Handling Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination in the workplace occurs when somebody is harassed, insulted, threatened or not given the same benefits as others because of their race, gender, age, religion or origin. This is a serious issue for both the employer and employees and must be handled properly, sensitively and as early as possible.

Judicious Employers

It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that the environment in the workplace is one of equality and companionship and that nobody in the office is at the receiving end of discrimination of any kind. The first thing to do is to set some ground rules. It is advised that a handbook is created with the help of your firm’s solicitor which states clearly what constitutes discrimination, why it is wrong and what steps will be taken against violators. Most firms these days hold sessions where these rules are explained again. Managers are required to pass this training session and in turn transfer the knowledge to employees. Asking the employees to sign a promissory note on joining is another idea. However, despite this, there are cases where people face workplace discrimination. When such a case is reported to you, it is absolutely mandatory that you take prompt action. Hear out the problem, identify the aggressor and take steps according to the handbook. However, make sure to hear both sides of the story and get eye-witness accounts to ascertain that the complaint is not arising from a misunderstanding or personal differences between the concerned employees. You might find it exasperating or cumbersome but do not dismiss it as a petty issue because then you face potential legal action from the disgruntled employee which will be bad for you and your company. An employment law for discrimination also states that employees complaining against discrimination in the workplace must not face retaliation in any form, so ensure that this does not happen. If the matter is dealt with promptly and with sensitivity, you will save your company from unnecessary legal hassle and expenditure of time and money.

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Employee Support

Facing workplace discrimination can be demoralising and unpleasant. If you, as an employee, are at the receiving end of it, there are steps that you can take. Read the company handbook thoroughly to know your rights. If you feel you are being discriminated against, talk to your manager, HR representative or a higher authority. Companies are required by law to ensure equality in the workplace but if your case is not given due importance, you can seek help from a solicitor. Any physical evidences of the discrimination (like an email or an offensive picture), must be preserved as they will help build your case. If this happens more than once, keep an account, recording the exact incident and the people present at the time who can be your witnesses. The law also protects you from any possible backlash or retaliation that might be directed at you afterwards. However, on no account should you abuse your rights and use them as an outlet for negative criticisms or personal grievances as you might then be suspended, discharged or even sued. Handling discrimination in the workplace thus can be a sensitive issue and must be dealt with conscientiously.

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