Here are a few factors we suggest when we’re working with a business leader to establish a plan for preventing workplace discrimination:
1. Develop a written policy that defines rules and procedures.
Creating a clearly-written policy is the first step toward preventing discrimination at work. This is just one of the reasons it is important to develop an employee handbook. Every handbook should include a policy on discrimination that every employee receives and signs an acknowledgment of receipt. Your policy should cover a broad range of potential discriminatory acts and include a protocol that outlines how discrimination complaints are submitted, handled, and resolved.
2. Establish a consistent process for resolving discrimination issues.
Resolving issues quickly and fairly is incredibly important—even if your business isn’t in legal jeopardy, a lingering workplace discrimination issue can lead to losing trust and credibility with your employees. Consistency in how you address and resolve issues shows that you expect everyone to be treated fairly and by the same standards regarding discrimination. While there is no single “right” procedure for workplace discrimination, it’s important to establish a process that fits your organization’s size, structure, and resources.
3. Continually educate employees on their role in preventing discrimination.
For most businesses, addressing the issue in the employee handbook and onboarding process isn’t enough. Some state laws require employers to regularly conduct anti-discrimination training programs. Whether you’re required by law or you want to be more proactive about avoiding discrimination, it’s important to ensure that employees are aware of your policies and procedures and know how to report allegations. It’s also recommended that you conduct a separate or enhanced program for supervisory or managerial employees, as they are often your first line of defense in preventing workplace discrimination.
4. Foster a culture of diversity and inclusion.
Discrimination thrives in environments where diversity is not valued and where inclusion is not a priority. To prevent workplace discrimination, business leaders must actively promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This means creating a culture that values and respects differences, celebrates diversity, and recognizes the unique perspectives and experiences that each employee brings to the table. You can achieve this by fostering an open and inclusive work environment, encouraging open communication, and promoting teamwork across all levels of the organization.
5. Conduct regular audits and assessments of your workplace policies and procedures.
Finally, to ensure that your anti-discrimination policies and procedures are effective, it’s important to conduct regular audits and assessments of your workplace. This will help you identify potential areas of concern and make necessary changes to improve your policies and procedures. An audit can also help you identify any gaps in your training or education programs and make changes to better address those gaps.
Preventing workplace discrimination requires a proactive approach that starts with developing clear policies and procedures, establishing a consistent process for resolving issues, continually educating employees, fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, and regularly auditing and assessing your workplace policies and procedures. By taking these steps, you can help create a safe, inclusive, and productive workplace where every employee is valued and respected.