What is Discrimination?
Discrimination refers to unequal or unfair treatment of an individual or a group based on certain characteristics protected by law.
When Harumi realized that her physical disability was preventing her promotion to senior management, she wasn’t just hurt. She felt like her entire career had been a lie.
Kenneth couldn’t believe it when he heard his colleague use a racial slur.
He’d always thought his office was a respectful environment.
When Ernesto overheard his boss say that he wouldn’t consider Ernesto for a promotion because he was 55, he was devastated.
He had an excellent service record for the 15 years he’d worked for the company, and now he was being passed over for promotion because of his age.
Deepa was shocked when she discovered that her religion mattered more to her boss than her performance did.
A colleague told her that her boss has said he was looking to transfer her to another team because he didn’t like working with people ‘like her.’ Discrimination is never acceptable. You have a legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to guard against this inappropriate workplace conduct.
Laws and Enforcement
The primary federal law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many states have developed similar statutes over time, deriving much of the underlying protections from Title VII. EEOC The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for preventing unlawful employment practices by employers, unions, and employment agencies. To achieve its goal, the EEOC accepts and investigates charges of discrimination filed by or on behalf of individuals claiming to have been subjected to an unlawful employment practice on the basis of a protected class, including but not limited to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
Some states have additional protected classes. The EEOC enforces numerous federal anti-discrimination laws, like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, and portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Make sure you are aware of any state-specific laws that may affect your professional conduct.
It is unlawful to discriminate against any individual or group in regard to recruiting, hiring and promotion, transfer, work assignments, performance measurements, the work environment, job training, discipline and discharge, wages and benefits, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment on the basis of the individual or group’s protected class or classes.
Adan is 100% a key member of my team and I recently granted his request for time off for a religious holiday. Of course, I made sure I had cover in place so his time off wouldn’t impact our capacity, but now two of his colleagues are sick and I’m facing a staff shortage. Adnan has secured time off for a religious holiday, but two of his colleagues have called in sick. As his manager, Kelly, knows that Adnan requested the day off, but now she faces a staff shortage. Kelly asks your advice.
Which three actions can she take?
- Ask another member of staff to cover for the sick colleagues, and respect Adnan’s request.
- Tell Adnan that he must work on the religious holiday to cover his colleagues.
- Discuss the challenge with HR to help identify alternatives. It may be necessary for Adnan to come into work, but Kelly should continue to explore other options.
- Arrange for contractors to cover Adnan’s absence.
If a day off has been approved, and the circumstances change, it may sometimes be necessary to ask an employee to work. Religious accommodation laws allow employers to engage in discussion about these kinds of issues. Employees with sincerely held religious beliefs will be accommodated where possible. If you are ever in doubt about what action you should take, you can find out who you can contact for advice here.
Promoting when Pregnant
Kelly wishes to promote someone from her team to a more senior role. Lila has applied for the promotion, and Kelly has determined that she’s the best candidate. Last night, she saw that Lila made a Facebook status update announcing her pregnancy. She asks your advice.
What should Kelly do?
- Promote Lila as she is the most suitable candidate for the role.
- Promote another candidate since Lila will be on maternity leave soon.
- Defer Lila’s promotion until after her maternity leave.
- Tell Lila that she should apply again when her child is older.
Always select the best candidate for the position. An individual’s pregnancy cannot affect your decision. Remember, it is never acceptable to discriminate against anyone because of pregnancy.
Kelly needs to promote someone from her team to a senior role. She’s carried out interviews and assessed the capabilities of her current colleagues. Musheer is an outstanding candidate. Kelly tells you that Musheer is nearly 60 and she’s worried that he may retire in the next year or so. Then, Kelly would have to go through the hiring process again.
What should you tell Kelly?
- Hire Musheer as he is the best candidate.
- Hire the next best candidate.
- Seek assurances from Musheer that he doesn’t intend to retire in the next three years.
Thanks for helping Kelly
If Musheer is the most qualified candidate and Kelly decides not to offer him the promotion because of his age, Kelly is leaving herself and the company open to a discrimination complaint from Musheer. Remember, you cannot decide against promoting or hiring someone because they are too old.
It’s important that you:
- Can identify discrimination in the workplace.
- Understand the different types of discrimination and protected classes.
- Know when a person is being discriminated against.
This is content from the Anti Harassment and Discrimination Course