Demystifying Discrimination in the Workplace

The turn of the 20th century is still remembered as an epoch of innumerable cataclysmic changes that were bound to transform every aspect of human interaction. Among the noticeable vicissitudes that it heralded and that individuals now have to contend with is discrimination, which now currently ranks as a leading cause of violence within the United States. The burgeoning of this contemporary society into a diverse entity now routinely features discrimination in the workplace as a typical manifestation of prejudice. According to recent statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), workplace discrimination has been on a steady rise in the United States, with retaliation claims topping the annual list with 84,524 reported cases (“San Luis Personnel Services -,” 2018).

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Particularly ironic is the fact that all this has been in a country that took pride in its longstanding tradition as being a melting pot for a wide assortment of diverse cultures. Notwithstanding, workplace discrimination is presently a significant debacle in the United States. In essence, pundits well-versed in perception have even gone as far as postulating that discrimination in the workplace is a pristine reflection of the wider American society and a reason for serious introspection. This research study, therefore, seeks to explore tangible facts about this problem, by examining its causes using racial/ethnic, gender and age paradigms, exploring possible solutions in addition to providing an apt summary and crucial inferences made in the conclusion.

Underlying Causative Factors

            The discrimination that is prevalent at work settings often occurs between employee and employer, specific colleagues or amongst a firm’s employee and a belligerent third party. Normally, it is characterized by the unfair treatment of specific employees or candidates solely based on social stratification, class, gender or ethnicity; with total disregard to individual merit. At the crux of this challenge are the differences inherent in persons from different ethnicities and gender which often results in misunderstandings when seeking to meet an entity’s objectives. Pursuant to this reality, the following have been identified as chief underlying causative factors that lead to discrimination in the workplace.

Racial and Ethnic Inequality

Even though the United States is among one of the most ethnically diverse nations on the face of the planet, it steel reels from historical apparitions that haunt it and evident in its racial inequality. The American Civil War (1861-65), is arguably the goriest and most traumatic clash in Continental America, and was fought to put an end to the peculiar institution of slavery. In issuing the eminent Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln was (in effect) setting a precedent for racial equality in the United States. Nonetheless, his dream is yet to be fully realized, especially since racial and ethnic inequality is a glaring hallmark of the American workplace. Usually taking overt or subtle forms, racial inequality is alive and well in the United States.

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An employer may fail to hire or even promote a particular individual solely on account of their race or ethnic background. This practice mainly continues unabated since most of its defining aspects frequently go undetected. Hiring trends have recently revealed the actual extent of this iniquity, with African American and Hispanic Americans often missing out on one out of every five recruitment drives (England, 2015, p. 54). It is, however, important to acknowledge that the federal government is fully cognizant of this reality and seeks to fully implement the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while still encouraging victims of workplace discrimination to file appropriate claims.

Non-Compliance with Gender Parity Requirements

            Failure to abide by specific laws that seek to shield individuals from workplace rejection, unexplained termination of employment contracts and harm based on gender has led to numerous violations that represent discrimination in the workplace. The most common representation of this blatant violation is often evident when a qualified candidate applies for a promotion and their request denied (only for a less qualified individual from the opposite gender to be selected). Similarly, an experienced applicant with excellent qualifications may fail to meet a firm’s employment cut simply because the company’s long-time clients are, traditionally, more comfortable dealing with representatives from a certain gender. In more extreme cases variations in pay, job classification and unequal distribution of benefits among the sexes all point to occasions where gender parity requirements have been ignored, and inadvertently paving the way for discrimination in the workplace. 

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It is, however, vital to note that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is categorical in stating that all individuals under the jurisdiction of the federal government in the United States is protected from any form of discrimination based upon gender (Paludi, Paludi, & DeSouza, 2011). The U.S Department of Labor has also recently intensified its war on workplace discrimination by publishing a list of new regulations meant to ensure that gender parity is a reality under Executive Order 11246. Compliance with these directives is thus meant to remedy the exacerbated situation and put an end to all forms of gender discrimination.

