How Business Owners Can Prevent Workplace Discrimination


Addressing or preventing workplace discrimination is often not at the top of any small- or medium-sized business owner’s priorities. It could be hard to get lost in the nitty-gritty of the everyday grind, but it is ultimately an employer’s responsibility to ensure that every employee is treated fairly at work.

In the very essence of the word, “workplace discrimination” occurs when an employee or group of employees is prejudicial against one or more of their colleagues. Discrimination may occur based on the victim’s race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.

Aside from the fact that businesses are mandated by the law to protect every member of their workforce from discrimination, this issue must be addressed as soon as it is spotted because it has detrimental effects on the whole organization.

Continuous workplace discrimination that goes unchecked lowers morale,  efficiency, and overall productivity. The year 2018 alone saw a surge of over 76,418 charges of workplace discrimination.

Businesses that belong to the Fortune 500 are now starting to see the importance of being committed to preventing workplace discrimination, though there might be gray areas surrounding the issue, which might be frustrating for human resource staff or entrepreneurs studying the system.

As they say, prevention is better than cure. Here are some proven ways to prevent mistreatment in the workplace and how you can foster a discrimination-free workplace.

What is Workplace Discrimination?

A person or group that treats a staff member or colleague less favorably because of their circumstances or personal characteristics, either directly or indirectly, falls under the general term “discrimination”.

In a legal sense, however, it could be harder to wade through the specifics, and there might be gray areas since it could be hard to prove some modes and means of discrimination in the workplace.

The law states that people must not receive unfair treatment because of their:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Civil status
  • Pregnancy or maternity leave
  • Race (nationality, skin color, ethnicity, or country of origin)
  • Religion (or other strongly-held belief)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment-related issues

4 Types of Discrimination

How Business Owners Can Prevent Workplace Discrimination
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The Equality Act 2010 identifies the different types of discrimination.

1. Direct Discrimination

Some examples of direct discrimination may include not hiring someone based on their religion or because the employer has a racial preference.

It may also involve giving lower compensation or fewer benefits to an employee due to any of the categories mentioned above or passing over a promotion to someone because the “worthy” employee is being discriminated against.

2. Indirect Discrimination

Indirect forms of workplace discrimination, on the other hand, may include imposing specific instructions or requirements to be met that someone cannot comply with.

For example, a company policy that enforces all employees to work on Sundays may lead to a legal issue for Christian employees, who can cite it as religious discrimination since Sunday is a day of worship and rest for them.

In the case of disabilities, an example of indirect discrimination is not paying employees because of a severe illness related to their disability.

3. Harassment

Harassment happens when a person with a protected characteristic becomes subjected to unwanted conduct by a colleague or superior.

Sexual comments made by one or more male employees against a female employee is a classic example of workplace harassment. Such behavior should not be tolerated. You can speak to a workplace sexual harassment lawyer to prepare a case against the perpetrator.

4. Victimization

Employees who have taken legal action, such as previous allegations of discrimination under the Equality Act or a proven claim by a witness, may become victims of further mistreatment under than hands of a vengeful colleague or superior.

How To Prevent Workplace Discrimination

How Business Owners Can Prevent Workplace Discrimination
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Review your company policies thoroughly. Promote a culture of equality and diversity in your office by doing the real work and taking action when necessary.

1. Develop An Employee Manual

Your employee manual must contain written policies that define the rules and procedures in dealing with issues like workplace discrimination. This is the crucial first step in the process of preventing it from ever plaguing your company on a deep-rooted level.

If you do not have one yet, create an employee handbook that establishes ground rules to serve as a guide in case mistreatment occurs. If you already have an employee handbook, revisit your policies to ensure that it is still relevant to the times.

2. Make Reasonable Adjustments To Disability Policies

Accommodate employees with disabilities by providing reasonable adjustments in the workplace, such as specific policies for disabled workers or providing facilities that can help them function to the best of their abilities.

3. Be Consistent in Your Processes & Solutions

While you must be very efficient with resolving workplace discrimination issues, make sure that you are not making hasty judgments just to get the task over with.

Any lingering kind of workplace discrimination that is not faced head-on or is unresolved will put your company in danger.

One of the worst things that could happen to a company is when its employees, the backbone of its success, loses trust with their employers.

While there may not be a perfect template for addressing workplace discrimination issues, you must show consistency in resolving problems and have a unified stand with all key decision-makers involved in finding solutions.

Make sure your strategies for resolving discrimination issues are all aligned with your company’s size, overall organizational structure, and total resources.

4. Educate Your Workforce

Human resource teams must educate all company employees on the types of discrimination and how it can negatively impact both individuals and the company as a whole.

These in-house meetings, workshops, and training events must be carried out regularly to ensure that everyone stays in line. Aim to provide activities that explore cultural diversities, which may bring your employees closer together.

Maybe, by the end of your program, everyone will discover that they have more in common with their colleagues, regardless of race, gender, religion, or background.

5. Address Issues Head-on

Being proactive is key to preventing any form of workplace discrimination. When an employee raises a formal grievance by speaking to anyone in authority, take it as a chance to step up.

Continue building on policies that can nurture a culture of camaraderie and genuine concern not just for company growth but also for the employees, regardless of rank, status, or whatever characteristics they may have.

6. Discrimination Prevention Starts At The Top

As the business owner, you are in the driver’s seat. Use this privilege to build a company culture that thrives on integrity, honesty, respect, and upholding every staff member’s dignity and well-being.

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Author Bio:

Viridiana Valdes

Viridiana Valdes is an experienced Marketing Specialist at Shegerian & Associates with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry. Skilled in Business Process, Negotiation, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Management, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Strong marketing professional with a Strategic Marketing focused in Marketing from Panamerican Consulting Group and Universidad Rafael Landivar.