Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination in the work place can take many forms - sexual, race, age, sexual orientation, ethnic heritage - and is not only a violation of an employee's rights, it is a burden on a company. It can damage company morale and productivity. Everyone has an interest in preventing discrimination as much as possible and fairly and promptly resolving any claims that are made. There is no way to prevent every instance of discrimination, but an employer can (and must) act to provide a discrimination-free workplace. Here are some key things to do:

1. An employer should have a written policy prohibiting discrimination that is clear and provides examples of exactly what is prohibited. There should be no doubt that any discrimination will not be tolerated and could lead to dismissal.

2. Each employee should receive a copy upon beginning employment and should sign acknowledge receipt of the policy in writing. This ensures that everyone is aware of the policy and cannot claim ignorance.

3. The policy should provide a clear process of how to report discrimination. There should be no doubt how to report discrimination, whom to report it to and that it should be reported as soon as possible.

4. Each employee should have several people to report the discrimination to, if possible. An employee needs to always have one non-involved person they can talk to.

5. A report should be in writing to ensure that both employee and employer have a record of what was reported and when.

6. A company must act on any report immediately by investigating the allegations. It is vital that all allegations be investigated - ignoring or brushing off allegations will cause resentment and may encourage or allow future discrimination.

7. If the company finds that discrimination did occur, it must take remedial measures to prevent future discrimination. If the company disagrees, it should explain to the accusing employee that it found no discrimination – these should be done in writing.

8. If an employee hires an attorney and/or files suit, a company should immediately contact an attorney. Disputes are best resolved when both sides have counsel and understand their rights and responsibilities. A one-sided fight does not lend itself to a fair outcome.

Employers and employees should recognize that they both have an interest in preventing discrimination. An employer needs to lead by taking a strong stance against discrimination, including following the rules above, and an employee needs to join in the effort by complying with those rules. A workplace free from discrimination benefits everyone.