Racism occurs when anyone expresses bias verbally, in writing or via behavior or attitude toward someone of a different skin color or ethnicity. Overt racism, including slurs, jokes and name calling, and covert racism, including avoidance, ridicule or body language changes, are illegal according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws. As a Human Resources employee, you hold the responsibility to address racism immediately, implement prevention policies and deliver necessary discipline. Use these tips to address and handle racism properly in your workplace.
Establish a Zero-Tolerance Policy
Refuse to allow racism and discrimination in your company. With help from your attorney and insurance agent, prepare a zero-tolerance policy, including reporting procedures and potential discipline, and print it in the employee handbook. Then ensure everyone, starting with management, follows it.
Maintain a Diverse Workforce
Encourage diversity when you recruit and hire employees from a variety of races, ethnicities and backgrounds. Additionally, create a safe environment where everyone in your company feels comfortable discussing racism and maintaining a cooperative workplace. Ongoing training will also share the benefits of diversity and update employees on anti-discrimination laws.
From the moment you receive a report of racism to the final resolution, resolve to remain calm and serve as a role model for others in your company. Becoming excited, angry or otherwise emotion could incite further incidents, cause hurt feelings and complicate resolution. Plus, you will think more clearly as you maintain a calm attitude and demeanor.
A corrective action plan reinforces your zero-tolerance policy and protects your employees and your company. This solid action plan equips you to handle racism incidents properly and reduces workplace tension and potential legal action as you maintain a safe environment for every employee. Your action plan should include these steps.
- Take each complaint seriously.
- Exercise respect for all parties, including the complainer.
- Don’t retaliate with punishment such as discipline, demotion, shift changes or isolation toward any of the involved employees.
- Investigate all complaints objectively, and reserve judgment for after the impartial and thorough investigation.
- Follow your established procedures exactly to discover the truth and avoid unfair treatment claims.
- Interview everyone involved, including the complainer, accused and witnesses, and gather supporting documents such as emails to create a corroborative picture of the alleged incident/s.
- Keep detailed records of all interviews and documentation.
- Maintain confidentiality at all times.
- Cooperate with any investigative or government agencies.
- Take appropriate disciplinary action as needed.
Racism in a company affects everyone and could jeopardize the business’s future. Create a safe, inclusive and diverse workforce with these tips, and discuss additional protective measures with your insurance agent and attorney as you address and handle workplace racism properly.