Today we live in a society that is much fairer and more equal compared to a century ago, and there are laws in place to protect those targeted by discrimination rather than making them feel isolated. However, it is not all perfect, as discrimination still plagues various workplaces.
According to a report from Good Jobs First, since 2000, 99% of Fortune 500 companies have paid settlements in at least one discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit. Additionally, in 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more than 72,000 complaints about a type of discrimination. This proves that the issue well and truly remains.
Therefore, it is crucial as the manager or head of the company that you are aware of the goings-on in your workplace environment, and gain a better understanding of what constitutes discrimination not just to protect your employees but also to protect your business and its reputation. Whether the discrimination is related to race, gender, sexuality, or religion, making sure you develop a safe and secure working environment will make a profound difference to your business overall.
George Floyd Impact
The death of George Floyd at the hands of American police on May 25th 2020, led to one of the largest civil rights protests in modern history and has shed significant light on the issues of racism and discrimination in the modern world. Brands, organizations, and individuals spoke passionately on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign following Floyd’s death and some went a step further by announcing long-term initiatives to help boost how they are viewed.
Technological giant IBM revealed that it would no longer develop facial recognition devices for fear of it being used for malicious purposes, while cosmetics company Estée Lauder pledged that it would enlarge the number of employees of colour within all levels of the company in the next five years. However, the president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, Mike Hyter, stated that not enough steps have been taken in the business world. Speaking to CNN Business, he said: “I think there is still a stigma about black executives’ talent and abilities that needs to be addressed. The perception of limited ability as compared to others is still prominent in spite of the incremental gains, which is why we need to remain vigilant.”
Meanwhile in the UK, protests were also rife and led to companies to act. Research recently released has revealed that the number of employers administering new diversity and inclusion drives have almost trebled since the end of the protests. An Opinium Multicultural Britain survey has revealed that 47 percent of minority ethnic workers had witnessed their employer take up some sort of action to address the diversity and racism issues. Leader researcher of the Multicultural Britain series, Priya Minhas, said: “We were interested in questioning whether promises made by employers after George Floyd were just an example of performative activism or if we were still seeing the action happening today, which is why we specifically asked whether employers have taken action.”
Additionally, for the first time since the Multicultural Britain survey began in 2016, the percentage of minority ethnic people that said they had experienced a form of discrimination had dropped from 73 percent in 2020 to 64 percent in 2021. Minhas states that despite this drop, the fight to tackle discrimination is continuing. “While there have been improvements in increased satisfaction in what employers are doing, and more people feeling that businesses and organisations are making an authentic effort to tackle racism, there is still work to be done and clearly there are still issues in the workplaces that need to be addressed.” This can be seen by the number of large firms that had been caught out in discrimination allegations in recent years.
Despite the promises and initiatives announced by different companies, many of those had been accused of discrimination themselves.
In 2020, Amazon was involved in several discrimination lawsuits. Chris Smalls, a former Amazon warehouse employee, sued Amazon over its pandemic response, claiming it violated civil rights laws by failing to protect brown, black and immigrant warehouse workers from the virus. The company was also sued by Denard Norton, a black Amazon warehouse worker, who accused Amazon of denying him promotions based on race and ignoring his repeated complaints.
Investment banking company, Goldman Sachs, was sued by former employee Marla Crawford who claimed that one of the bank’s lawyers, Darrell Cafasso, sexually harassed a female subordinate and that the company covered it up and retaliated against her to prevent her from speaking about the situation publicly.
In 2021, the Walt Disney Company was hit with a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit by television production executive Joel Hopkins. Hopkins claimed that he had faced different forms of mistreatment since his sexual orientation became known to the company.
Bloomberg LP received lawsuits after two women accused the software company of aiding and abetting disgraced CBS show host, Charlie Rose, and his sexual harassment in addition to racial and gender bias with regards to its pay and promotion practices.
Wiltshire police force
In 2019, PC Lisa Coffey won a claim against the Wiltshire police force for direct disability discrimination. The police force refused her transfer application because it believed her hearing would deteriorate in the future. The Court of Appeal agreed with the employment tribunal that the police force perceived her to be disabled in the sense of having a progressive condition.
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Steps to Take
It does not matter how big or small your company is, you can easily be caught out by accusations. That is why it is of paramount importance to prevent any type of discrimination from occurring. Recruitment is a key start. Make sure that you avoid any type of discrimination in any job advert and make sure candidates are treated with the exact same attitude when interviewed.
Creating an equal opportunities policy is also a benefit that will create a safe and respectful workplace for your employees and reduce the risk of any discrimination. Make sure you educate your employees, let them clearly know the policy you have and that you will not tolerate any form of discrimination, and encourage everyone to respect each other.
If there is a complaint, it should be handled quickly and efficiently, but make sure you completely understand the problem. Plus, a regular review can also help you understand how your business is being run and if any changes are required to improve your workplace environment.