Employees who experience discrimination or harassment at work may have grounds to take legal action against a supervisor or employer because of laws that strictly prohibit employee mistreatment based on a person’s age, sex, race, religion, national origin and membership in other protected classes.
Employers have a duty to be responsive to reports of harassment and discrimination. However, they can also be proactive by addressing biases and stereotypes before bad behavior can begin.
One way employers can help tackle harmful stereotypes and biases is to ensure there is a culture of transparency and open communication in their businesses.
Do not shy away from conversations about misguided assumptions; instead, encourage employees to voice their fears and concerns, anonymously or not. Employers can then address the concerns head-on.
Educating people about the problems with stereotypes can be effective in motivating change and minimizing discrimination in the workplace.
For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported an increase in fear and anxiety toward Asian American workers, particularly those of Chinese descent. These fears stem from the fact that the first reports of the new coronavirus came out of Wuhan, China.
To combat this type of discrimination, employers should inform all employees that harassment is illegal. Employers can also provide training and education to dispel myths and inaccurate information.
Setting the standard
Employees look to employers and managers to see what is, and what is not acceptable behavior in the workplace. Those in leadership roles should, therefore, model desired behavior and not use derogatory language against employees or engage in discriminatory hiring or firing.
Furthermore, employers should take every report of discrimination or harassment seriously. All claims should be easy to file, thoroughly investigated, and resolved in a timely manner. Taking a uniform approach to every complaint shows employees that the employer takes such events seriously and does not tolerate misconduct.
Employers are in a position to address harassment and discrimination. Those who fail to do so not only put workers at risk of mistreatment, but could also face significant legal consequences.