Diversity in the workplace remains an important topic. Here are four tips to improve diversity and hopefully avoid a discrimination lawsuit in your workplace in 2018.
When implementing these tips, the company may experience cultural resistance. Accordingly, successful business leaders create diversity workplace programs that reduce the chances of discrimination and make diversity a priority, but do so strategically.
Recruitment and retention
Employers always should hire capable candidates based on skill and qualifications rather than appearances, perceptions and assumptions. Do not limit your definition of diversity to race, color, sex, national origin or religion, either.
Expand your company’s concept of diversity to include multigenerational diversity as well as diversity of thought, work styles and cultures.
Recruit a more diverse pool of qualified applicants, for example, by sending a diverse team to meet with colleges that historically have students with different cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds, create partnerships with national and local organizations to promote your company’s image, and research job postings for diversity focus groups
And once hired, integrate them into the company by including them in engaging projects and committees and inviting them to participate in workplace social functions such as lunches and volunteer events.
Diversity awareness training
Many employment lawsuits’ origins involve unintentional slights against others. Statements such as “I don’t think of you as gay because you seem so normal to me” may not seem offensive to the individual making the comment, but such statements can be highly offensive to the listener.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission strongly encourages employers to properly and regularly train their employees on discrimination issues.
In addition, employers may want to consider diversity awareness training. This is different from structured training on civil rights and/or employment laws.
Diversity awareness programs focus more on the factors that improve workplace relationships such as creating mutual respect and appreciation for differences as well as similarities. Implement such training carefully, as mandatory diversity training may make employees see diversity as more of a job task rather than a commitment to mutual respect in the workplace.
Workplace Policy and training
Developing written company policies, and training your employees on them, creates awareness and is an effective way to reduce the likelihood of racism and discrimination in the workplace.
Ensure that discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies are implemented and consistently and strictly enforce a zero-tolerance rule for violation of these policies. Meaning that discrimination, harassment and retaliation allegations are promptly investigated and substantiated complaints are promptly remediated in a manner designed to end the misconduct.
You also should have a written diversity policy, and give a copy to employees. Workplace policies should include consequences for violations of the policies such as discipline, up to and including suspension or termination.
Executive support is necessary for the success of any type of workplace program or policy.
Achieving a diverse workplace begins at the top, where management believes in and supports the notion that a diverse workplace boosts business and helps to retain much-needed employees.
Volunteering company time to organizations that serve underrepresented segments of the population is a good way to enhance your company’s reputation as an employer that values diversity.
l Wilford H. Stone is a lawyer with Lynch Dallas in Cedar Rapids.