An Employer’s Responsibility for Diversity in the Workplace

By: Ashli Lyric Jones

As the world becomes more diverse, employers are now responsible for providing employees with a fair and safe work environment. In today’s society, diversity can have multiple meanings.  However, workplace diversity is commonly composed of employees with varying characteristics, such as different sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Employers need to have the proper training and management for a diverse workplace. Without diversity in the workplace, there can be grounds for actions and behavior that rise to unlawful and unfair employment practices. Employers have the responsibility to promote and enforce diversity in the workplace. The following should serve as a guide for employers trying to comply with diversity in the workplace.

check state and federal law

Both state and federal governments have passed legislation to prevent unlawful and unfair employment practices.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. Typically it applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Under Title VII, an employer may not discriminate with regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment.

This law is just one of the many laws enacted to prevent unfair employment practices. Some of the other laws in place are the Equal Pay Act (1963), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1969), Rehabilitation Act (1973),  Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), Civil Rights Act (1991), Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, and the ADA Amendments Act. Employers must also check the state laws where their company is located. It is important to always stay up to date on legislation passed that enforces diversity in the workplace. Employers must comply with these laws, and failure to do so could lead to lawsuits, fines, or other civil and criminal causes of action for unfair and unlawful employment practices.

implement a strong equal employment policy

Employers should implement a strong equal employment opportunity policy enforced throughout all levels of the company. A strong equal employment opportunity policy should include a clear explanation of the prohibited conduct. Additionally, it should include transparent and credible assurances that if employees make complaints or provide information related to those complaints, the employer will protect employees from retaliationThe employee must have the confidence that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that discrimination has occurred. Once this policy is in place, employers should train managers, supervisors, and employees on its contents to enforce the policy. Having a strong policy in place will set the standard and expectations that employers have for their employees.

make sure to train managers and employees

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. The EEOC recommends that Human Resources managers and all employees are trained on equal employment opportunity laws.  Training and mentoring programs provide workers of all backgrounds the opportunity, skill, experience, and information necessary to perform well and increases diversity in the workplace. During the diversity training for all employees, it is important to remind employees of the company’s policies that are in place. All employees must be held accountable for their actions, and immediate and appropriate corrective action should be taken if there are any violations of the company policy.

promote an inclusive culture

Employers have a responsibility to practice inclusivity in the workplace. A diverse staff represents a variety of life experiences and unique skill sets. All of these people need to be valued and welcomed into the company. Inclusion doesn’t happen solely because diverse individuals are present, but it requires an effort to create an inclusive workplace. Inclusivity can be achieved by interacting with different people, creating employee resource groups, placing importance on inclusion, and appropriately connecting with employees.

conclusion

As the world is constantly changing, workplace diversity is something that employers should take seriously. There are many benefits of having a diverse workplace, such as:

  • Higher innovation
  • Better decision making
  • Variety of different prospectives
  • Increased profits
  • Faster problem solving
  • Increased creativity

Employers need to check the state and federal laws to make sure they are complying with all equal employment opportunity legislation. After checking the legislation, employers must implement a strong policy that explains the standards of the company and the actions that will be taken if there is a violation of company policy. All employees and managers must be trained on the diversity policy and must be held accountable. Finally, employers must promote an inclusive environment that also allows employees to feel safe and valued. By promoting an inclusive culture in the workplace, employers will foster an environment of professionalism and respect for personal differences.

This post was originally posted here on February 9, 2020 and has been reprinted with the author’s permission.


Ashli Jones, at the time of this post, is a second-year law student at Penn State Dickinson Law. She is from Long Island, New York and is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Ashli is pursuing a certificate in Entrepreneurship with an Intellectual Property and Technology concentration. She interested in intellectual property within the entertainment law field. Ashli is the President of the Sports & Entertainment Law Society, Mentorship Chair for the Women’s Law Caucus, and Social Chair for the Black Law Students Association.

Sources:

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/

https://www.eeoc.gov//eeoc/initiatives/e-race/bestpractices-employers.cfm

https://www.fcc.gov/general/office-workplace-diversity-functions

https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/index.cfm

 

Author: Prof Prince

Samantha Prince is passionate about advancing entrepreneurship law initiatives for Dickinson Law. She founded and moderates the Inside Entrepreneurship Law blog which features posts written by students that are designed to provide helpful legal information to entrepreneurs and their counsel. Additionally, she implemented mobile student-led entrepreneurial workshops on various topics. In March, 2019, Dickinson Law students and Samantha were featured in an article by Llewellyn King of White House Chronicle, “Will Smart Cities Be Haven for New Kind of Lawyer?”. As an associate professor, she teaches problem solving, business, and experiential entrepreneurship law courses. Her interests in partnering with entrepreneurs stem from her extensive practice experience. For over twenty years, she partnered with entrepreneurs during their startup phases and beyond. At Hedger and Hedger, a boutique transactional law firm, she handled business transactions, including tax, contracts (domestic and international), mergers/acquisitions, and securities offerings (private and public). She also represented a company through its IPO and afterward as the primary drafter of its securities disclosure documents. Samantha has her B.S. in Chemistry from Muhlenberg College, her J.D. cum laude from Widener Commonwealth and her LL.M. in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.

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