A report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that 99,412 workplace discrimination claims were filed in 2012. Race discrimination was cited in 33.7 percent of the cases, while 23 percent of claims were for age discrimination. These findings demonstrate that workplace discrimination is a reality for thousands of workers every year. The effects on employees can be both mentally and physically devastating. A halt in career advancement, increased health issues, slowed productivity and low self-esteem are the result, says Brad Karsh, president of Chicago-based JB Training Solutions. Employers who adopt strategies to stop discrimination have an easier time motivating employees, retaining clients and protecting their bottom lines.
Follow the Law
Ending workplace discrimination starts by making sure employees and employers know the law. Employees have the right to work in an environment free of harassment due to age, sex, race, ability, religion and ethnicity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects a pregnant woman who may be passed up for a promotion due to her looming maternity leave, an older-generation male who is refused employment because he might cost the company too much in medical benefits, or a veteran who is denied employment because he might require some special accommodations. It's also important to recognize subtle forms of discrimination so that it can be stopped immediately.
Hiring a diverse group of employees helps stop discrimination. Employees learn to understand other cultures and ages, for example, and have a mutual respect for all team members. Because of this, employers attract a wider talent pool of applicants because the workplace already employs some like-minded people who can accept and appreciate what is brought to the table. In addition, employees of different abilities, ages, races, ethnicities and genders bring a diverse mix of ideas and experiences that can capture a broader range of clients.
Educate Management on Diversity and Harassment
Providing employees with the necessary information is the first step in stopping discrimination. Managers must take the lead and ensure that discrimination is stopped in all departments and during every business initiative, such as hiring and firing. For example, a manager discriminates when she tosses aside male resumes and only interviews females for a copy writer position at a makeup company. While it may appear a woman would better know the product, she also needs to have the necessary writing or creative skills. Employers should also mandate participation in seminars and sensitivity workshops, and should write harassment and diversity policies to distribute to all employees.
Provide Volunteer Initiatives
Companies that participate in philanthropic opportunities broaden the perspectives of employees and end up having a recruitment advantage, according to 1997 study conducted by Harvard University professor James E. Austin. Lead employees on a mission to help the homeless, plant trees, create a ride-share program, or help develop a business plan that donates money to a foundation that supports the company's business values. These volunteer opportunities give employees an appreciation and respect for all people and circumstances.
Continuously Assess Employee Needs
Talk to employees and get feedback about the day-to-day operations in the workplace. Is there gossip about a co-worker's disability? Do racial prejudices exist between team members? Is a man making a woman feel uncomfortable by leaning too close or resting his hand on her leg while discussing an assignment? Employees begin to feel respected and valued when management listens to concerns. "Employers should use employee workplace assessments, satisfaction surveys and data to find out which policies to implement," Karsh says. This helps retain employees, raise productivity and morale, lower absenteeism, and ultimately, boost the bottom line.