Full-Service HR

Avoiding Workplace Discrimination

Ella Baker
Reading time 3 Mins
Published on Sep 2

Workplace discrimination can be based on a number of factors and comes in many forms. Make sure your employees understand the different types of workplace discrimination and ways to combat it.

Defining workplace discrimination

Discrimination occurs when a person or group is treated unequally and less favorably than another person or group due to circumstances or personal characteristics.

These circumstances/characteristics can include:

  • race
  • age
  • religious belief
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • marital status
  • pregnancy
  • political belief or activity
  • union membership or activity
  • impairment or disability, whether temporary or permanent
  • obligations as a parent or caregiver

An example of discrimination is not hiring a qualified candidate due to their sexual orientation. Another could be considering a man more seriously than a woman for a promotion, when both are equally qualified.

Imposing gender-conforming dress codes can sometimes be construed as workplace discrimination as well. If you refuse to allow a pregnant employee to apply for a promotion, or don’t give her equal consideration when making the decision, you are engaging in discriminatory practices.

Develop a written policy

As a first step in fighting workplace discrimination, your employee and management handbooks should have a clearly written anti-discrimination policy. All employees should receive the policy as part of their onboarding process; and they must sign that they have read and understood the policy.

Your HR department or PEO partner should also hold meetings annually to reiterate your zero-tolerance policy. You should also remind your employees of their responsibility in reporting discrimination. In these training, you must make clear that no repercussions will be taken against them for reporting workplace discrimination, and that you will address every report seriously. The policy you put in place should also include guidelines for reporting complaints and should detail the steps taken when a complaint is made.

Train your employees on workplace discrimination

Training sessions offer your employees the opportunity to discuss what constitutes discrimination in the workplace. Your training should help break down any misconceptions about discrimination and provide information about unacceptable languages and behaviors.

You should also offer opportunities for team-building exercises and interactions between employees. This helps employees have greater insight of their coworkers, which helps break down misconceptions, leading to discrimination.

In these trainings, be sure to cover:

  • current company policy
  • updates to your original policy
  • how to respond if you’re the victim of discrimination
  • what to do if you witness other employees being discriminated against
  • all forms of discrimination
  • how to respect each other’s differences

Be consistent

You must make sure that your management staff consistently and fairly address claims of discrimination in a firm manner. Disciplinary action should always follow the protocol laid out in your policy, no matter who is reporting or accused of discrimination. Consistency shows that you are serious and committed to treating everyone fairly.

Your PEO partners at Sheakley can assist you with write a discrimination policy. Sheakley’s Human Resources experts can also evaluate your existing hiring and employment practices to make sure you aren’t inadvertently engaging in discriminatory practices.

Get your free consultation with a Sheakley HR representative today and find out how we can help you attract a socially aware workforce.

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