Discrimination in Workplace

Discrimination in Workplace
15 mn read

Workplace discrimination has persistently grown in the United States in spite of legislation outlawing such acts. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, approximately 33,937 criminal charges are based on racial discrimination at work, 24,584 based on age, 28,372 based on sex and 10,601 based on original nationality. However, it is also assumed that the statistics have not covered the fact that most minority group members do not report or are reluctant to make formal reports when discriminated against. This paper explores the discrimination against Maalick, the anti-discrimination laws broken by Treton, the long term effect of discrimination on the organization and the need to revise and clarify complain and conflict resolution procedures.

Introduction

Discrimination is the treating or attempting to mistreat an individual due to his or her personal characteristics or by age, religion, race, gender, disability and among others. Harassment and discrimination in the workplace always appear in a variety of forms. They can be overt like employing racial slurs, bullying or refutation of job advancement opportunities or it can be subtle or concealed. For such reason, employers like Treton communications can be held legally liable for acts of discrimination committed against an employee like Maalik if the act of discrimination is proved. Therefore, it is critical for an employer to have a strong and non-ambiguous policy on equal opportunity to prevent any form of discrimination in the organization. The policy should also entail a clearly developed complaints procedures that suit the organization’s structure, size, and resources. The procedures can be either formal or informal. Therefore, other than having a good equal opportunity policy, an organization like Treton Communications must ensure that discrimination and harassment complaint and resolution procedures are clearly stipulated and are uniformly implemented ensure that a safe and productive environment is offered to employees. It will also significantly reduce the risk of exposing the organization to the legal liability and financial losses as a result of employee discrimination and harassment.

Policy Objective

The Employment Discrimination laws try to stop discrimination of an employee. For instance, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbids employers from discriminating against their employees based on color, race, religion, national origin or gender in any aspect of employment. Therefore, to conform to Title VII, any employer must take an employment decision based on the business need but not basing the decision on a specific individual’s membership to a particular group or class. On the other hand, the exception to such rule is applicable in a situation where an occupational qualification compels an employee to have specific characteristics. It should also be noted that the policy objective for having employment discrimination laws is to create equal opportunity for everyone. However, the goal of such laws is not to establish equal outcomes. Instead, they try to ensure that every employee or a job seeker or applicant possess equal opportunity to participate in the employment market. The law establishes a leveled playing field.

In the case study, the situation at Treton Communications surrounds the issue of religion. Jenkins the director and the employees clearly have an issue with Maalik’s religion, and evidence of discrimination is prominent in such situation. In the case study, we are introduced to Treton an organization that has a non-union status. The company purports to have programs that portray employee development and empowerment. Moreover, it has written policies on workforce diversity, equal opportunity, employee harassment and complain resolution. Hence, Marshawn Demur expresses his interest in working at Kansans facility as an operation manager. A position which he gets after an interview with the facilities director Clive Jenkins. Demur works hard, exhibits strong technical capabilities, exercise good relationship with other employees who also like his personality. However, the situation changes for him after he joined the Church of International Spirituality that comprises of African-American congregation of 80 Chenworth Kansas. Just like the church requirements, Demur has committed to its teachings and practices more so the confirmation process.

Due to the involving spiritual exercise before confirmation, Demur requires a one week leave. However, instead of Jenkins granting him the leave, he begins to questions the authenticity of Demur’s religion. He compares his degree of religion to Demur’s concept of religion. Jenkins also mentions Demur’s coworker’s being disturbed with his religious teachings but reluctantly offers Demur the one week leave. However, Demur’s continues to experience a clash back from fellow employees who openly indulge in prejudice and discriminative talks against his religion. He realized that his religion was disregarded in the town and that its members were considered not only strange but also voodooist, sorcerers, and witchcraft. Since the allegations were untrue, he countered such remarks with facts regarding the Internationist religion. Demur, is given a religious name ‘Maalick’ which the HR department has no problem recognizing it. Moreover, he assures him of support.

