Dear HR Executive:
Most would agree we've made progress on race issues in this country in the past generation. It's possible we'll even have our first-ever minority president in 2008. But new statistics from the EEOC suggest that racial and other forms of discrimination are alive and well in the workplace, and this it's no time for companies to get sloppy about preventing bias.
As the chart below shows, all forms of Title VII discrimination rose between 2006 and 2007.
Race claims are the most common (30,000+ cases in 2007), and therefore the ones HR executives need to be most vigilant about. If there's a "sleeper" in these stats, it's the overlap between Race and National Origin claims. Since National Origin cases are often motivated by racial factors, the real number of race discrimination cases is actually quite a bit higher than these stats indicate. And in the future, as our country's workforce absorbs more immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, preventing racial discrimination lawsuits is going to require even greater vigilance.
Below is an article that talks about the EEOC data and offers some suggestions to help you prevent race discrimination claims at your company. Read on.
Racial bias charges are soaring – is your organization at risk?
How to ward off the commonest kind of discrimination complaint
The American workforce’s growing diversity presents employers with many opportunities. But it also poses challenges, not least of which is the danger of racial discrimination – real or perceived.
That danger is highlighted in the latest annual statistics on discrimination charges filed with the EEOC. In 2007, charges of racial bias rose 12% from the previous year, to their highest level in 13 years.
That trend was even sharper than the aggregate rise in charges of all kinds, which was 9%, the largest annual gain since 1993.
The EEOC recorded 30,510 racial discrimination charges in 2007, compared with 82,792 total charges.
Charges of national origin discrimination, which sometimes overlaps racial bias, also rose 12%, to 9,396.
Title VII’s provisions outlawing racial discrimination at work were drafted during the civil rights era, and for years, African-Americans were the main group to avail themselves of the law.
New racial groups
But with growing numbers of Hispanics, East Asians, South Asians and other groups entering the workforce, it seems almost inevitable that racial bias charges from members of these groups will boost the total.
What can HR people do to promote law-abiding behavior among members of the various racial groups in their workforce?
One major key: respect. Experience over years of diversity training shows that when the training emphasizes only legal compliance, employees’ attitudes don’t change much.
And so, once the training is over, they’re likely to lapse into disrespectful behavior that easily crosses the line into illegality.
Moreover, legalistic training is more likely to foster resentment and pushback than greater understanding.
You’ll get farther if your anti-discrimination information and training stress points like these:
- People’s similarities outweigh their differences. Minority employees may have different ways of speaking and acting, but their human needs and desires are much the same as those of the dominant culture.
- Minority groups have distinguished histories and capabilities. Do your workers know the role of Arabs in developing astronomy, Indians mathematics, or South Americans agriculture? This kind of knowledge increases respect.
- Developing minorities’ potential helps everybody. Your organization functions best when all employees, irrespective of race or origin, have an equal chance to contribute and be recognized for their contributions.