A discrimination free workplace is not guaranteed. Though there are laws prohibiting certain types of discrimination at work, not every employer complies. In fact, specific kinds of discrimination, such as religious, age and pregnancy discrimination, have even seen increases in recent years. Failing to foster a discrimination free workplace, however, can leave companies vulnerable to costly litigation. In the search for a truly discrimination free workplace, a few notable tips stand out.
1. Give notice.
One easy way to foster a discrimination free workplace is to post notice of EEO laws and employment discrimination policy. The law requires that employers make EEO laws and policy clearly visible to all employees throughout the workplace. Additionally, giving notice is a often made a condition as part of EEOC settlement agreements. Displaying the EEO poster is an important first step in the right direction. For convenience, it is offered in a number of prominent languages.
2. Hold employment discrimination trainings.
Requiring discrimination training sends a message to employees, managers and supervisors that discrimination will not be tolerated. In addition to notifying employees of specific details about company employment discrimination policy, training can ensure that workers have knowledge of proper ways to report discrimination as well as the proper channels for disclosing grievances. Employees receive the opportunity to ask questions and to observe a number of real-life solutions to common discrimination predicaments.
3. Do not ignore employee complaints or requests.
Once anti-discrimination policy is established and made known throughout the workplace, it’s important to hold all managers, supervisors and employees accountable. This means ensuring that discrimination complaints or requests for accommodation do not go ignored. Often, the tendency is to acknowledge a complaint, but to trivialize it or offer superficial appeasement.
This method could prove unwise when the employee pursues the matter through litigation with the help of legal representation. The law plays close attention to an employer’s response to employment discrimination complaints, and it is important to always take each complaint seriously and respond with sincerity.
4. Settle matters quickly and thoroughly.
Delaying the response to requests for accommodation or complaints about discrimination could make matters worse. Additionally, it could send the message to employees that the matter is not important or of low priority. Employees need to know they work for a company that not only takes a firm stance against employment discrimination, but that when instances do arise, they will be handled swiftly and with the utmost diligence. A wiser action is to respond quickly to discrimination matters and to stay abreast of the law so that each response is targeted toward the best solution possible.
5. Provide adequate accommodation.
The law requires that employers provide adequate accommodation in certain instances where discrimination is prevalent. For instance, employers must provide accommodation for disabled workers, for pregnant workers, and in situations where accommodations would foster a discrimination free workplace, such as for religious workers who make reasonable requests. Employers should be aware that, according to law, the accommodations need not cause undue hardship on the business, however.
6. Followup on remedial measures.
After responding to a discrimination complaint or request for accommodation, it is important to follow up. Doing so has supreme advantages. First, it ensures that any new matters that have arisen since the first remedial measures took place can be addressed quickly and efficiently, Secondly, it shows aggrieved employees that the company is willing to go out of its way to abide by the law and to ensure that actions taken meet the expectations of each employee involved.
7. Keep detailed records.
When an employment discrimination matter arises, keeping detailed records can make a big difference should the case be litigated or investigated. These records could prove invaluable in for defense, if necessary. Detailed records are proof that action was taken in compliance with legal regulations and all efforts have been sufficiently made to provide adequate accommodations when requested.
8. Be careful with terminations.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in all parts of the employment process, including terminations. Employers who discriminate against protected groups by wrongfully discharging an employee open the door to costly litigation that could be difficult to settle. A wrongful termination could also damage company reputation and morale. Managers and supervisors should be well aware of the consequences of such actions and should observe proper protocol when terminating employees, using only fair and equitable means to do so.
9. Avoid retaliation.
In addition to discrimination, most federal and states laws specifically prohibit retaliation. When an employer takes adverse action against an employer that can be linked to his her participation in discrimination proceedings or to discrimination complaints, the law is clear. This constitutes the illegal act of retaliation. In fact, in 1991, amendments to the Civil Rights Act expanded the type of damages that can be collected for retaliation claims to both compensatory and punitive damages.
10. Prevention is key.
One of the best ways to foster a discrimination free work environment is to practice prevention. When discriminatory acts can be prevented instead of experienced through reaction and damaging litigation, both employers and employees benefit. The above tips and many more represent a number of steps employers can take to reduce the risk of litigation. The key is to take protective measures by implementing thorough policy and training with full support and participation from managers and supervisors.
Going the Extra Mile to Foster a Discrimination Free Workplace
Further, employers should be willing to go the extra mile to foster a discrimination-free workplace. Doing so will not guarantee every employee a job devoid of discrimination, but it will send a message they are in the employment of a company that does not tolerate discrimination and will go out of its way to both prevent it and to respond quickly and efficiently to complaints and situations that require careful supervision for the best resolution possible.