5 Best Ways to Prevent Workplace Discrimination & Create an Inclusive Work Culture For Your Team
Have you been noticing some workplace discrimination amongst your team members lately?
Unfortunately, not every company is a safe and welcoming place to work, and some businesses allow discrimination to occur due to ignorance or apathy.
But you're a better manager than that. Surely, you want your employees to feel comfortable and welcome in a place where their ideas can flourish, and they can be free to be themselves.
The last thing you need right now is burnout amongst your employees.
Being aware of the matter is the first step in preventing discrimination in a work environment (so give yourself a pat on the back for being avant-garde).
You'll be glad to know that it IS possible for companies to prevent workplace discrimination from occurring and protect their employees from diversity harassment. And by taking these simple steps and precautions, you can keep your company diverse both on paper and in practice, ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, at all times.
How to Recognize Discrimination in The Workplace
Discrimination is the unfair treatment of a person or group based on certain protected characteristics, such as race, religion, language, age, and disability.
A good way to go about effectively avoiding discrimination in the workplace is by knowing how to recognize unlawful behavior when it happens.
Some examples include:
- Making derogatory comments about women;
- Refusing to hire someone because they're pregnant;
- Encouraging people with disabilities not to apply for jobs unless they can do everything perfectly;
- Asking job applicants questions about their religion;
- Denying promotions because someone belongs to a union;
- Firing someone who does not speak English well enough for their job duties (i.e. English fluency and speech accents cannot be used as an excuse for terminating someone);
- Denying service animals access inside buildings despite medical necessity (this includes dogs who have been trained to help blind people navigate safely through public spaces).
How to Prevent Workplace Discrimination
Diversity in the workplace is a good thing.
It helps you reach a wider range of employees, customers, and coworkers. It can also help your company grow and reach its fullest potential if that company is willing to put in the work to embrace diversity.
As an employer, you have the responsibility to prevent discrimination in the workplace. This is key to keeping a flourishing work culture.
When correctly done, this can prevent a lot of problems, written complaints, and disciplinary procedures, while maintaining your team's overall morale (so it doesn't affect their work).
If you're currently concerned with workplace discrimination and how to best protect your employees, here are a few helpful measures for preventing discrimination in your work environment.
1. Know your employee’s rights
Remember: it's illegal for you to fire an employee because of their race. Just as well, you can’t fire someone based on gender, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or age.
If a situation as such occurs, know that your employees have the right to report discrimination without retaliation (meaning, they can report you and be protected from being fired, which could also create an uncomfortable work situation).
2. Interview for potential, not for prejudices
As you interview potential candidates, focus on the candidate's qualifications and skills. Avoid asking questions that are irrelevant to the job description or job duties. If you're hiring a marketing manager, it's not necessary to ask if they're married or how old they are.
If you do have a reason for asking about marital status, gender identity, family situation, or age—and it feels appropriate in the context of your workplace—use caution when framing these questions so as not to come across as discriminatory.
A seemingly innocent question like "are you married?" is fine if it relates directly to work performance (such as whether they'd be able to travel internationally with their spouse on business trips), but may be construed as offensive if asked without context.
We know it can be hard to avoid stereotyping people based on marital status, gender identity, or sexual orientation in job interviews. But there's evidence that these biases are subconscious and therefore difficult to recognize and correct.
In one study by Bloomberg, of more than 4,000 identical resumes sent out by researchers in response to real jobs, applicants with "white names" were 50% more likely than those with African-American-sounding names to get callbacks from employers.
3. Seek support inside the organization
Feeling discriminated against is not something that affects only bottom-line employees. Indeed, it’s equally offensive for people in senior positions. So if you feel like you're the victim of workplace discrimination, don't just sit there and take it. Seek support inside the organization.
If you’re scared of retaliation, you might be able to find an advocate within the company who can help mediate between you and the other party.
4. Consider reaching out to a supervisor, manager, or HR professional
Adding on, if you're experiencing workplace discrimination, it's not always easy to know where to turn for help, especially if you yourself are a manager in a position of power or don't want to rock the boat.
You may be afraid that if you bring it up, it will affect your reputation at work and make people think less of you. Or maybe you've already tried speaking up but weren't satisfied with the outcome—and now you're wondering if there are other options.
If talking about what's happening makes you uncomfortable and/or afraid of retaliation from upper management, then going straight to HR might be a good idea.
HR is there to help employees resolve issues like this, so don't hesitate to reach out for support if you experience discrimination and harassment.
5. Document all offenses
If you experience discrimination, it's important to document the offense by filling out a formal written complaint.
- Write down the date, time, location, and details of what happened.
- Who was involved? (Name them.) How many people were present in the room at the time of your offense? Do they know what happened? If so, record each response.
- What did you do in response to this incident? How did you feel about what happened (anger, frustration)?
To keep your company's diversity alive and growing, you need to be proactive.
Talk to people who are different from you. Ask them questions about their experiences in the workplace and what changes they would like to see happen.
Make sure you write down all of your responses to the discrimination. If anyone else was offended by what happened, record their responses as well.
It is possible to avoid workplace discrimination.
We hope that this small anti-discrimination guide has given you a better understanding of how to avoid workplace discrimination and harassment.
As earlier stated, it's not easy, but it is possible. Every company needs to take an active stand against discrimination if we want our world to be more equal and just.
We all have the right to work without being harassed or mistreated based on who we are as people. So make sure your employees understand the seriousness of discrimination with regular training programs. You can also hold regular discussions with them about their experiences and any problems they may have had in the past.
Lastly, make sure all your employees know what actions should be taken if they witness or experience something inappropriate (and the disciplinary procedures that can be put in place in case of discrimination complaints.
Ana Palombini is the voice behind AP Copywriting, where she provides content marketing for SaaS, entrepreneurs, and marketing agencies. When she is not typing ‘till her fingers are numb, you'll find Ana watching Friends for the millionth time or having late-night sushi from her couch (or both). Say hi on LinkedIn or check out her website.