Discrimination is illegal in the workplace and something every employer needs to be aware of. There are both federal and state laws in place that address issues of discrimination and employers should take not to ensure they’re not getting themselves into any hot water. Generally speaking, employers should avoid discrimination based on sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender or ethnicity while hiring, firing, promoting, or determining compensation. Employment laws are tricky, and no one industry is treated identically to another. Similarly, federal and state laws often require different things, so it’s important to speak with a well-versed employment attorney to help your business made these crucial decisions. Below are some overall guidelines to help keep you out of trouble.
One of the first things you can do to get ahead of potential discrimination claims is to learn your Federal and state’s EEO (that’s equal employment opportunity) laws and general anti-harassment policies. Then make sure these policies are implemented somewhere in your business (preferably in writing). Train your Human Resources team on key policies so they can see them through from hiring to exiting. Implement a non-negotiable workplace standard and train all managers, supervisors, and entry level employees on the guidelines and hold every person accountable, including yourself. Promote an inclusive workplace environment where differences are approached with professionalism and respect. Also, it always helps to have an employment handbook for companies with any number of employees, so the policies are clear and everyone understands what they are. Make sure to do a review once a year to ensure you’ve kept up to date with any changes in the laws.
When hiring, implement practices designed to diversify your pool of candidates. If you are using an outside agency for hiring, make sure they do not search for candidates based on gender or ethnicity. If you make that request, both you and the employment agency would be liable in the face of a dispute. Create objective qualification standards for open positions and follow through to make sure they are applied for every single applicant. The same applies for promotions. When the opportunity arises, communicate with all eligible employees and communicate openly what the exact criteria is to avoid confusion.
When the time comes for annual performance reviews, make sure they’re based on job performance and pay close attention, so you can detect patters of potential discrimination. This means ensuring raises are not significantly higher for one person and significantly lower for another based on anything but their work ethic. You can set these standards from the beginning to keep these consistent amongst all employees.
There are so many ways to avoid discrimination, but the easiest is to talk about it. Host diversity and anti-discrimination training, open conversation and stay aware of what is happening in your business. It is important to keep your workplace safe and strong on its policies against discrimination. There is much more to gain by keeping your workplace open to all, and even more to lose by inviting in any discrimination.