While we may try to play around it, but racial discrimination most definitely still exists in most workplaces. Racial discrimination occurs when an individual is treated differently based on their actual or perceived race. Race discrimination also includes discrimination based upon skin color or pigmentation.

Discrimination can come in various ways. It can be racist comments from a co-worker, underpayment or constantly being passed up on promotions due to race, etc. There are many ways racial discrimination can rear its head in the workplace.

Discrimination can also occur where the employer enacted policies that while not discriminatory in intent, but has some negative impact on employees of a particular race. An employer also may be liable for race discrimination if an employee suffers harassment on the basis of race in the workplace.

Racial discrimination in the workplace can breed an environment of distrust, friction and potential violence or legal action. Employees who are victims of racism are not allowed to achieve their workplace potentials to the full as they are likely to become depressed due to their daily experience. If an employer allows race discrimination to continue, it would send a message to the employees that the behavior is acceptable and tolerable.

An employer who is able to prevent race discrimination in the workplace would help his or her employees to feel safe while building a positive work environment. Prevention keeps the issue under control before it becomes a major problem.

Race discrimination in the workplace is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Defending a case of race discrimination or harassment is disruptive and expensive, even if the employer is ultimately found not to be liable. Prevention is the best way to avoid this situation.

Forms of Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination can be sometimes subtle and other times it can be overt. You may not even know it’s happening if you don’t pay close attention sometimes. These are some forms of racial discrimination people can be subjected to in the work environment.

  • Hiring and firing someone based on race: Some employers are guilty of firing employees based on their race. In an instance where a lot of people were hired and put on probation, some can get fired based on their racial leanings.
  • Paying an employee less because of race: some employees have been known to complain of poor payment even though they are very qualified to receive something higher.
  • Asking about race during an interview: asking about a persons race during an interview is considered racial discrimination. When you conduct an interview to hire someone for a new position at work, race should never play a deciding factor. Don’t ask for an indication of race on the application, and don’t talk about it when you interview the individual.
  • Segregating employees: most offices are divided into cubicles, you should avoid allocating people of same race to the same cubicle as that could amount to segregation. Never assign work space based on ethnicity and never assume they will want to be with others of the same race. Don’t assume they will be better suited to sit by a window, a door, the cafeteria or anywhere else because of your pre-assumed notions about their race.

How to How to Prevent Race Discrimination in the Workplace

Here are some avenues an employer can take to prevent race discrimination in his or her workplace.

  1. Have a pre-written policy

When things are written down, they have a certain life to them. It is advisable to write a workplace anti-discrimination policy that specifically addresses racism. While writing this down, make sure you include penalties that are allotted for failing to obey the policy. As you write this down, make sure nobody is exempt from the coverings of the policy. Employees should all be familiar with the policy to ensure that everyone knows racial discrimination will not be tolerated. Ensure that every employee receives a copy of the policy and should read and sign it.

  1. Hire broad

Racial discrimination in the workplace is more prevalent where they are employees from predominantly one race. To avoid this, an employer is advised to hire employees from all races and ethnic groups to create a diverse workforce. You should also endavour to inform job candidates before hiring them of your policy against racism and discrimination in any form. Reflecting the diverse population of today’s society will help you to better serve your customers, clients or patients. Ensure that all your employees are equally heard and represented.

  1. Promote only based on merit

Promotion is one place race discrimination rears its ugly head. As an employer or even human resource person, you should endavour to promote employees based on merit without considering race or other irrelevant factors. This establishes a system of fair promotions so all employees feel valued. Also, when promotions are being made, make sure your employees know the criteria you used so you don’t get to be accused of discrimination.

  1. Give the necessary training

Sometimes, employees do not know that their actions constitute racial discrimination. It would be to your advantage as an employer or a human resource person to train employees to recognize and avoid racial discrimination. You can hold the training at least once a year to remind employees of how to conduct themselves in the workplace. You can equally hold regular team-building sessions that focus on employees getting to know each other, and creating a positive work environment.

  1. Establish a committee dedicated with preventing racism

One other way to tackle this menace is to establish a committee in the workplace that focuses on anti-racism projects. Use the committee to identify potential discrimination issues based on race and begin finding solutions.

The committee can also handle all race discrimination cases that arise in the workplace before the victims take them to court. Call on certain individuals in the workplace who exhibit professionalism and maturity to head the committee.

  1. Come down hard on racists

People usually learn from experience. If an act of racism is severely dealt with, it would reduce it occurrence in the future. Again, you have to handle all instances of racism the same according to the established policy. Coming down hard on racists would make the victims know you will handle the situation, and all employees know that you won’t tolerate the behavior.

  1. Encourage communication

Encourage open communication with employees so they are more likely to report racism. Emphasize the importance of reporting racism even if an employee sees it happen to someone else. Once these reports have been made, you need to investigate the claims right away.

Encourage open communication by making sure employees feel comfortable discussing concerns with supervisors, HR and/or a designated person in the workplace. If someone feels discriminated against, it’s important they feel safe and comfortable bringing it up.

  1. Make your reporting system anonymous

To encourage people to come forward to report discrimination, you have to make your reporting system anonymous. You should establish an anonymous reporting system that allows employees to report racism without fear of retaliation. Always ensure that you follow up on reports of racism immediately.

Conclusion

One of the more difficult aspects of racial discrimination at work is that it can often take place entirely undetected. Having a well-crafted and rigorously enforced anti-discrimination policy would go a long way in maintaining a workplace free from discrimination, and it can offer substantial protection against race discrimination claims.

There really is no place for racism at work. Not only is it uncalled for and unprofessional, but it is also against the law. As the owner or manager of your company, create a safe environment for all of your employees by understanding and avoiding racial discrimination.

Ajaero Tony Martins