The change of the name form Demur to Maalick exposes him to ridicule and harassment from his coworkers. He is laughed at, disrespected and ridiculed with strange symbols and lettering. Unfortunately, Jenkins acts insensitive towards Maalick’s feelings and continuously ridicule him. Jenkins promises to handle the matter only after realizing Maalick’s anger. However, it must be noted that several months later, Maalick is continuously harassed. Racially discriminatory notes referring him to a black cat, and black magic are often left on his office desk. The last stroke is when several note sheets targeting his race. It takes the intervention of the human resource manager who had not been aware of Maalick’s woes because he has been in and out of his office assisting with the staffing of the Northwestern facility. Mr. Fords calls for a departmental meeting, where employees are reminded and warned against discriminating and harassing their colleagues. Though things return to calm, Maalick’s is convinced that losing out on the systems manager position is entirely based on religion discrimination.

Therefore, it is imperative to describe Maalick’s situation as both religious and racial discrimination together with harassment. Religious discrimination entails the treating of an individual, an employee or job applicant unfairly or unfavorably due to his or her religious philosophies or beliefs (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Religious discrimination can also entail handling somebody differently just because the individual is associated with an individual of a specific religion. In this case, the instances of religion discrimination against Maalick are:

i) Mr. Jenkins questions the authenticity of Maalick’s religion instead of respecting his religious beliefs and grant him the one week leave as requested.

ii) Mr. Jenkins thinks that his religion is superior to that of Maalick’s. He also thinks that he is too religious than Maalick.

iii) Moreover, Maalick is treated unfavorably by his workers. They question his religion, consider the members of Maalick’s religion as strange, they disregard it and associate Maalick to sorcery, voodoo, and witchcraft.

iv) Finally, Maalick is ridiculed by Jenks and other employees.

Harassment

Moreover, Maalick’s situation is harassment. Harassment involves offensive remarks about someone’s religious beliefs and practices. Even though the law does not prohibit simple teasing, isolated incidents that are not so serious or offhand comments, harassment becomes illegal when it is recurrent that it establishes offensive or hostile working environment. In Maalick’s situation, he experiences harassment when other employees continuously leave offensive notes at his office desk. They persistently He is laughed at, disrespect and ridicule Maalick with weird symbols and lettering to the extent that Maalick’s perceive the working environment to be hostile.

Racial Discrimination

Maalick also finds himself being discriminated racially by his fellow employees. Due to his origin as an African America, fellow employers abused him racially by using symbols like a black cat, and black magic to symbolize his race. Hence, it meant that they mistreated and disrespected Maalick because he was African America.

Laws that were Broken

The law that has been broken is the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbids an employer from discriminating against his or her employee based on color, race, religion, national origin or gender in any aspect of employment (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). It is Also clear that the company broke the section 701(j) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship. The section imposes an obligation to an employer to reasonably accommodate the religious activities of his or employee or potential employee unless it can demonstrate that the accommodation is likely to cause undue hardship to the organization, infringe on others’ rights, or compromise the safety of the workplace (Griffiths 2016). Though Jenks offers Maalick the requested one week to engage in his religious practices as his religion demand, it is clear that Jenkins himself perpetuates the religious discrimination against Maalick. He does not offer Maalick a good environment to exercise his religion. He questions the books and pamphlet that Maalick reads during office breaks. He vehemently does not accommodate the Maalick’s religious believes. Moreover, he does not protect Maalick from evident religious discrimination by his fellow employees who continuously mocks him and question the authenticity of his religion. Moreover, though the human resource managers recognize the change of name from Demur to Maalick, the Jenks and other employees contravene the guidelines on religious practices by continuously harassing him for changing his name. Hence, it is clear that anything that Maalick does that is based on his religion is met with a back-clash compounded with disrespect and ridicule. The anti-religious discrimination law is consistently broken as Maalick’s, religion and the position of being a member of the international church is consistently undermined. He also finds himself being treated unfavorably.

HR Response to Maalick’s situation

Handling HR issues of discrimination need a combination of both reactive and proactive measures. The proactive measures entail demonstrating efforts of good faith to prevent both discrimination and harassment while also embracing human resource practices when addressing the issue (Rubin & Alteri 2017). Upon getting a complaint regarding discrimination and harassment, employers are bound to take immediate and strong action to address the issue. In Maalick’s situation, it is imperative to note that the response from HR director, Marta Ford’s was quite fair but not excellent. It is evident that Ford took Maalick’s complain seriously and urgently. For example, Ford immediately informed the head of departments of the situation and immediately sent emails to all employees reminding them of the Treton’s policies and punishment associated with. Hen, Ford had acknowledged that delay in resolving such an issue could cause tension in a workplace, a tension that will hinder employee’s productivity. Ford must also be recommended for exercising transparency and biasness when handling the matter. He ensured that not only the departmental heads were aware of the complaint but also warned every employee in the facility against any form of discrimination. Moreover, Ford exercised confidentiality by ensuring that relevant persons were aware of the issue (Krawiec 2004).

