How to Prevent Disability Discrimination

 

How much consideration have you put into the possibility of disability discrimination within your company culture? Disabled workers are often employed in industries that are customer-forward (such as restaurants), or were entry-level or the least senior among their colleagues. This tells us that disabled workers are less likely to hold management positions and struggle to find jobs to begin with, regardless of their skill-level. Disability discrimination is at play here.

Unfortunately, once the obligatory information goes into the employee handbook, the conversation about disability discrimination often ceases. But it is a very real problem and employers need to be much more proactive in combating it. It takes more effort than what is legally required of them to create both a physically AND mentally safe workspace for their staff.

 

How to combat the stigma

 

Employers need to take a hard look at their hiring practices:

 

  1. Are the policies that are supposed to protect the rights of candidates being followed?
  2. What preconceptions might hiring managers have that may contribute to stigmas regarding disabilities? It’s likely necessary to provide training for all employees, not just management, in order to address and correct any stigmas present in the company. Education is the most powerful tool an employer can use in preventing disability discrimination.
  3. Keep the conversation going. A consistent dialogue about diversity and inclusion with employees is an excellent way to support initiatives. If employees feel welcomed to make accommodation requests and to be vocal about any disabilities they may have, the company culture will be stronger.
  4. Remember that employee may not feel comfortable speaking up, at least initially. Therefore it’s important for an employer to be cognizant that an employee might keep a disability secret for fear of being stigmatized. Employers should make policy decisions that assumes some employees need additional support, even if it’s not obvious at the time. Both employee and employer benefit from a workplace that acknowledges and encourages a diverse workforce.

 

Being able to identify discriminatory practices and mindsets in staff is crucial in not only protecting employee’s legal rights but also in ensuring the workplace is a safe space for everyone. If you’re feeling unsure how to go about recognizing weak points, the experienced HR team at Eos HR can help. We make sure small business teams are successful in maintaining the practices that support a productive company culture. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.

Discrimination Protection in California

 

In this and the blogs to come, we’ll be discussing building a company culture that is mindful of the LGBTQIA+ employees and unfortunately a part of that conversation is protecting these employees from discrimination. It would be wonderful if all employees were treated equally but we know that is not the case, and therefore it’s useful to review the anti-discrimination laws that protect all employees, including those who identify within the LGBTQIA+ community.

 

Federal anti-discrimination laws

 

  1. Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, and nationality.
  2. American Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination of people with mental and/or physical disabilities. What constitutes as a disability is different in each state and therefore it is important to review.
  3. Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits different rates of pay between gender for the same work.
  4. Age Discrimination Act prohibits age-related discrimination
  5. Genetic Discrimination Act of 2008 prohibits using a person’s genetic history as a qualifier for making hiring and firing decisions

Note, there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation BUT California does offer protections.

 

CA protections for LGBTQIA+ workers

 

  1. Gender, gender identity, and gender expression: employers are prohibited from discriminating employees based on these factors. Remember that gender identity is a person’s internal understanding of their gender alignment, and gender expression is a person’s public presentation of their gender identity.*
  2. Sexual orientation: In the state of CA employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation.

 

Important to note

 

  1. Failure to prevent discrimination: In CA, if an employer becomes aware of discrimination against an employee, they are obligated to not only put a stop to it but also to take measures against it from occurring again.
  2. Harassment: The CA Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from harassing workers for their sexual orientation (as well as race, gender religion, etc) and extends to management staff and colleagues as well.

 

Thoroughly understanding the rights of employees is essential for employers, and whenever we discuss matters of company culture, benefits, etc., these rights should always be top-of-mind. There is no such thing as an inclusive and productive team environment if everyone on that team is not equally protected from harassment and discrimination. Employers first step in addressing discriminatory acts is to stop it, and then implement preventative measures.

If you’re looking to get started on building an inclusive culture within your company, Eos HR can help! We make sure small business employers have the resources they need to lead a productive and inclusive workplace. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.

*If you wish to review terminology, please visit our blog that offers useful definitions: Starting the Dialogue for an Inclusive Culture:  Terminology