By: Joshua C. Black, Esq.
Last year was unprecedented in many ways. From a global pandemic and community shutdown to an increased awareness of racial inequality, 2020 gave Americans a lot to ponder – and countless ways to grow as a society.
This February, during Black History Month, is an opportune time to examine the role of discrimination in the workplace and how movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) give businesses a chance to reevaluate their stances on racial equality in the workplace.
The BLM movement showed us racial inequality still exists in the workplace.
Initially a grassroots movement, Black Lives Matter gained international prominence in 2020 for its high-profile efforts protesting racism, excessive force by law enforcement and the deaths of countless Black Americans.
Now more than ever, business leaders are striving to create a safe workplace for people of color. Organizations are prioritizing ways to foster a more diverse and inclusive culture where all employees – no matter their race, gender, religion or sexual identity - feel heard and respected, and have the same job opportunities and pay equality as their peers. Employers are also increasingly taking action against employees who are participating in racially insensitive or discriminatory activities online and outside the workplace.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is still relevant in 2021.
This landmark U.S. civil rights and labor law forced a dramatic shift in the way employees were hired and fired over the last five-and-a-half decades. Heralded as one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement, the act bans employment discrimination and outlaws prejudice based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and most recently, sexual orientation and gender identity. The federal anti-discrimination law applies to most private-sector employers with 15 or more employees, though businesses of all sizes typically follow the guidelines.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to administer and enforce civil rights laws and investigate workplace discrimination issues. This act has helped define workplace protections and pressed companies to change unfair policies and practices for nearly six decades.
There is still more work to do.
The journey toward workplace equality is far from over.
Today’s employers are focused on diversity, inclusion and fairness in the workplace for many reasons. A varied workforce helps bring fresh, new ideas to the table and fosters innovation. Diversity enables creative problem solving thanks to a mixture of experiences, cultural differences and divergent backgrounds. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion report higher employee engagement, lower staff turnover and increased profits and business success.
For organizations looking for ways to alter company culture, there are some key strategies to ensure diversity matters in the workplace:
Examine your leadership. Are they diverse and representative? Are your leaders strong, thoughtful and culturally aware?
Promote diversity when building your team. Does your organization support a culture of hiring and promoting people of color?
Understand social stereotypes. Does your organization have unconscious biases in place that disadvantage certain people? Can those biases be identified and ultimately removed?
Encourage an open dialogue. Do you have an environment where employees feel comfortable enough to report or call-out discrimination without feeling shunned afterwards?
Evaluate organizational efforts. Don’t rest on your laurels. Examine strides made to diversify your staff to see what worked, what didn’t, and why. Use this as a springboard of asking for staff feedback to understand where additional modifications can and should be made.
History has shown us what happens in the courts is just the first step towards racial equality. As a society, we have to continue building on the precedent set in 1964. We need to focus on supporting each employee, embracing diversity in our community and workplace, and teaching young people to lead with kindness and acceptance of all people.
If you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against at your place of employment, or would like to speak with an Arizona employment attorney regarding your experiences, contact the Law Office of Joshua Black PLC at (623) 738-2225.