Repost Article Source: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/workplace-discrimination-occur-2862.html
Unfortunately, workplace discrimination still occurs in today’s society despite federal, state and local employment laws that prohibit discriminatory treatment. Conversations about race, culture, political views, gender and sexual orientation seem to go nowhere, and often end with unresolved issues. This, in turn, leads to conflict within the workplace, which affects interpersonal relationships with colleagues, your business reputation and, ultimately, productivity and success.
Federal Laws Prohibiting Discriminatory Employment Practices
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 among other anti-discrimination laws. Employers with 15 or more employees are subject to federal regulations. The EEOC provides technical assistance and guidance to help employers understand their legal obligations concerning equal employment. When companies violate federal laws, it may be attributed to oversight or lack of understanding. On the other hand, the fines, penalties, costs for litigation and lost time for egregious, intentional discrimination are steep, not to mention the bad publicity. This is why you should have a qualified, experienced human resources leader on your staff, or access to a labor and employment attorney.
State Laws Prohibiting Discriminatory Practices
Every state in the U.S. has a Fair Employment Practices Agency that works in collaboration with the EEOC to enforce state anti-discrimination laws. When an employee complaint of unfair employment practices is filed with the EEOC, the charge of discrimination is dually-filed with the state FEPA. The EEOC district office for the Texas region is located in Dallas; the Texas FEPA–Texas Workforce Commission, Civil Rights Division–is headquartered in Austin. Many state laws mirror the federal laws; however, in some cases, there may be slight differences between federal and state laws. Some states add additional bases on which discrimination is prohibited. In this instance, the employer must be fully aware of federal and state regulations. Again, the reason why workplace discrimination may occur is lack of knowledge about state regulations. Some employers may just assume that following the federal laws is enough.
Municipal Laws Prohibiting Discriminatory Practices
Municipal laws govern workforce discrimination. In March 2010, City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker signed legislation that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Discrimination on various bases may occur because of the lack of attention to current events. Many human resources leaders maintain up-to-date knowledge on legislative issues that affect the workplace, which is another reason to have an experienced HR leader on staff. City laws various, just as state laws. DallasVoice.com reports, “Dallas has had an employment nondiscrimination policy in place since 1995 that covers sexual orientation, but not gender identity.” It’s important to stay informed about the differences among federal, state and local laws prohibiting discrimination.
Effective Diversity Training
Diversity training is a trend for consultants and employers alike. Millions, and perhaps billions, of dollars spent training employers, employees and work groups about diversity in the workplace. Though a noble endeavor, diversity training alone isn’t a panacea for preventing or eliminating discrimination. In many instances, diversity training is mandated in the terms of settling an employment discrimination case in litigation. The EEOC and state FEPAs also have authority to make diversity training a condition of cases mediated through the agency. Mandatory training sometimes receives a lukewarm reception from employees. For employees who truly have personal biases, diversity training for them is the equivalent of a necessary evil.
Modeling Behavior to Prevent Discrimination
Employees exposed to diverse cultures feel that mandatory training is simply a rote, ineffective way to persuade employees to change their views just for the sake of keeping their jobs. Your unbiased employees are probably the best teachers for learning about diversity. The important thing to remember is that discrimination in any venue–workplace or elsewhere–is generally an act in which someone engages in behavior that suggests all individuals aren’t equal. For some of your employees, partnering with someone who has experienced or witnesses discrimination can be an opener as well as a teaching tool.