How to Combat Workplace Discrimination in the US

Jane Farrell serves as the Co-Founder of EW Group and is a prominent consultant specializing in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, organizational change, and cultural adaptability. With a wealth of experience spanning over three decades, EW Group places a strong emphasis on anti-discrimination training within its diversity and inclusion initiatives.

As organizations in the United States strive to enhance workplace diversity and equity, effectively addressing racism has become a crucial benchmark for success.

Combat Workplace Discrimination

In the United States, workplace racial discrimination is illegal under various federal laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Tackling racism is not only a legal imperative in the US but is also considered an ethical necessity globally.

In this guide, we delve into the meaning of racism, provide examples, and outline measures that businesses and their leaders can take to eradicate racial discrimination in the workplace.

Instances of racism in the workplace

Instances of racism in the workplace Drawing from the US context, there are several forms of racial discrimination defined by federal laws, including:

  1. Direct racial discrimination: Unfair treatment based on race, such as being denied a promotion due to racial stereotypes or being excluded from client interactions based on racial assumptions.

  2. Indirect racial discrimination: Policies or decisions that disproportionately affect individuals of a certain race, even if they seem neutral on the surface.

  3. Racial harassment: Degrading, offensive, or humiliating behavior towards an individual based on their race.

  4. Racial victimization: Retaliation or mistreatment of an individual after they file a racial discrimination complaint.

Racism is deeply embedded in systemic structures, and leaders must comprehend how it operates within organizations to eliminate it effectively. According to a 2019 survey by the University of Manchester, 70% of Black and Asian staff reported experiencing racial harassment in the workplace over the previous five years.

Strategies to combat racism at work

Institutionalized racism permeates systems, processes, and organizations, creating advantages for white individuals and disadvantages for Black and Asian staff.

Considerable evidence highlights the impact of institutional racism, including findings from the 2017 McGregor-Smith Review, revealing underemployment and employment gaps between Black or Asian and white workers. Tackling racial discrimination is not just an ethical imperative; it also offers tangible benefits for businesses.

1- Educate and train all staff

Ensuring that all staff possess the knowledge and skills to recognize and combat racism is essential. Inclusive leadership should be a universal expectation, and all managers, regardless of seniority, must actively promote equity, diversity, and inclusion.

It is crucial to structure education in a professional manner, incorporating diversity and inclusion training into talent and people processes. Resources such as books and articles, including works by Afua Hirsch and Reni Eddo-Lodge, can supplement formal training to deepen understanding.

2- Understand the problem

gather data Effective leadership requires a comprehensive analysis of how ethnicity influences structural advantages or disadvantages. This involves collecting and analyzing diversity data related to disciplinary actions, team composition, ethnicity pay gaps, and other relevant metrics.

Regularly reporting results to leaders and managers and developing action plans to address imbalances are integral components of this strategy.

3- Be accountable

Companies must approach racism with passion, commitment, and accountability. Holding leaders accountable through transparent reporting on targets and properly investigating complaints are critical steps in fostering positive change. Respecting complaints, adhering to workplace policies, and communicating lessons learned are essential aspects of being accountable.

4- Examine and change your processes

Thoroughly reviewing organizational culture after a racist incident and addressing underlying issues in processes, especially recruitment and line management, is crucial. Analyzing recruitment processes, eliminating discriminatory elements, and ensuring line managers are equipped to support all staff contribute to combating racial discrimination.

5- Deal with systemic racism at work

Avoid attributing racist incidents solely to individual behavior; instead, view them as symptoms of systemic issues within the organization. Leaders must identify and rectify systemic problems to prevent the perpetuation of discrimination.

6- Listen to the discriminated groups

Actively listening to the experiences of groups facing racism within and outside organizations is vital. Taking all complaints seriously, addressing microaggressions promptly, and supporting affected individuals are key to promoting an inclusive and respectful workplace.

Navigating the complexities of combating racial discrimination requires commitment, knowledge, and ongoing effort. Truly inclusive leaders recognize the need for continuous action, not just in response to specific events, to bring about positive change in individuals, groups, companies, and society as a whole.