Article - How to Avoid Race and National Origin Discrimination
By Myron Curry
Various polls and research continue to show that most white Americans believe there is no longer a problem of race or national origin discrimination in America, while people of color and immigrants are subject to ongoing discrimination.
In recent years, class action race discrimination lawsuits have been filed against a number of brand name companies, including Eastman Kodak, Federal Express, Texaco, Boeing, and Coca-Cola. Advance Auto Parts, The Gap, Coca-Cola, and Texaco are among the companies that have paid millions to compensate the victims of race and national origin discrimination and as a fine for allowing discrimination to flourish in their organizations. In addition, the companies have agreed to make major changes in personnel management and in some cases to accept court-ordered supervision of their future practices. These costs were all preventable if only the companies had taken seriously their obligations to provide equality of economic opportunity regardless of race or national origin and responded properly to internal complaints before employees and applicants took those complaints to outside authorities.
Executives, managers, and supervisors may believe they are only stating their personal opinions and that they have a free speech right to do so when they make statements that people of a particular racial or ethnic group have characteristics that make them unsuitable for certain kinds of jobs. Such statements based on stereotypes are hurtful and offensive on their face to those in the groups so stereotyped. They will also be evidence of discrimination should a lawsuit be filed. Such attitudes, whether stated or not, lead directly to discriminatory actions. As one court said, "Racial animus can all too easily warp an individual's perspective to the point that he or she never considers the member of a protected class regardless of that person's credentials."
An employer engages in racial discrimination when it allows considerations of race to influence or effect employment decisions or even when it adopts neutral job policies that disproportionately affect members of a particular race. An employer discriminates on the basis of national origin when it makes employment decisions based on a person's ancestry, birthplace or culture, or on linguistic characteristics or surnames associated with a particular national origin group. Federal and most state laws forbid discrimination in every aspect of the employment relationship, including hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, job training or any other employment term. Both race and national origin discrimination often come out of stereotyped thinking. For example, an employer may be less likely to promote employees of Mexican origin or African-Americans, because he believes they don't have the same intellectual abilities as Caucasians, or an employer may not hire workers of Middle Eastern descent because of a belief that they are enemies of America.
Harassment on the basis of race and national origin is also prohibited. Harassment is any conduct based on a person's race or national origin that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment or interferes with the person's work performance. As one expert put it, "The types of harassment an individual might face are, unfortunately, limited only by a bigot's imagination." Harassing conduct might include racial slurs, jokes about a particular ethnic group, comments or questions about a person's cultural habits, or actions that insult a person based on his or her race or national origin.
Many people have the mistaken belief that race and national origin discrimination can occur only against non-Caucasians and immigrants. In fact, people of every race and ethnic group are protected. For example, a court allowed a white man to proceed with a race harassment lawsuit due to his black supervisor's referring to him as "a KKK kind of guy."
The following actions will go a long way toward assuring any workplace is free of race or national origin discrimination.
- A thorough anti-harassment policy in the company handbook reinforced with posted notices that define harassment, state your policy that such behavior will not be tolerated, and provide information for reporting complaints.
- If problems or complaints arise, investigate them quickly, and in a consistent manner, being sure that those who do the investigation are fair and neutral.
- Assure your employees that there will be no retaliation for registering complaints. Encourage employees to come forward with their concerns.
- Discipline anyone who has breached the policy regardless of his or her position in the company.
- Make sure you have objective reasons for rejecting any job applicant, and that you can document those reasons, such as with job descriptions and records of past occupants of the job.
- Train managers to use only objective standards in making hiring and promotion decisions. Avoid letting managers use overly subjective criteria, such as how personally "comfortable" they feel with the candidate. Use of such subjective criteria tends to result in managers hiring and promoting primarily people who most resemble the managers themselves rather than the candidate who is objectively most qualified but is of a different race or is an immigrant who speaks with an accent.
- Train employees about the detrimental effects of racial harassment. Make sure they know what constitutes harassment and why a racially hostile environment is bad for the organization.
- Train managers and supervisors to recognize and respond to racial or national origin harassment even if no one has made a formal complaint.
- Use discipline even-handedly. Always be able to prove that all disciplinary measures are neutral with respect to race and national origin and consistent with past practice.
Training Reduces Exposure
Discrimination is a sensitive and costly problem that is becoming all too common in many workplaces. By providing discrimination prevention training to your employees and managers on a regular basis, you'll reduce your organization’s expose to this costly problem and create a safer workplace.
About the Author:
Myron Curry is the President and Founder of Business Training Media, a leading provider of business management training material for corporate training and development, workplace safety, human resources and professional development.
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Article source: Business Training Media