How to prevent discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace will always be a trending topic. As much as we don’t want to believe it or talk about it, underlying workplace discrimination or harassment is still prevalent in many companies and can be extremely costly if continued. Not only with employees leaving, but further consequences can lead to excessive fines or legal costs, and bad business publicity for your clients or potential employees.

Although every individual has an equal opportunity to participate and the right to be treated with respect, these two examples are not a clear enough indication of what discrimination in the workplace feels like. While saying that, employees should learn the different laws to know more about their rights.

There are a variety of different ways that employees and job applicants can be discriminated against, some of which include age, race, gender, disability, genetic information, pregnancy and more.

Workplace discrimination extends beyond hiring and firing to discrimination that can happen to someone who is currently employed and it is illegal to discriminate in any facet of employment.  

Here are some tips to preventing discrimination in the workplace:

Treat all employees the same

Treating people fairly means evaluating people based on their results and not their personal lives. Despite decades of activism, countless human resources and legal courses to help analyse the topic and to promote an appreciation of diversity, unfair treatment is still a thing. In fact, one of the biggest causes of workplace discrimination is when employees are treated unfairly because of who they are, how they look or what they contribute to the company.

This kind of action can also be a cause of favouritism, which is why it is important for all managers to keep detailed, up-to-date reports on employees regarding any disciplinary actions or performance reviews that have been obtained throughout the course of their role. Another important factor is to be consistent.

Many employees start to create their own feeling towards people when they are not consistent because it reflects a feeling of unfairness. When you keep documents with employee information, it acts as evidence to all senior managers, showing that you have attempted to help the employee reach the expected standards.

Let the person who hired the employee, fire the employee

Usually, when someone gets involved with an exit meeting or hearing that wasn’t in the hiring process, things can start to turn sour. People will, and usually do, jump to the conclusion that they are being treated unfairly once other people get involved.

The theory behind this step is that if the person willingly hired you regardless of race, gender or any other personal attributes, it is very unlikely that the same person could be accused of being prejudice or discriminating. With that being said, if you need to give out warnings, make sure that there are always witnesses involved, incase it comes to terminating a contract.

Train and create awareness

When companies take the time to make a hype around a certain topic or invest in their employees by training them on a specific subject, employees naturally feel the urgency of something. Training employees about certain procedures are key to showing them how to react towards something.

It is also important to ensure that anyone who is going to be participating in a hiring or firing process is familiar with the employee and labour law acts. This will also help managers feel that no subject/s discussed among themselves or with any employee can be accused of discrimination.

Enforce it as a company policy

Having a written policy that informs employees and management about workplace discrimination and how to address it will show staff how serious you are about the matter. It may be a touchy subject to address, but attacking it in your employee handbook is the best place to do it.

Be clear about your company values around this issue, what you consider harassment and discrimination to be, and what the consequences are for any employees found violating the policy. If any manager is confronted with something small or big, the approach to every incident needs to be dealt with in the same professional manner.

Stick to job requirements when hiring

Hiring employees is already a tricky task. Having someone in the room when interviewing someone will allow that person to act as a witness to any discrimination that could be promoted. The best advice would be to make decisions based on the requirements of the specific job and no other reason. It’s not about how they look or any external factors that could steer you away, but rather about hiring the correct candidate that is best suited for the position. Regardless of your decision, people can file lawsuits against companies if they feel or believe that your decision was made because of discrimination or prejudice.

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