one demographic over another for reasons that are not relevant to the situation in question. Below are some of the most common examples.
Gender: Decisions based upon a person’s gender rather than their attributes and qualifications is very likely to be discriminatory and is likely to get you into trouble. For it to be allowed that a particular gender can be favored over another it is necessary to show that the favored gender is better suited, or even necessary, to the role than the other. One example of this could be a counselor’s role aiding women that have been abused my men.
Race: Racial discrimination is one of the hottest topics in the work place and offenders could find themselves facing considerable penalties.
Disability: In many jobs, it is necessary for workers to have certain mental and/or physical capabilities if they are to be able to do the job. This means that people with certain disabilities cannot reasonably be considered for the job. If there is no such requirement for certain physical attributes, however, then there is no reason to exclude a person in the workplace based on disabilities they may have. An employer will also need to make sure that the premises and facilities provide full access to anybody with disabilities, otherwise there could be a case for discrimination.
Sexual Orientation: A person’s sexual orientation is, in itself, not a reason to select or overlook any individual for a particular role. Religious beliefs or any other factors are not acceptable reasons to discriminate against another person for their sexuality. If a person of any sexuality has been discriminated against for no other reason than that sexuality, regardless of what that sexuality may be, then that is a clear violation of the law.
Religion: Unless a person’s religious beliefs prevent them from carrying out necessary parts of any job then their religion should not be a reason for favoring or excluding that person in the workplace. While a bar manager, for example, cannot be expected to hire somebody who’s religious beliefs prevent them from handling alcohol, an employer cannot expect the same person to handle alcohol if it is not a necessary part of the job.
Pregnancy: Pregnant women’s rights are well protected by the law and breaking these laws can lead to severe penalties. In addition to being protected by the law while working, women are also allowed, by law, to take maternity leave. In many cases the father is also permitted by law to take paternity leave of up to 12 weeks in some cases.
In 2015, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received nearly 90,000 workplace discrimination charges.
It is not only management that should be aware of discrimination and what defines it, but everybody involved in the workplace. Even somebody that is in what might be considered to be a low grade position with little to no authority can still be guilty of discrimination, intentional or otherwise. You will also likely find that even if an individual did act independently, the organization could still be held responsible if it is shown that reasonable steps were not taken to help prevent, or correct, the situation.
To make sure that your organization has shown itself to make an effort to educate all staff on discrimination you should ensure that all necessary training and information has been provided. Educating people on discrimination is one of the best ways to help prevent it from happening in the first place. It can also help to cover your organization legally should an incident occur. After all, it just isn’t possible to be in full control of every individual’s actions.
Depending on which jurisdiction you come under, employers have access to information packs and guides on what constitutes discrimination and how to make sure they are complying at all times. There are also businesses available for hire that specialize in discrimination laws and compliance and training staff in these laws and how to abide by them.
The best way to deal with discrimination in the work place is with education…this is the #1 way prevent it from happening in the first place.