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How to Avoid Race and National Origin Discrimination

By Business Training Media

Recent years have seen an uptick in class action race discrimination lawsuits against prominent companies like Eastman Kodak, Federal Express, Texaco, Boeing, and Coca-Cola. Notably, Advance Auto Parts, The Gap, Coca-Cola, and Texaco have paid substantial sums to compensate victims of race and national origin discrimination, coupled with fines for allowing discrimination to persist. These companies have also committed to significant changes in personnel management, including court-ordered supervision in some cases.

These avoidable costs highlight the importance of companies taking their obligations seriously to ensure equality of economic opportunity, irrespective of race or national origin. Timely responses to internal complaints could have prevented these legal actions from escalating to external authorities.

Executives, managers, and supervisors must recognize that their personal opinions, especially when rooted in racial or ethnic stereotypes, can have serious consequences. Statements suggesting that individuals from certain racial or ethnic groups are unsuitable for specific jobs not only perpetuate hurtful stereotypes but can also serve as evidence in discrimination lawsuits. Such attitudes, whether spoken or not, can lead to discriminatory actions, as racial animus may warp an individual's perspective.

Workplace racial discrimination occurs when considerations of race influence employment decisions or when neutral job policies disproportionately affect a particular race. National origin discrimination, on the other hand, involves making employment decisions based on ancestry, birthplace, culture, linguistic characteristics, or surnames associated with a specific national origin group.

Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination across all aspects of the employment relationship, encompassing hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, and job training. Stereotyped thinking often underlies both race and national origin discrimination. For instance, biases may lead to the promotion of certain racial or ethnic groups over others based on perceived intellectual abilities.

Harassment based on race and national origin is also forbidden, encompassing conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. This may include racial slurs, ethnic jokes, comments about cultural habits, or actions insulting individuals based on their race or national origin.

It is a misconception that race and national origin discrimination only affect non-Caucasians and immigrants. Individuals of every race and ethnic group are protected by law. Even a white man was allowed to proceed with a race harassment lawsuit against his black supervisor for referring to him as "a KKK kind of guy."

To create a discrimination-free workplace, companies should consider the following actions:

  1. Thorough Anti-Harassment Policy: Include a comprehensive anti-harassment policy in the company handbook, reinforced with posted notices defining harassment, stating a zero-tolerance policy, and providing information for reporting complaints.

  2. Prompt Investigation of Complaints: Investigate problems or complaints swiftly and consistently, ensuring fair and neutral investigations.

  3. No Retaliation Assurance: Assure employees of no retaliation for registering complaints and encourage them to come forward with their concerns.

  4. Discipline for Breaches: Discipline anyone breaching the policy, regardless of their position in the company.

  5. Objective Hiring and Promotion Standards: Use objective standards in hiring and promotion decisions, avoiding overly subjective criteria that may lead to biased decisions.

  6. Employee Training: Train employees about the detrimental effects of racial harassment and ensure they understand what constitutes harassment.

  7. Manager Training: Train managers and supervisors to recognize and respond to racial or national origin harassment, even in the absence of a formal complaint.

  8. Consistent Discipline: Use discipline even-handedly, ensuring neutrality concerning race and national origin and consistency with past practice.

Despite the belief in some quarters that race and national origin discrimination no longer exist, recent class action lawsuits against prominent companies demonstrate the contrary. Stereotyped attitudes and statements can lead to discriminatory actions, and it is essential for employers to take proactive steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. By adopting anti-harassment policies, promptly investigating complaints, and providing training, companies can foster a culture of respect and inclusivity, avoiding legal and financial consequences while creating a positive and productive work environment for all employees.

Copyright 2023: Business Training Media

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Preventing Workplace Discrimination Employee/Manager Training Package

Preventing Workplace Discrimination Employee/Manager Training Package

Business Training Media empowers your workforce and create a discrimination-free workplace with our Preventing Workplace Discrimination Training Package. Designed for employees, managers, and supervisors, this comprehensive resource equips your team with the knowledge and tools to recognize, prevent, and address discrimination in all its forms.

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