Discrimination in the workplace Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 28 April 2016

Discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace is a common behavior that occurs in all occupations and industries. It can occur whether you work for a large or small organization, you’re a boss, or just starting out. In an ideal world people would be equal in rights, opportunities, and responsibilities, despite their race or gender. In the world we live in, however, we constantly face all kinds of neglect based on different attributes. All over the world, certain people treat others with prejudice because of particular features they possess. Unfortunately, this happens even in places which, by definition, should be free of all personal prejudices – specifically, in offices and other business surroundings. This phenomenon is called workplace discrimination; not every unfair behavior at work, however, can be assessed as discrimination. So, what exactly is workplace discrimination? Basically, it can be defined as a less favorable treatment towards an individual or a group of individuals at work, usually based on their nationality, skin color, sex, marital status, age, trade union activity, or other defining attributes (Australian Human Rights Commission).

It can appear as a denial of certain rights, negligent treatment, intentional underestimating of a worker’s personality or work results and achievements, and so on. A person can be discriminated by their employers, or by their coworkers as well. Discrimination can result into severe psychological consequences for the victim, such as emotional stress and anxiety. Discrimination often causes an employee to leave the workplace, resign from a position, or in severe cases, to commit suicide or act violently against the discriminators. Workplace discrimination can take more open and threatening forms, which are known as workplace harassment. It occurs when an employee is made to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated, based on such features as race, ethnic origin, gender, physical or mental disability, or on any other characteristic specified under legislation (AHRC). The two most radical forms of workplace harassment are the application of physical violence, or sexual harassment; women are especially exposed to this kind of discrimination.

Workplace violence can take several forms: the direct exercise of physical force against a worker that causes or could cause injuries to the worker; an attempt to exercise such physical force; or a statement or behavior that a worker can reasonably interpret as a threat to exercise physical force (Ontario Ministry of Labor). Sexual harassment can take the form of obscene jokes and allusions; intrusive body contacts; inappropriate gestures, or even direct actions aimed at sexual contact. There are several ways to deal with workplace discrimination; such measures can be held both on the individual and on the collective level. Individuals who have experienced discrimination or harassment at work, are recommended to stand firm under verbal attacks, remain confident about their own abilities and judgments, and try not to stay alone with the abusive person (UnionSafe). At the same time, collective measures can be taken as well.

They usually include calling for a meeting in a quiet confidential place in order to admit and discuss the problem; complaining to competent authorities; developing respective policies together with sanctions applied in case there is an infringement enacted by workers. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and not all people can enjoy equal opportunities and rights. This refers not only to our personal lives, but to our working environment as well; employees can be discriminated and abused because of certain features they possess, such as the color of skin, their ethnicity or gender, age, marital status, disabilities, and so on. To eliminate workplace discrimination, both individual and collective preventive measures should be made.

References

“What Is Workplace Discrimination and Harassment?” Australian Human Rights Commission. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2013. . “Preventing Workplace Violence And Workplace Harassment.” Ontario Ministry of Labor. N.p., July 2011. Web. 05 July 2013. “Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace.” UnionSafe. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2013. .

Discipline & Discharge

An employer may not take into account a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information when making decisions about discipline or discharge. For example, if two employees commit a similar offense, an employer many not discipline them differently because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. When deciding which employees will be laid off, an employer may not choose the oldest workers because of their age. Employers also may not discriminate when deciding which workers to recall after a layoff.

Harassment

It is illegal to harass an employee because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to harass someone because they have complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Harassment can take the form of slurs, graffiti, offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct. Sexual harassment (including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature) is also unlawful. Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal if it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or if it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer. Harassment outside of the workplace may also be illegal if there is a link with the workplace. For example, if a supervisor harasses an employee while driving the employee to a meeting. Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment.

The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer or other covered entity from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin, or on an individual with a disability or class of individuals with disabilities, if the polices or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. The laws enforced by EEOC also prohibit an employer from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative impact on applicants or employees age 40 or older, if the policies or practices at issue are not based on a reasonable factor other than age. 2. Which federal laws cover language discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects individuals from discrimination based upon national origin and race. Some courts and governmental agencies have said that discrimination based on language is a form of national origin discrimination because primary language is closely related to the place a person comes from. So if you are being discriminated against for using that language, or because of characteristics having to do with that language, that is considered essentially the same as if you were being discriminated against because of your national origin. This area of the law is still developing, however, so you should also consult with a local attorney for more information. 6. Can I be asked not to speak my native language at work or to speak English only? A rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times on the job may violate the law, unless an employer shows it is necessary for conducting business.

If an employer believes the English-only rule is critical for business purposes, employees have to be told when they must speak English and the consequences for violating the rule. Any negative employment decision based on breaking the English-only rule will be considered evidence of national origin discrimination if the employer did not tell employees of the rule, except in several western states as noted below. In California, as of January 1, 2002, there is a specific legal provision which makes it illegal for an employer to adopt or enforce a policy that limits or prohibits the use of any language in any workplace, unless both of the following conditions exist: (1) the language restriction is justified by a business necessity; and (2) the employer has notified its employees of the circumstances and the time when the language restriction is required to be observed and of the consequences for violating the language restriction.

