It's Time to Update Your Non-Discrimination Policy

It’s Time to Update Your Non-Discrimination Policy

Written by ComplianceBridge Policies & Procedures Team on December 30, 2019

When you think about which policies are the most integral to the success and cohesion of your company, you may not consider your non-discrimination policy. Workplaces of all shapes and sizes have some form of this policy on record ensuring that the working environment is free from discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex, gender, race, religion, disability and other identities.

Once created and safely stored in a policy library, these policies are not often subject to update. Our working environments are constantly evolving, though. Behavior that may have been excusable ten or twenty years ago could very well be prohibited now. Accompanying procedures could also benefit from tweaking as technology evolves and the business grows.

Not only is a non-discrimination policy important to have at all, but it’s essential to have regular updates to keep your workplace as safe and productive as possible.

The Importance of Non-Discrimination Policies in the First Place

A non-discrimination policy helps all employees understand what the expectations are for the company’s work environment. Every business on the planet would likely say they want their workplace to be safe, fair and productive, but formally writing down your rules and procedures sends a much more serious message. Failure to do so leaves employees – especially the most vulnerable minorities – feeling insecure and potentially unsafe, leads to more charges of harassment and may cost you more money than you’ve anticipated.

This is because discrimination and workplace harassment are still very much a part of many employees’ workdays in America. In fiscal year 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 76,418 charges of workplace discrimination. Charges of retaliation made up a little over half of the filings, followed by sex, disability, race and age.

These charges don’t come without a price, either. According to the EEOC, they “secured $505 million for victims in the private sector, state and local government, and federal workplaces”. Having a non-discrimination policy in place will help limit your company’s liability by showing your due diligence in preventing inappropriate behavior.

The Importance of Updating Your Policy

According to the EEOC, there are certain risk factors that, when present, can increase the potential for discrimination and harassment in the workplace. These include a lack of diversity in a work group or department, nonconformity to workplace norms (of gender, race, etc.), cultural or language differences, young employees who may be more unaware of workplace etiquette, “high value” employees (who are viewed as too valuable to punish), significant power disparities, isolated workplaces, alcohol consumption in the workplace, decentralized workplaces and many more. Most companies have at least some of these risk factors, and the structure of your company is always changing. You should be prepared to address new risk factors by regularly reviewing and updating your policy.

While you should of course make sure that your non-discrimination policy is equipped to handle the kinds of complaints that have persisted for many decades and will continue to exist such as race and gender-based harassment, you should also make sure your policy is being inclusive of all groups. Many businesses in the US lack anti-harassment policies for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community.

17 states in the US still fail to protect people in this community from discrimination. More than 40% of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers report experiencing employment discrimination at some point in their lives. 90% of transgender workers report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination at work or have tried to hide who they are to avoid these experiences.

Everyone deserves a safe work environment, but the consequences of failing to provide one for a group such as the LGBTQ community is much more severe, since many governments do not specifically protect them from workplace discrimination. Continual updates of your own policy can ensure these groups are protected as the need becomes apparent at your company or organization.

What Does Your Non-Discrimination Policy Need?

You need to make sure your non-discrimination policy is outfitted with a few things in order to work as you intend. First, you need to include a statement prohibiting discriminatory behavior. Include examples to make your explanations even clearer.

Don’t forget to include a provision for reasonable accommodations. Not all employees can perform the demands of the job in the same way for medical or religious reasons, and the law requires that employers allow employees to perform some tasks a little differently. You should also include examples here for what your consider acceptable reasons for accommodations and the accommodations themselves.

For reporting charges of discrimination, your policy needs to have procedures laid out, including who to report to and how to report anonymously. On the same note, make sure you have a statement assuring employees that they won’t be punished for reporting discrimination or participating in an investigation.

For the employees authorized to receive non-discrimination complaints, clearly outline their requirements. The EEOC recommends that you designate more than one person to receive complaints in case your authorized employee has some sort of conflict of interest. Include procedures for preventive or corrective actions when harassment or discrimination has been reported along with the clearly stated consequences of violating your policy. If you intend to take action against the offending employee, they must be formally stated beforehand to stave off any claims of unfair treatment on the part of the employer.

Build Policies that Build You Up

Creating a strong, up-to-date non-discrimination policy is an essential factor in safeguarding your workers and the company, but it’s only one building block. There are many other policies and procedures that can strengthen and empower your organization, but to keep up with the busy policy lifecycle of a growing company, you need the right tools.

ComplianceBridge, ComplianceBridge’s policy and procedure management system, takes the often time-consuming and cumbersome process of creating, implementing and managing P&P documents to a centralized, cloud-based destination. Easily work with policy stakeholders all on one document for easy collaboration and review of content before it’s published. A rich templating system will help give your policy library a consistent look. Collaborative tools for policy writers include version control, messaging, reminders and notifications to help approval move along smoothly.

Distribution of new or updated policies to the affected employees only takes a matter of minutes with ComplianceBridge, as well. Send to single individuals, groups of employees or distribution lists. When new policies and procedures are sent out, employees are notified to acknowledge and test their comprehension of new material. Make your quizzes to be as simple or complex as you need them, using a variety of question types. A record of who has read, tested and signed off on policies is logged in the system.

With the right tools at your fingertips, maintaining a P&P management process that protects both the employer and employees is easy. Request a demo with ComplianceBridge to learn more about our ComplianceBridge suite of products.

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