Top Ten Reasons for Employment Discrimination

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it is illegal for employers to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Despite good intentions, many employers inadvertently violate this rule. The following are ten common causes of employment discrimination:

1. Inadequately trained employees

Even the most effective human resources department cannot prevent inter-employee discrimination unless your employees are adequately trained. All your workers should be familiar with discrimination law and any internal rules your company has adopted.

2. Failure to protect the paper trail

Many employers treat their evaluation system as a formality, handing out satisfactory ratings to any employee who shows up to work on time. When they fire someone, there is no record of misconduct. Document the failings of borderline workers; if you are forced to terminate them, the paper trail will support your decision.

3. Ignorance of the law

Even the best training and awareness programs cannot protect you from liability if you do not know the law. Most employment discrimination rules are self-evident, but a few are surprising. For example, a testing program that disproportionately affects a protected class may be considered discriminatory unless you can show that it directly increases job performance.

4. Inadequate screening of employees

Even the most careful employers occasionally hire people who are unable or unwilling to respect the rights of their coworkers. You can limit this risk by carefully screening all job applicants. You should conduct criminal background checks and consult with previous employers.

5. Skepticism of complaints

If you receive a complaint involving discriminatory behavior, take it seriously. You can significantly reduce your risk of being sued simply by conducting a thorough investigation.

6. Misplaced loyalty

People change, and so do the standards of acceptable conduct. A once exemplary employee may experience personal difficulties and become a liability, or an experienced, hard worker may be unable to adapt to evolving standards of workplace behavior. Do not let your sense of loyalty expose your company to a lawsuit.

7. Excessive amounts of unsupervised leisure time

The human mind hates boredom. If your employees are sitting around with nothing constructive to do, they will find a way to occupy themselves. A disappointing number of times, this will involve harassing or discriminatory conduct.

8. Too much personal expression

A handful of personal touches can help your employees feel at home, but giving free reign to every worker's decorating tastes invites problems. Many workplace discrimination cases involve personal effects such as posters and photographs.

9. Failure to recognize personal conflict

Employees are far less likely to interpret conduct as discriminatory if it involves someone they consider a friend. If possible, avoid forcing your employees to work closely with people they strongly dislike.

10. Mixing of generations, genders and ethnicities in the workplace

If America is a melting pot, the workplace is the spoon that stirs the mix. Your workers are pressed into close daily contact with groups they have never encountered. You should try to help new members of the workforce adjust to this enforced diversity and learn to embrace it.

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Last Modified: 09-26-2013 10:37 AM PDT

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