Discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue. It can take many different forms and can have a devastating impact on employees. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with respect in the workplace, but unfortunately, this does not always happen. To make sure that your business complies with the law, it’s essential to understand the three basic elements of discrimination in employment. By understanding what these elements are, you can take steps to ensure that your workplace is free from discrimination and a place where anyone can feel comfortable and safe to do good work and put their best foot forward.
Element 1: A Decision Was Not Made on an Individual’s Merit
One of the essential elements of discrimination in employment is when a decision is not made on an individual’s merit. This could happen, for example, when someone is not hired for a job because of their race or gender. It could also happen when someone is passed over for a promotion or given a lower salary than someone else in the same position. Basically, this element of discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly because of their membership in a protected class.
Protected classes that face discrimination in the workplace include:
Race: This includes skin color, nationality, and ethnicity.
Gender: This includes men and women, as well as transgender and non-binary individuals.
Age: Anyone dismissed for being “too young” or “too old” rather than for their qualifications or experience.
Disability: This includes people with physical or mental disabilities.
Sexual orientation: This includes people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Religion: This includes people of any faith (or no faith) and things like clothing or headwear.
Pregnancy: This includes women who are pregnant, have recently given birth, or are nursing.
These protected classes must be taken into consideration when making decisions about hiring, firing, promotions, and salaries. If someone is treated unfairly because of their membership in one of these classes, it is considered discrimination and is against the law.
Element 2: Harassment in the Workplace
The second essential element of discrimination in employment is harassment. Harassment can be verbal, physical, or visual, and it is always unwelcome. It can be directed at anyone in a protected class and is never okay.
Harassment can be anything from offensive jokes to touching without consent. It can also include things like displaying derogatory or discriminatory images or graffiti in the workplace. All employees at your organization should feel encouraged to report any harassment they experience or witness. This includes both employees who are in a protected class and those who are not. How to report harassment safely and confidentially can vary from organization to organization, so do not assume that your employees already know how to do this. Make the process clear and include it in onboarding materials for new employees.
Examples of harassment include:
Offensive jokes or slurs.
Physical violence or threats.
Unwelcome touching, kissing, groping, or sexual advances.
Leering or making sexual gestures.
Display of derogatory images or graffiti.
Sending unwanted emails, texts, or social media messages.
Playing offensive songs or using offensive language.
Element 3: Retaliation
The third essential element of discrimination in employment is retaliation. This happens when an employee is treated unfairly because they reported discrimination or harassment in the workplace. It can also happen when someone takes steps to enforce their rights under anti-discrimination laws.
Retaliation can take many different forms, such as demotion, firing, or harassment. It can also include things like reducing someone’s hours or refusing to give them a raise. Retaliation is never okay, and it is against the law.
Employees have the right to report discrimination and harassment in the workplace without fear of retaliation. If any of your employees experience or witness any form of retaliation, they should feel encouraged to report it immediately. Your organization should have a process for reporting retaliation, so make sure to familiarize the company with it. If you need assistance in setting up a process for reporting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in your workplace, working with an experienced California employment lawyer can be a great help.
Tips for Employers to Create a Culture of Respect and Anti-Discrimination
Employers can do a few things to create a culture of respect in their workplace, including:
Making sure that all employees are aware of the company’s anti-discrimination policy. This should include information about who is protected under the policy, what types of discrimination and harassment are prohibited, and how to report any incidents.
Creating a safe space for employees to talk about discrimination or harassment. This can be in the form of an anonymous reporting system or a confidential hotline.
Enforcing the anti-discrimination policy. This means taking action when employees report discrimination or harassment, regardless of who is involved.
Providing training on anti-discrimination laws and how to prevent and report discrimination and harassment. This should be mandatory for all employees, and refresher courses should be offered on a regular basis.
Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This can be done by hiring a diversity and inclusion officer or hosting events that celebrate diversity.
Creating a culture of respect and anti-discrimination in your workplace can be a challenge, but it is worth the effort. With the right tools and resources, you can make your workplace a safe and inclusive space for all employees.
Contact California Employment Counsel to Protect Your Employees and Workplace
If you are an employer in California and would like more information on protecting your employees from discrimination and harassment, or if you have any questions about the anti-discrimination laws in California, please contact California Employment Counsel. We are a team of experienced employment lawyers who can help you create a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees.
For years we have worked with employers of all sizes and industries to create a culture of respect in their workplace. We understand the laws surrounding discrimination and harassment, and we know how to help employers prevent and report these incidents. We are here to help you protect your employees and your workplace, so please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to answer any of your questions.