While many people are bracing for a Mayan doomsday of epic proportions, HR professionals should be busy working to prevent an end of 2012, and beginning of 2013 discrimination lawsuit, which can seem like the end of the world.
Although many people were frightened for the world to end, the year 2000 was actually a huge milestone for diversity and equal opportunity in the workplace. It marked the 35th anniversary of the EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination in the areas of race, sex, color, religion and national origin, as well as countless successful legal initiatives in that regard.
Unfortunately, workplace discrimination lawsuits still take place today, and they’re not cheap. Chrysler was ordered to pay over three million dollars to a Jewish employee who was the target of racial slurs, death threats, and sexual-orientation bullying from former Chrysler co-workers. The seventh circuit court of appeals ruled Chrysler was responsible, because they didn’t do enough to stop this harassment.
Additionally, the EEOC sued UPS this month for religious discrimination. The package delivery company allegedly fired a Jehovah’s Witness over his request to attend an annual religious service on his originally scheduled start day. The newly hired truck driver requested the he either start a different day, start later than his scheduled time on his start date, or be given an hour’s leave to attend the ceremony. UPS fired the man for refusing to compromise his religious beliefs and put him on a “do not hire” list. This alleged conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As the Mayan Calendar shows us, it’s best to be prepared for the absolute worse, because it’s only a matter of time before an organization’s lack of diversity programs can end in a discrimination lawsuit. Diversity Programs along with harassment and discrimination prevention training provides an affirmative defense for employers that can limit an organizations liability in the event of an employment lawsuit. In the case that there is no doomsday catastrophe, providing proper diversity training to all supervisors and staff is a significant precaution to take in order to prepare your organization for another EEOC lawsuit-free year.
So, you may ask, what should a “lawsuit-proof” workplace diversity program look like in the year 2013? Diversity is variety, and true diversity encompasses all varieties. All-inclusive means making accommodations for each and every employee, while making them feel welcome and celebrated. Therefore, an “all-inclusive blanket policy” is an oxymoron, because organizations must adapt to all employees’ diverse needs. Every organization must make sure they do everything they can to prevent discrimination and harassment by properly training supervisors and employees to respect workplace diversity.
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