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Preventing Workplace Discrimination: Best Practices for Employers

By Angela Tenisci (posts)

Over the past few years, B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has seen a drastic spike in claims of discrimination.  The tribunal is currently so backlogged that employers may only notified by the tribunal that a complaint of discrimination has been raised against them about two years after the alleged incident.  As a result, both the complainant and the workplace suffer.

As an employer, the best thing to do to avoid being blindsided with a complaint nearly two years after the fact, is to focus your workplace culture on preventing discrimination now.

Workplace discrimination

is the unjust treatment of employees based on a protected characteristics of Indigenous identity, race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or age.  Discrimination claims pose significant challenges in modern workplaces. To ensure fairness, foster inclusivity, and uphold legal standards, employers must implement comprehensive strategies to prevent discrimination.

Understanding Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination encompasses various forms of bias and unfair treatment. It can manifest in hiring practices, promotion decisions, assignment of tasks, salary discrepancies, microaggressions, and hostile work environments. Discrimination not only denies individuals equal opportunities but also undermines their dignity and sense of belonging in the workplace.

Importance of a Comprehensive Policy

First and foremost, a well-defined anti-discrimination policy serves as the cornerstone of any effective strategy. This policy should explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristic. It should be communicated clearly to all employees, emphasizing the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Consequences of Workplace Discrimination

Failure to address discrimination can have severe repercussions for both employees and organizations. Beyond legal liabilities and reputational damage, discrimination erodes employee morale, trust, and engagement. It fosters an environment of fear and resentment, leading to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and high turnover rates.

Actual Steps Employers Can Take:

  1. Training and Education: Provide regular training sessions to raise awareness about unconscious bias, stereotypes, and respectful workplace communication and behaviour. Equip your management and employees with the knowledge and skills to recognize and challenge discriminatory practices.
  2. Transparent Reporting Mechanisms: Establish confidential channels for employees to report instances of discrimination without fear of retaliation. Take all complaints seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and implement corrective actions swiftly.  Take reports seriously.
  3. Promotion of Diversity: Actively recruit and promote individuals from diverse backgrounds. Create opportunities for underrepresented groups to participate in decision-making processes and leadership roles.
  4. Review and Update Policies: Regularly review and update anti-discrimination policies to align with evolving legal standards and best practices. Seek input from employees and diversity experts to ensure policies are comprehensive and effective.
  5. Lead by Example: Demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion from top leadership down. Leaders should model respectful behaviour and hold themselves accountable for fostering an inclusive workplace culture.

Preventing workplace discrimination requires a multifaceted approach that addresses systemic biases, fosters awareness, and promotes inclusive practices. By prioritizing fairness, dignity, and respect, employers can create environments where all individuals thrive and contribute to organizational success.

If you need support to prepare a policy, deal with an issue, or understand how to get started to improve your to workplace culture, reach out to Fulton’s workplace law group.



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