Though it is clear that Treton has written HR policies, it is unclear whether the policies outlined a complaint procedure and investigation process or the HR overlooked the parts of the process. For instance, having known that Maalick did not know who was responsible for the offensive and discriminatory leaflets, Mr. Ford, as an HR resort to warning the employees instead of initiating an investigation process to find the perpetrators. Hence, the reactive approach fell short of finding the perpetrators. It should be noted that under the anti-discrimination laws, when an employer intends to argue that his or her organization is not liable for any form of discrimination by any of its employees, then he or she must demonstrate that the company took adequate precautions to prevent discrimination and harassment. Even though the size of a company may play a critical factor, on the other hand, it may be considered whether the company has an effective complaint handling process (Walsh 2015).

Therefore, in this situation, it can be argued that though the company has written policies, the Human resource director who is the correct correspondent to the complaint did not follow the written guidelines to the letter (Krawiec 2004). It is advisable that written policies are followed accordingly. The Courts also emphasize that employers must adhere to employment policies on conduct investigations and corrective measure. Therefore, though Mr. Ford handled the issue to Maalick’s satisfaction and ensured that the incident of discrimination and harassment did not reoccur, he did not proceed to carry out the investigation as required by the employment policies. He should have ensured that the perpetrators are known and made to answer for their misconduct as stipulated in the discrimination and harassment procedures. Such approach will ensure that the organization is protected from future legal suits by the complainant (Walsh 2015).

Organizational Policies

In Maalick’s situation, what is evident is that Treton communications have clear anti-discrimination policy but with weak complaint procedure, investigation and resolution process (Krawiec 2004). It is evident by the lack of HR director to investigate, identify and discipline the perpetrators. Moreover, looking at the behavior of both Jenkins and the other employees, it is clear that their perception of Maalick’s religion was due to lack of discrimination training. Therefore, while Treton emphasizes on strong cultural diversity in the organization, the attitude and behavior of employees from the top manager do not reflect that policy. There is lack of reasonable accommodation for employees with different religious beliefs like Maaick. Hence, the week policy on anti-discrimination and employee diversity emendates from lack of discrimination training for both its employees and management. Also, the company has weak HR systems which have a potential of encouraging biasness and discrimination against an employee. Therefore Judith Dixon, the corporate vice president for EEO and diversity, will have to evaluate the management and the company’s discrimination policies. She will have to revise the complaint and resolution process, discrimination training programs for the company’s employees, and employee recruitment processes, to pinpoint obstacles to diversity in the organization (Gatewood, Feild & Barrick 2015).

Disciplinary and Complaint Resolution Policies

To appropriately run an organization, it is critical that effective and well-defined procedures regarding discipline and complaint handling and resolution policies are in place and clearly outlined. The policies will offer all parties a good guideline on how to follow and eventually resolve issues of discrimination. Moreover, in an organization like Treton, employees are likely to violate some policies, hence the regardless of the seriousness of the offense, the laid down procedures will guide the management on how to resolve the matter (Krawiec 2004).

The need for Disciplinary Procedures

• The procedures are required so that Treton employees can always know what the organization expects from them regarding the standards of performance, employee relationships and the impending penalties in case such policies are violated.

• The procedures help in identifying the difficulties experienced by employees in attaining specific standards as required by the anti-discrimination policy. Such need may be the training on diversity or the need for additional support for specific employees.

• Moreover, the procedures establish the foundation for formulating diversity goals and developing of employee behavior and performance.

• Moreover, the procedures allow for quicker settling of complaints before they are taken to the employment tribunal (Krawiec 2004).

Advantages of Clear and Operative Anti-Discrimination Complaint Policy

The advantages of Treton Communications having clear and operative disciplinary policy is that: Other than a clear straightforward and easy to understand policy guideline informing the employees on what is expected of them, it will also enable Treton Communications to enforce its anti-discrimination policy consistently.

