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5 Ways to Avoid Discrimination at Work

discrimination at workAs an HR professional, you know the best way to avoid discrimination at work is to prevent it from happening in the first place. There are many steps you can take to ensure your workplace is free from the heavy burden of managing discrimination issues.

XpertHR, an online resource that helps HR professionals understand and comply with global, federal, state, and municipal employment law, outlines these 5 steps that employers should consider in order to avoid discrimination at work.

Be Familiar With Anti-discrimination Laws

Employers need to understand the full scope of anti-discrimination laws, which go well beyond the federal laws like Title VII. Employers should also be knowledgeable of and compliant with anti-discrimination laws at state and local levels.

To help employers navigate discrimination issues that may occur, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlines various types of discrimination including age, equal pay, disabilities, genetic information, pregnancy, national origin, race/color, retaliation, religion, and sex.

Bottom line – know the antidiscrimination laws applicable to your workplace and geographic region, and comply with them.

Create an Anti-discrimination Policy

It’s important for employers to create an anti-discrimination policy. If they already have one, review and refine it as necessary. Such policies, says XpertHR, allow an employer to make clear to its employees the types of behaviors it will not tolerate in the workplace.

Your anti-discrimination policy should be clear, concise, and include the following:

  • Clear definitions of discrimination and harassment, with examples. It should also identify each class protected against discrimination and harassment as outlined by the EEOC (age, race/color, religion, etc.).
  • Language regarding how the policy applies beyond the physical workplace. For example, how the policy applies at off-site client meetings or employer-sponsored events.
  • A defined, workable process for filing complaints. Your policy should encourage employees to report discrimination using the appropriate channels. The policy should also outline the investigative steps the employer will take in addressing any claim.

Implement Mandatory Anti-discrimination Training

Employers must practice what they preach, so conducting training regarding the anti-discrimination programs is a must. Your anti-discrimination policy should be distributed company-wide and your workforce should be trained to understand and follow policy rules.

Training should happen at least once a year and employees should sign acknowledgments confirming their attendance and understanding of the training and the policy.

Some states require employers to conduct training. In CT, Sexual Harassment training is required for supervisory employees. Oftentimes, you can find professional training seminars hosted by law firms, a chamber of commerce, and the like. These training sessions will provide a certificate of completion which needs to be kept on file by the employer.

Investigate Discrimination and Harassment Complaints

Employers must have procedures in place so HR is prepared to immediately investigate and respond to any discrimination or harassment complaints that are reported. Consider the following during your investigation:

  • Investigate immediately – as soon as a complaint is reported, begin your investigation
  • Choose an investigator – it could be an in-house HR representative or third-party counsel depending on the incident
  • Conduct interviews, review evidence – interview the complaining employee first, followed by the alleged wrongdoer, followed by any other employees who may be involved
  • Prevent retaliation – protect the complaining employee from any retaliation
  • Document the investigation – take notes and document every step of the investigative process. Present a final report with recommendations for any proposed disciplinary actions.
  • Take appropriate action – announce the appropriate disciplinary action for the alleged wrongdoer. This could range from additional anti-discrimination training to termination. Additional training or counseling may still be recommended if the investigation proves inconclusive.

Be Aware of Unintentional Discrimination

Employers may not be aware that some employment practices that seem fair on the surface could in fact be discriminatory to a certain class of employees. An example of this could be a standardized reading test, which could discriminate against learning-disabled job candidates. XpertHR states that this type of discrimination doesn’t happen because of bad intent; it’s the byproduct of ‘neutral’ decision-making.

How do you prevent unintentional discrimination? Do a check of your current business decisions and policies and determine if they might negatively affect a protected class of employees. Running statistical analyses and validation tests can help show whether you need to come up with alternative processes and policies.

As one of the top CT employment agencies, it’s our job to know the intricacies of employment law for our state. Contact A.R. Mazzotta if you have any questions or want to enlist our staffing services for your organization.