Blog > inclusion policies

Ways to avoid workplace discrimination

Ways to avoid  workplace discrimination

Identifying and finding ways to prevent workplace discrimination has become one of the top priorities for organizations and HR teams of all kinds. This is a topic that is relevant to businesses of all sizes, from small companies to the Fortune 500. And with good reason.

Preventing workplace discrimination is not only a legal requirement, it also has direct implications - positive and negative - on the well-being of your employees and, ultimately, your company.

This article will explore the issue of workplace discrimination and walk you through how to prevent it at your company.

What is workplace discrimination?

Workplace discrimination occurs when a person, or group of people, is treated unfairly or differently because on their position within one or more protected class.

Depending on your area of operations, these protected classes might include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Skin color
  • National origin
  • Religious affiliations
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Genetic information
  • Pregnancy or parenthood
  • Relationship to somebody else with one one of these protected groups

It's crucial to distinguish between employment discrimination and discrimination at work. Although they both stem from the same ideas, these behaviours take distinct forms during an employee's tenure.

Workplace discrimination refers to treating employees unfairly or differently. Or, in the day-to-day activities and long-term career development of an employee of your organisation.

Contrarily, employment discrimination refers to the unfair or unequal treatment of applicants throughout the hiring process. This could involve purposefully or accidentally excluding or including candidates based on membership in a protected class.

When someone is treated unfairly because of who they are, where they are from, or what they believe, it is considered discrimination in all its manifestations. This kind of discrimination is prohibited in many countries throughout the world and, if discovered, might get the business into legal trouble.

Examples of workplace discrimination

As mentioned, workplace discrimination can manifest in a variety of different ways. The challenge that companies face is identifying and addressing how discrimination can overtly or covertly work its way into their systems and teams.

Here are some examples of workplace discrimination to point you in the right direction:

  • Excluding - or prioritizing - certain employees from promotions or pay raises, whether intentional or not.
  • Denying certain benefits or perks to people within specific protected classes.
  • Paying equally-qualified employees in the same position different salaries.
  • Withholding career growth opportunities due to a disability or parental leave.
  • Denying the use of company facilities to some employees, but not others.
  • Disproportionate terminations of specific protected classes during a round of layoffs.
  • Favoring or avoiding certain protected classes during recruitment.
  • Openly hostile behavior toward another employee based on their protected class.

As you can see, some of these examples are more obvious forms of discrimination than others. Open discrimination is much easier to see and address - if you have the policies in place - than more covert or systemic discrimination.

When thinking through how to address and prevent workplace discrimination, it’s important to identify the different areas and instances where it might occur. This includes everything from daily treatment and team dynamic to systems and workflows.


How to prevent workplace discrimination

It takes a concentrated top-down effort, supported by a combination of rules, education, and enforcement, to prevent workplace discrimination.

Here are the top five ways to stop discrimination at work.

1. Familiarize yourself with anti-discrimination laws

You need a legal and practical definition of what constitutes discrimination in your field of operation before you can handle anti-discrimination measures at your organisation.

Before implementing any new policies, it's critical to familiarise yourself with all applicable local standards and legislation because discrimination might mean different things depending on where your firm is located.

It's also crucial to keep in mind that local, state, provincial, territorial, and federal legislation might all differ from one another. As a result, it's likely that you'll need to evaluate and comprehend several tiers of legal consideration.

We advise working with an employment lawyer who is familiar with the local legislation to help make that process simpler. Ask them to walk you through the legalese and all of the relevant real-world issues.

For the records of your business, you should also gather and carefully study all pertinent legal papers. To make sure that everyone is aware of the standards and where your firm is right now, go over them with your HR and leadership team.

After completing this activity, you should be well-positioned to start revising your current anti-discrimination rules or developing a brand-new one.

2. Create and implement a clear anti-discrimination policy

The most crucial phase of this procedure is the anti-discrimination policy. Here, you should clearly state and explain your company's attitude on discrimination and lay out your practical plan for dealing with it for all employees.