“Business necessity” is defined as “an overriding legitimate business purpose such that the language restriction is necessary to the safe and efficient operation of the business, that the language restriction effectively fulfills the business purpose it is supposed to serve, and there is no alternative practice to the language restriction that would accomplish the business purpose equally well with a lesser discriminatory impact.” In the states of Alaska, Arizona, California (but the above state law still applies), Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, there is a court decision that requires one of the following two circumstances for an employee to challenge a “speak-English-only” policy in the workplace under federal law: the rule is applied to employees who speak no English or who have difficulty speaking English; or the policy creates, or is part of, a work environment that is hostile toward national origin minority employees. If, initially, an employee is able to show that either of those conditions applies, the employer must show some “business necessity,” a sufficiently compelling and clearly job-related need, for the policy.

Even if the employer does demonstrate business necessity, the policy is still illegal if there are less discriminatory alternatives to the policy that achieve the same goals just as effectively. At this point, although the law on language discrimination continues to evolve, employees in the U.S. but not in these states do not have to show either of the two conditions. The mere existence of a policy, whether or not it affects or targets national origin minority employees, is evidence of discrimination which may only be overcome by the employer’s business necessity. In Nebraska, a statute called the Protections for Non–English Speaking Employees Law offers several protections for workers whose primary language is not English. The law applies to employers that employ 100 or more workers and recruit or hire non–English-speaking workers residing more than 500 miles from the place of employment, and where more than 10 percent of the employers’ workforces are non-English-speaking and speak the same non-English language.

Employers must provide non-English-speaking workers with required written information about the job and obtain the person’s signature on a statement acknowledging having received that information before hiring. Employers are required to provide bilingual employee interpreters to assist non-English speaking workers in carrying out their job responsibilities and to provide them with information on community services. Employers are also required to transport employees who quit within 4 weeks back to the locations from which they were recruited.

More people in the workforce are claiming discrimination over their English-speaking ability or foreign accents, according to federal officials.Workplace discrimination complaints based on national origin — which often involve language ability — rose by 76 percent from 1997 to 2011, when more than 11,800 complaints were lodged with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC attributes the trend to a more ethnically diverse labor force — about 45 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. Civil-rights advocates say workplace environments have grown more hostile in states enacting tough new immigration laws.

It is a common dilemma: employees complain about co-workers speaking other languages at work, conflicts arise, teamwork suffers, and morale issues begin invading the organization. These complaints usually center on an employee’s perception that it is rude for co-workers to speak another language at work, that such actions are intended to be deliberately exclusive and to make other employees feel uncomfortable. Employees feel they are being talked about, laughed at or even plotted against. Yet, Title VII protects employees from national origin discrimination, and therefore, employers must allow employees to have conversations in their native languages, unless there is a reasonable business need to require English-only rules during working hours. So what can HR do to resolve this conflict when English-only rules do not apply, such as during break times and lunches, and for businesses that cannot justify such a policy? First, educate employees on discrimination laws and work to foster inclusion.

Start with presentations on national origin discrimination and show the correlation between native languages being allowed in the workplace and the law. Work to create a presentation that shows common misconceptions on both sides and engenders respect for each other. Employees should be well informed of the company’s discrimination policy, which should also include the use of languages and guidance on what would constitute discriminatory or harassing behaviors. It should be communicated to all employees that failure to abide by the company’s policy and its expectations may result in disciplinary action, including termination. HR must also search for ways to ensure that inclusion is an integral part of the company’s culture. Providing a cohesive environment where everyone is respected and valued is vital to ensuring organizational success. Employees may find it easier to assume that others are deliberately speaking a foreign language to hide something rather than to take the time to understand another’s point of view.

Conversely, always excluding employees from conversations by using another language can be unprofessional, unfair to co-workers and not in the best interests of the employer. Diversity and inclusion training should include awareness of cultural differences and the challenges non-native-English speakers may currently or once have faced, such as trying to fit into a new culture, being understood when conducting daily activities and being accepted and included at work. Employees also need to respect those fluent in more than one language. These individuals are able to speak English, but at times choose to speak to others in another common language. This is a natural way of sharing a part of their heritage while providing enjoyment in speaking a language that they both share. Finally, the organization’s management must “walk the talk” and be ready to address situations that affect their teams or jeopardize the employer’s goals and vision for the organization.

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Another step HR can take to prevent discrimination is to encourage cooperation and friendly, professional work relationships by creating diverse departments or work areas throughout the company.

Make sure employees know where to report any incidents of discrimination. Be sure to list the name of the Human Resources staff member that can document the complaint or report and is able to answer any questions or respond to concerns the employee may have.

It is important that the HR staff member informs the manager or supervisor about the employees mentioned in the complaint so that the manager is informed and can schedule a private meeting with the employee to explain that they will have to answer the complaint. Be sure that all employees know that discrimination complaints are taken very seriously and addressed in a professional manner.

Make any decisions regarding disciplinary action in a timely manner so that employees are not left to wonder what the outcome of the situation will be. Another step HR can take to prevent discrimination is to encourage cooperation and friendly, professional work relationships by creating diverse departments or work areas throughout the company.

Make sure employees know where to report any incidents of discrimination. Be sure to list the name of the Human Resources staff member that can document the complaint or report and is able to answer any questions or respond to concerns the employee may have.

It is important that the HR staff member informs the manager or supervisor about the employees mentioned in the complaint so that the manager is informed and can schedule a private meeting with the employee to explain that they will have to answer the complaint. Be sure that all employees know that discrimination complaints are taken very seriously and addressed in a professional manner.

Make any decisions regarding disciplinary action in a timely manner so that employees are not left to wonder what the outcome of…

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