Don’t Discriminate

Lesson 3: Topic 4 of 8

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No course on corporate culture would be complete without touching on the topic of discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a Federal agency established by the Civil Rights Act about 60 years ago. In 2021 they received over 61,000 charges of workplace discrimination, marking a steadily downward trend over seven straight years. The number one claim against employers was retaliation. Other top categories of workplace discrimination, according to the EEOC, were disability, race, color, age, national origin, sex, religion, equal pay, genetic information, and (beginning in 2020) Covid-19 vaccination status. 

Annually, about two thirds of charges filed are dismissed by the EEOC as being without merit. These kinds of complaints are often petty and vindictive, initiated by disgruntled employees. Even so, having to deal with them can be time-consuming, expensive, stressful, and bad PR to the public. Moreover, to state the obvious, legitimate complaints are indicative of low employee morale. 

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To mitigate the threat of accusations of workplace discrimination, employers should:

  • Ensure you have policy and procedures (P&P) in place that covers discrimination and harassment. Periodically audit it to make certain it’s up to date and enforced.
  • Communicate to all employees (not just management) your anti-discrimination stance, not once but on a regular basis. This should take the form of training as well as announcements/reminders.
  • Create an environment in which employees feel free to raise concerns and are confident that those concerns will be addressed.
  • Encourage employees to report harassment to management at an early stage to prevent its escalation.
  • Institute a program to reward whistleblowers, because their coming forward allows you to deal with a potentially explosive situation before the government gets involved.
  • Always demand a standard of civility and respect, especially from senior staff.

Finally, put in place an easy to follow process of filing complaints, include this information in new hire orientation, and post it in prominent places (employee break room, HR offices, etc.). And when there are complaints, follow up promptly!