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Employment Discrimination: A Major Problem in Need of a Training Solution

Employment Discrimination: A Major Problem in Need of a Training Solution

For the past several years harassment (particularly sexual harassment) has been the form of discrimination drawing major headlines and receiving significant legislative attention through training mandates. However, employers continue to make improper employment decisions on the basis of race, sex, religion and other protected classes. Employers need to step up efforts to prevent employment discrimination within their organization. An important solution involves implementing training for all employees that outlines what discrimination is, why it is illegal, and what the organization is doing to help employees and applicants who speak up about their concerns.


EEOC Charge Data Shows a Large Number of Employees Claim Discrimination

While US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data reveals 26,221 charges of harassment in fiscal 2019, there were a shocking 72,675 charges of employment discrimination not related to harassment in that same time. Taking a larger sample size, the EEOC charge statistics show that over 950,000 charges of employment discrimination were filed between fiscal 2010 and 2019. Contrasted with the 250,976 charges of harassment during that same ten-year period, we see that the employment discrimination problem is far greater than many employers, managers and executives are aware.

EEOC settlement efforts recovered for plaintiffs over $346 million (along with another $39 million in recovery at trials the agency prosecuted) in fiscal 2019. As the EEOC reminds visitors to its website, the foregoing charge numbers and recovery values do not include charges of discrimination filed with state fair employment agenices, and these dollar values do not include cases resolved through private litigation. Accordingly, both the number of total discrimination cases and the amount paid by businesses to resolve these cases likely are far higher than EEOC-handled cases.


What to Consider in Discrimination Training

If your organization recognizes that every business has the potential for a discrimination claim, you are on the right track. Even better, if you understand the need to educate your workforce about this significant problem, you are even further ahead of the game. Even so, it is important to consider the key factors to look for when determining what your employees need to know in employment discrimination training. It is not enough to tell employees that your organization has a policy against discrimination and will not engage in such a practice. That message, while a necessary component of your business ethics, does not help employees and managers understand what discrimination is and how to prevent it.

When training employees on discrimination prevention, first it is important to make them understand what discrimination is (and is not). For instance, it would be a training failure to take a legalistic approach to defining and applying discrimination using the various statutes and cases that comprise the complicated analytical framework. While providing definitions and protected behaviors are important, it is critical to provide this instruction in an understandable and empathetic way. By using the fundamentals of fairness and relatable scenarios, establishing a level of comfort and reality with learners helps them understand the topic.

Once employees understand what discrimination is and what the consequences are for those employers who allow it to persist, learners then need to understand their rights and responsibilities regarding the prevention of employment discrimination. This holds true whether the learner is a manager or non-supervisory employee, as everyone has a responsibility to prevent discrimination.

Equally important to the rights and responsibilities of the workforce are the situations in which discriminatory behavior can occur. It is simply not enough to describe what discrimination is. Instead, employees must face challenging situations to understand how unfair employment practices can impact their work environment and career if a culture of discrimination is allowed to persist. For example, many employees are unaware that certain pre-employment screenings (such as tests and interviews) can have a discriminatory impact on members of certain protected groups. Even though the practice may not have impacted them directly, those creating and utilizing these types of screenings must ensure that the questions asked are fair to all employee groups. When all employees understand how discrimination impacts others, each individual  can provide feedback that ensures anything that is even arguably discriminatory stops immediately.

A description of organizational reporting and investigation policies is critical to the success of any training program. Even non-managerial employees should know the steps managers will take to prevent discrimination and to investigate and address a claim as it arises. All employees should know steps they can take to raise a concern. Finally, any discrimination course should address retaliation and why this form of discriminatory behavior must never be tolerated. This helps employees feel open about raising concerns and understanding that they will not suffer negative consequences for bringing a complaint to the organization’s attention.


The Necessity of Global Workforce Training

Nothing should stop an organization from training employees about the fundamental principles of treating all groups of people fairly when it comes to making employment decisions. Syntrio’s global discrimination course speaks to employees located in any jurisdiction around the globe. Free from discussion of U.S. statutes and concepts, global training should focus on why fairness should be a pillar of organizational culture. Like the US course, Syntrio’s global discrimination course focuses of fair treatment and the responsibility of the organization to maintain a culture free of improper bias in decision making.

Given employment discrimination is such a costly and disruptive practice to an organization’s culture, it is imperative that leaders take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of an incident. By training the workforce on the concepts of employment discrimination, managers and employees will be better prepared to recognize discriminatory practices and eradicate them from organizational decision-making. Contact Syntrio to learn more about this important business risk and how your organization can take steps to mitigate it.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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