It ensures good morale for all employees. It is common that disciplined employees cannot pick a morale boost after disciplinary action. However, other employees tend to dislike a coworker getting away with indiscipline, unproductive behavior hence if such an employee is not punished, then it will set precedence for lawlessness. Finally, having a clearly written and effective disciplinary policy will protect the organization against employee lawsuits. That is by clearly informing the employees of the repercussion of discriminative behavior, and enforcing such policy in an effective and fair manner, the company shall have bought itself insurance regarding future disputes. It will hinder employees from arguing that the handling of their claim or the disciplinary process was unfair or unjustified because the handling of discrimination and harassment complaints is uniform.

Implications

Workplace discrimination will not only hurt Maalick who has been discriminated against but also damage the organization on a broad scale. One of the immediate problems will be the legal action which may eventually lead to financial losses.

Legal Action

If Maalick can prove that he has been discriminated, then he may bring legal action against Treton. It must be noted that under the federal law, it is unlawful to discriminate an employee based on religion, age, race, gender, origin, and disabilities. Therefore, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission whose function is to enforce employment anti-discrimination laws may compel Treton Communications to compensate Maalick. Moreover, if the commission does not resolve the matter, the conflict will end up in a federal court. Hence the legal process and outcome may bring financial losses to the company (Goldman, Gutek, Stein & Lewis 2006).

Low Morale

In the long run, discriminatory behavior against Maalick will gradually erode good working environment by creating an atmosphere where workers feel that the organization is undervaluing them. For instance, seeing a less qualified a new member taking up a high position against employees who have good annual review and qualifications like Maalick being denied such positions, then the feeling of unappreciated will likely to trickle down the organization structure. They will become unmotivated to do their best because of the feeling that their hard work is unlikely to be rewarded. Moreover, a communication breakdown between the top management and employees is likely to happen in the organization. Eventually, the effect will be plummeting productivity and poor cooperation as dissatisfied employees stop to perform as required (Raver & Nishii 2010).

High Turnover

Moreover, the long-term impact of Maalick situation is likely to create a high turnover rate. For instance, despite his unquestionable high performance, Maalick is likely to leave Trton for another organization. Such approach may open a floodgate for other employees who may perceive discrimination is Treton as an ingrained culture in the organization. In this case, many employees with discrimination and harassment complaints will likely to lose faith in the complaint resolution process due to the fear of future retaliation. Hence, they may not wait for their complaints to be resolved but resort to leaving the organization. Hence, if the Treton does not implement its anti-discrimination policy through fair and consistent complaint handling procedures, then we foresee a situation where its employees will always seek new career development opportunities outside thus creating a culture where employees frequently come and leave at will (Raver & Nishii 2010). Such situation will make it difficult for Treton to keep up with its hiring and training programs. Hence, the company will be strained with the heavy financial investment for continuous hiring and training of its ever new employees (Raver & Nishii 2010).

Relevant system Reviews

Law Adjustments

Every organization has the mandate of honoring and accommodation the religious beliefs and practices of every employee as long as it does not cause hardship to the organization or insecurity of other employees. After Maalick requested for a one week leave, Jenkins complained that the leave would interfere with the activities of the organization. Hence, the leave handling and regulations of the company are either non-robust or just given at the mercy of either the human resource manager or facilities director. Therefore, the first recommendation is that, the company must adhere to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 regarding religious discrimination by accommodating the employee’s religious beliefs of its employees during the issuance of leave. That is Treton must always make reasonable adjustments through flexible schedules, swaps or voluntary shifts, modification of the work practices and job reassignment. Such move will ensure that employees like Maalick can exercise their religious practices just like the majority of the employees in Treton exercise their religion (Griffiths 2016).

Human Resource Systems

HR practices do play a significant role in shaping the degree of discrimination that takes place in an organization by influencing employees’ access to opportunities, how they are rewarded and treated or experience discrimination in the organization. One of the trademarks of equitable HR systems design is the formation of objective and formal criteria for various HR practices that lead to the eradication of biasness and subjectivity in implementing HR practices (Rice 2015). It is critical to stress that human resource practices often work as a system not only determines buts also influences the level of various or particular form of discrimination within a company. Such bias and discrimination may amount to bias treatment or unequal opportunities in areas of training and development, access to mentoring, promotion and among others. Such biasness and discrimination mostly influence the areas of functioning like promotion (Raver & Schneider, 2004).