Age Discrimination

            Recently, age has emerged as a source of angst for many employees. Although it is against the law for employers to discriminate against individuals in the workplace based on their actual or assumed age, this practice still remains rife and the bane of many practitioners. In essence, employees often go through such harrowing experiences during the recruitment phase, when seeking to understand the actual terms and conditions that they will be party to or during routine dismissals. This is because employers may adopt a set of biases that lead them to approach employees from a rather skewed angle of analysis. Stereotypes about younger individuals or senior workers may have an adverse effect on their position in an entity simply because such assumptions are bound to influence most of the decisions arrived at in such an environment. This vile workplace demeanor may take a variety of forms, some subtle while others blatantly overt. Take for instance a business executive failing to interview an applicant simply due to their age based on the axiom that such individuals will not “fit in” with the staff members. Or say an employer failing to employ a young applicant based on the wrong assumption that such a person is a liability to the firm and will simply move on to another job opening once prospective employers beckon. In both scenarios, age emerges as a major factor that perpetuates workplace discrimination and thus creating a vicious cycle that only works to curtail growth in the workplace. It is for this reason that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was enacted with the original intention of enacting regulations to protect workers against any form of age-based discrimination (Lahey, 2016). Employers are therefore expected to be first in line when it comes to taking reasonable measures that are meant to prevent age discrimination from even taking place in the first place.

Preventing Workplace Discrimination

            In a majority of cases discrimination in the workplace thrives chiefly because employers are oblivious and unaware of their duty to their employees. As a result, workplace discrimination flourishes, resulting in increased employee absenteeism, low morale and high insurance premiums. The following are ideal steps that can be considered by employers in the pursuit of ending discrimination in the workplace.

Becoming Conversant with Applicable Anti-Discrimination Laws

            As a start, all employers should make certain that they are familiar with various pieces of legislation meant to put an end to all forms of discrimination in the workplace. Most employers wrongly assume that complying with regulations such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a host of other state anti-discrimination laws is their lone obligation to employees (David A. Robinson, 2013, p. 65). Conversely, it is paramount that they conduct an in-depth assessment of the laws to make certain that they understand all tenets that have been laid out.

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A close and thorough inspection of these laws regularly reveals a protected class of individuals that an employer may, hitherto, have been unaware of. These classes may include a person’s marital status, sexual orientation and even lactating staff members. Furthermore, employers can remain updated on these laws by selecting appropriate representatives who periodically attend conferences and seminars that discuss discrimination in the workplace.

Establishing Mechanisms to Investigate Complaints Hinging on Discrimination

            Employers are uniquely tasked with creating appropriate investigatory procedures that should be implemented when resolving any complaints relating to workplace discrimination. They should, therefore, endeavor to promptly investigate any incident and without any delay as soon as employees file any such claims. All complaints should also be accorded with the seriousness they deserve while also being careful to avoid employing a trivial approach when seeking to resolve an issue. Moreover, firms should also make sure that they select an investigator (ordinarily one who is a HR professional) with a fitting set of skills that will enable them investigate all employee complaints (Goodman-Delahunty & Foote, 2010, p. 67). In other cases, appointing a third-party investigator is the best course of action especially when charges are leveled against high-level company officials. Thorough interviews and a painstaking review of the evidence should also be conducted as a measure to make definite that every piece of evidence relevant to the case is appraised. Moreover, employers also need to consider the confidentiality of the informing employee to prevent any adverse personnel decisions bordering on retaliation.

Summary and Conclusion            

In finality, discrimination in the United States is a staid social problem that has been linked to a rising spate of violence across the country. Currently, it has had far-reaching implications and has, most notably, been recorded all across the typical American workplace. Preliminary research reveals that racial inequality among America’s diverse population, non-compliance with gender parity requirements and age are chief reasons why discrimination in the workplace is now plaguing the United States.

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Still, apposite measures, such as employees becoming conversant with applicable anti-discrimination laws and establishing mechanisms to investigate discrimination claims, are largely viewed as practical approaches to deal with this scourge. Employers thus need to make certain that they provide their employees with a safe and secure working environment while also ensuring that they are not harassed by fellow personnel in any way imaginable.

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