Although it can be time-consuming, this step is essential to long-term success.

Review your current discrimination policy first using your new knowledge of the relevant legislation. You can move on to developing a new policy if you don't already have one.

In any scenario, it's important to spell out in detail every form of conduct that will not be accepted at work. Then specify who these rules apply to, why they are in effect, where they are applicable, what they are intended to achieve, and how they will be applied.

This should include:

  • A clear statement of intent that explicitly prohibits discrimination in the workplace
  • Definitions and examples of what constitutes discrimination
  • An extensive list of all protected classes in all areas of operation
  • Instructions on how to report workplace discrimination
  • A detailed explanation of the process once a discrimination claim has been made
  • Any and all disciplinary actions that may occur should employees be found guilty of discriminatory behavior

To ensure that all employees easily understand this anti-discrimination policy, use clear, simple language throughout. If necessary, translate the policy into each of your company's main operating languages.

Once finalised, distribute the new policy through your internal and HR channels to all current and new workers. Email, your HRIS, or a workplace intranet are examples of this.

To guarantee that all staff members have a chance to evaluate the policy and agree to its terms, you should make signing off on it necessary.

Once the policy is in place, it must be updated as necessary to reflect any modifications to anti-discrimination legislation in all areas of operation.

3. Provide mandatory anti-discrimination training

Following your announcement of these changes, you should put in place training initiatives to assist staff in understanding:

  • The new policies around workplace discrimination in legal and practical terms
  • The employers’ goals and motivations in eliminating discrimination
  • The positive effects that diversity and inclusion can have on the business and individual employees
  • How to identify and address unconscious bias or neutral decision making that may lead to unintentional discrimination

Hold mandatory training sessions to walk employees through these learning modules.These sessions can be a combination of:

  • Micro-learning, which offers bite-sized, on-demand training session to keep these concept top of mind for employees
  • Peer-to-peer learning, which involves round table discussions between employees where they are encouraged to share their experiences and examples of discrimination

This training is designed to make employees aware of discrimination in the workplace, and give them the tools needed to avoid it.

4. Analyze business processes for unintentional discrimination

As already said, not all discrimination is done on purpose. Some are based on unintentional biases or impartial judgement. In other words, people could decide based on their preconceived notions or judgments about a particular circumstance or individual.

This can manifest in:

  • Language used in recruitment ads or job description
  • Recruitment tests and screening
  • Team structures and chains of command
  • Promotions and pay raises

In each of these situations, it's feasible that current procedures unfairly benefit one set of individuals while unwittingly discriminating against another.

We advise you to check your company's demographic information to find any areas where there may be underrepresentation or possible indications of discrimination in order to spot instances of unintentional bias.

For instance, if you find that women are significantly underrepresented in mid- to senior-level leadership roles, this may indicate that a system or procedural flaw favours male candidates.

To find potential issues and instances of unconscious prejudice, review your hiring, promoting, team-building, and leadership selection processes and procedures.

Bring in outside assistance if necessary to receive an unbiased assessment of your policies and procedures and to spot areas that could want improvement.

5. Stay proactive and react quickly

Discrimination management is not a set it and forget it strategy. It calls for you to carefully pay attention to any potential red flags of employment discrimination, review them, and take appropriate action. Additionally, it implies that your leadership group ought to actively promote an inclusive workplace. To do this, take into account:

  • Responding to any and all complaints of discrimination in a swift and decisive manner
  • Encouraging open dialogue about discrimination from all employees, regardless of seniority
  • Actively making diversity and inclusion a key part of your company culture
  • Hiring people who share your values

More than just an anti-discrimination policy is needed to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. It entails sharing and demonstrating these principles on a regular basis at all organisational levels.

In team meetings and town halls, bring up these topics. In your internal and external company messaging, state your values. Include it in the messaging you use for recruiting and employer branding.

Make diversity and inclusion an integral element of your business strategy and public image.