Employ Open Recruitment Process

The extent of discrimination which takes place during the recruitment process often depends on the type of channels used to recruit applicants. It is understood that one major way of balancing diversity in an organization is through targeted recruitment strategies (Gatewood, Field & Barrick 2015). Such strategies may help an organization like Treton to consider showcasing its diversity efforts since candidates who have strong ethnic identities are strongly attracted to organizations that make references to diversity initiatives. However, in Maalick’s situation at Treton, it is imperative to state that while the organization is employing the targeted recruiting approach, Treton is relying on informal networks from both internal and external labor markets to fill open positions. For instance, Maalick was tipped off about the position of systems manager while Charles Bartlett was from an external labor market. Such approach tends to increase chances of discrimination as witnessed in Maalick’s situation. It is because not only does it work against groups that lack access to social networks which are connected to the job but also allows for bias as the network may purposely bring an individual who they have a personal relationship with onboard (Raver & Schneider 2004). Such situation is reflected in Jenkins decision to bring Bartlett, his church mate on board, creating a conflict of interest and proceeds to discriminate against Maalick based on religion. Therefore, Treton must employ open recruitment process that creates equal opportunity for job applicants.

Having Transparent Selection Process

Therefore, for Treton to combat discrimination, then the HR department must employ a selection process which taps various aspects of job performance, utilize various media when putting up job vacancies, transparent process for shortlisting candidates, and employ interview processes which limit biases (Gatewood, Field & Barrick 2015). For instance, it is evident that by making Jenkin’s the sole interviewer in the recruitment of system manager, the doors for discrimination was left wide open. For instance, it is clear that Jenkins holds his church in high esteem and loves to associate with his church-mates. On the other hand, he has contempt for the Church of International Spirituality and its members. However, his opinion of the judge is based on prejudice. Moreover, the HR must consider internal employees before outsourcing in case of a job vacancy (Becton, Gilstrap & Forsyth 2017).

Employee Training

Treton must review its diversity training plan and its measurements. The approach will ensure that not only are employees trained to embrace diversity but also, the organization can identify the training needs of various employees. Such training will also enable Treton to cement its culture of diversity. Most importantly regarding the HR practices, Treton will have to establish standard operating processes for investigating and resolving discrimination at the workplace. The procedures must entail investigation plan for taking and recording statements, reviewing employment documentation and files (Becton, Gilstrap & Forsyth 2017). Also, there should be steps for determining the best corrective action for any employee who is found to have violated the non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies of Treton Communications. By having such procedures, Treton will prevent the reoccurrence of such situation in the organization. Moreover, other than restructuring the interviewing process, Miss Dixon must also ensure that interview training is done to eradicate cognitive biases and its adverse impact (Raver & Schneider 2004).

Leadership

Finally, Treton’s upper management that is its highest level of leadership must understand that it is instrumental in shaping the direction its organization takes regarding discrimination and diversity. The leaders like Jenkins must recognize a potential for any form of discrimination in an organizational structure and practices and lead valuing all employees and doing away with obstacles to ensure that they perform and develop their career (Gebert, Buengeler & Heinitz 2017). It must also be noted that the extent to which the leaders of an organization employ to stress inclusiveness and the extent to which the needed resources are dedicated to eliminating any form of discrimination and harassment are always indicators of how an organization values its employees. Therefore, the Treton’s to-level leadership can eliminate discrimination and harassment by effecting systems of accountability that meet diversity goals (Barak 2016).

Conclusion

Treton Communications must ensure that discrimination and harassment complaint and resolution procedures are clearly stipulated and are uniformly implemented ensure that a safe and productive environment is offered to employees and protect itself from legal liability and financial losses as a result of employee discrimination. The objective of The Employment Discrimination laws tries to stop discrimination of an employee. Maalick’s situation revolves around both religious and racial discrimination together with harassment. The law that has been broken is the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination of any kind and the section 701(j) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship. Hence, the broader implications of the situation to Treton are legal actions, reduced employee morale, and high turnover. Therefore, the first step is Treton making reasonable adjustments through flexible schedules, swaps or voluntary shifts, modification of the work practices and job reassignment to comply with section 701(j) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Also, forming objective and formal criteria for HR practices that lead to the eradication of biasness and subjectivity in implementing HR practices. That is having Transparent Selection Process. Finally, Treton’s leadership must ensure that it is shaping the organization’s direction on diversity

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