Discrimination in the workplace happens more often than you think, and most incidents remain unreported. Unfortunately, many employees are not fully aware of what defines discrimination in an office setting. Lack of knowledge may be the reason why such things happen often. Therefore, education of anti-discrimination policies is crucial to reduce such incidents.
What can you do if you have experienced discrimination in the workplace? The California Employment Counsel advises keeping records of specific discrimination incidents to establish a pattern of discriminatory behavior. One incident may not be enough to build a case, but repeated incidents can warrant investigation when you report it.
What is Workplace Discrimination?
Workplace discrimination is mistreating someone or being less favorable due to their race, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, and other individual characteristics. Examples of workplace discrimination include lower pay rates than same-level co-workers, being fired or demoted for unfair reasons, and being denied of particular training and promotion opportunities.
Incidents of discrimination may or may not be intentional, but the fact remains that according to law, employers should impose sanctions. Victims of workplace discrimination should report it to the company HR and file an administrative case if necessary. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal body that handles administrative matters and enforces laws that protect against workplace discrimination.
5 Ways to Prevent Workplace Discrimination
The law requires all employers to impose policies against discrimination in the workplace. At most, they should put measures to prevent discrimination from happening within their office walls. Below are some of the ways to avoid prejudice in the workplace:
1. Have written policies and sanctions on office discrimination
Most companies rely on the guidelines written under the federal employment discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC, but this is not enough. Companies should have their own specific sets of anti-discrimination policies included in the employee handbook. Guidelines should consist of information on protocols regarding where to file complaints and investigation procedures.
2. Educate employees on anti-discrimination policies
Employers should actively educate their employees and conduct anti-discrimination seminars periodically. In some states, federal law requires employers to run regular anti-discriminatory and anti-harassment training programs.
The training or seminar should enlighten employees about the specific examples of discrimination in the office because sometimes there can be a thin line between people’s definitions of discrimination. It should also educate them on how and where to file a complaint if they become victims of discrimination or harassment.
3. Maintain professionalism in the workplace
Keeping a professional work environment can help prevent inappropriate behavior in the office. In a professional setting, employees maintain politeness, respect, maturity, and competency. Unprofessional conduct in the workplace can precursor various discrimination acts because of the lack of boundaries. Professionalism keeps the workplace in order, as well as the behavior of employees towards each other.
4. Actively investigate and give sanctions on incidents of discrimination
When employees are aware of the consequences of any acts of discrimination, they will actively stop any untoward behavior. To make employees see that the company is serious about its anti-discrimination advocacy, they should actively pursue investigations on complaints filed and apply appropriate penalties.
In line with this, the company should also have clear and strict guidelines regarding the investigation procedures and identify the implementing body. The company should conduct internal investigations fairly, complete with solid evidence to reach a fully informed decision about the case. Most importantly, the investigation should be done discreetly and with complete confidentiality.
5. Review company procedures and business decisions to avoid unintentional discrimination
In some cases, discrimination can stem from unintentional incidents. For instance, the company may not have updated its standard procedures when hiring new workers to accommodate employees with disabilities. When updating their business decisions, companies can get the help of an experienced discrimination lawyer to ensure that there would be no loopholes in their company policies.
Companies that are proactive in their anti-discrimination campaigns are doing the right thing by applying risk management and looking after the welfare of their employees. Potential damages from workplace discrimination can include hefty fines and disciplinary actions that give the company a terrible reputation. By applying best practices on anti-discrimination, the company can build a safe, inclusive, and equal-opportunity environment for their workers.