Between the nationwide protests against racial inequality, the recent Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, and the small matter of a massive pandemic turning American workplaces upside down, employers have had to navigate a great deal of upheaval in a short period of time. One of the consequences of all this: it’s probably time to update your nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies if you have not done so recently.
The nationwide protests have highlighted inequities in American life faced by racial minorities, including issues in the workplace. Further, the recent Title VII decision from the U.S. Supreme Court extends federal nondiscrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
With these issues in mind, employers need to review their employment policies, procedures, and processes to ensure that they adequately protect racial and sexual minorities. This review should be comprehensive and address every aspect of the employee lifecycle: hiring, training, benefits, promotions, employee conduct, appearance, termination, etc.
Be aware that some considerations may be subtle.
For example, employers need to ensure that benefit offerings do not discriminate between same-sex partners and opposite sex partners. Employers will also want to make any policies gender-neutral; this could include everything from bathroom use – if your workplace has a policy governing that – to dress code and personal grooming policies. Similarly, any grooming policies that might principally affect racial minorities (e.g., anti-black hairstyle policies) need to be eliminated or revised.
Appropriate training programs may also be beneficial. You might wish to incorporate implicit bias training as well as “third-party intervention” training to employees and managers that helps people know what to do when they witness acts of discrimination or prejudice in the workplace.
Don’t forget COVID-19 in your nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies.
In fact, some employers may inadvertently expose themselves to regulatory action even by trying to protect their at-risk populations of workers, e.g. over 65 years or disabled workers. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance that employers cannot exclude employees over the age of 65 from returning to work if all employees are required to do so, though it may be necessary to make appropriate accommodations to protect their health.
Remember, it is prohibited to discriminate against any employee based on their medical condition. However, it’s not just health status; anti-Asian harassment related to the pandemic has increased in recent months, for instance, and employers need to protect workers against any such workplace harassment and discrimination.
CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.