Most employers understand that they have an obligation to provide their employees with a discrimination-free workplace. While the laws regarding discrimination may be complex, employers can readily implement important protections to avoid discriminatory practices and meet their obligations. The idea is to treat employees fairly and to provide them with unbiased access to employment and advancement.
It is in everyone’s best interests for workplaces to be free of discrimination. From the employee’s perspective, they can thrive if they are given equal opportunities to succeed at work, learn new skills, and compete for promotions. There is good reason for employers to be proactive in providing a discrimination-free workplace. Those with disabilities can contribute most effectively when provided with reasonable accommodations provided by employers. If a worker requires certain accommodations by an employer, the employer should comply.
Best practices have been developed over time and can be implemented in businesses of all sizes. In general, employment decisions, including hiring, firing, and promoting employees, should be based on objective criteria. Work assignments, access to training and education, and opportunities to compete for a promotion should be provided to employees without any particular group being singled out for differential treatment. This is important to remember during the hiring process. When hiring employees, employers should be sure to avoid using the following language:
- Gender-specific titles and descriptions;
- If a pre-employment screening test is to be used, make sure it is administered to all candidates;
- When interviewing, avoid asking questions that seek information on a protected status, such as age, religion, or disability; and
- Do not ask if a person is married, pregnant, or intends to start a family.
Workplace Policies Against Discrimination
Be proactive by establishing detailed protocols, including written criteria for hiring applicants and for firing and promoting employees. Write up protocols for how employee performance will be evaluated and follow these written protocols consistently.
Having a workplace handbook on the company’s policy against discrimination is a good idea. Work with an experienced employment lawyer when developing a handbook and training materials on maintaining a discrimination-free workplace. There are nuanced differences between federal and state laws, and both should be reflected in the handbook to be used as a reference for training employees on discrimination. Handbooks should also be frequently updated and reviewed.
Provide the handbook to each new hire and every employee. Many employers place anti-discrimination policy language into their general handbook that describes benefits, attendance requirements, and the like. Ask each employee to sign a form indicating they received the handbook. The handbook can be used to develop training for all managers and employees.
A policy against discrimination should also include a complaint processing component. State how employees are to lodge a complaint and explain how they will be handled, from investigation to disciplinary action. It is also very important that employers follow up with every complaint and be consistent with discipline. Federal law requires employers to post a notice explaining the federal laws prohibiting job discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion, age, equal pay, disability, or genetic information.
How Can Employers Effectively Communicate with Their Employees?
Communication between employers and employees should be consistent and non-accusatory when matters of discrimination are discussed. Creating a strong employer-employee relationship is very important to prevent discrimination. If an employee does not feel comfortable with their employer, they may not follow guidelines or report any suspected discrimination.
Feedback is vital to establish an anti-discrimination environment at work. Employers should regularly ask how they can improve their anti-discrimination policies, according to federal and local laws, and if employees are experiencing any wrongdoings, such as discrimination or even sexual harassment. When employers openly communicate with employees, it reassures workers that their best interests are being protected.
During conversations, employers should be mindful about their language. If an employer suspects a worker is being discriminatory, they should not start a conversation by accusing them. Employers must take complaints seriously and evidence of discrimination should be provided. Also, disciplinary action must always be incorporated if a worker is being biased, discriminatory, or is harassing other workers. Reports and disciplinary actions must be reported to the company’s Human Resources department.
When Should an Employee Hire a Lawyer?
If an employee feels that their concerns are not being heard, even after discussing discrimination with their employer, they may consider filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), an organization that enforces anti-discrimination policies and makes certain that employers are accountable for their negligent actions.
When an employee wishes to file a complaint, they must notify their employer of the complaint. A Charge of Discrimination will be filed, then the EEOC will interview the employee about their complaint. It is important that employees be thorough with their story and provide evidence of discrimination, such as emails or other forms of written conversations. The EEOC will investigate the employer and determine the next course of action. Complaints should be filed within 180 days.
During this process, it is also extremely beneficial to hire a lawyer. Filing a complaint can be difficult, especially because these matters are often sensitive. An employment lawyer will correctly file a complaint with the EEOC. A lawyer will also construct a case against an employer based on evidence that is provided by the employee. An employment lawyer will know the process and steps to complete when discrimination occurs. They will also be knowledgeable about deadlines and what to do if a case is denied. Additionally, by hiring an employment lawyer, an employer will take the discrimination complaint seriously.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for Those Suffering from Workplace Discrimination
If you were discriminated against in the workplace, the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help. We will review your case and fight for the justice you deserve. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For an initial consultation, call us at 215-574-0600 or complete an online form today.