31st may 2015
Discrimination in employment can be defined as any distinction, exclusion or preference which has the ability of nullifying or reducing equality of opportunity in employment, negatively influence equal employment decisions such as hiring and promotion based on personal characteristics such as race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or political opinion. Discrimination at the workplace can take many forms affecting both access to employment and chances of getting promoted once someone has been employed. Discrimination can be both direct and indirect coming from different work and cultural settings. The guiding principle of non-discrimination is that all employment decisions are solely and purely based on the ability of the candidate to meet work related requirements and not personal characteristics that have nothing to do with job specifications (Rodrigues, 1997).
The concept of antidiscrimination and equal opportunity is not a new phenomenon. It has been in existence for decades at various levels both locally and international. The principle of non-discrimination has been enshrined in international conventions such as the United Nations and the ILO aimed elimination of all forms discrimination especially those based on race (Rodrigues, 1997). Employers who adopt this concept are likely to enjoy better services from a rich pool of talented staff from a diverse background. The principle of equal opportunity also brings other benefit such as improved morale of workers and low chances of protracted legal challenges.
Congress for the last fifty years has expanded and legislated various laws that are meant to protect employees against any form of discrimination based on generalizations, ethnic stereotyping and any other form of bias. Employers are bound by these laws when making employment decisions such as hiring, firing and promotion. The civil rights act of 1964 is one of such robust and far-reaching pieces of legislation that is aimed at tackling discrimination at every level of society (Rogers, 2013). Title VII of the act specifically deals with protection of employees on the basis of race, gender, color and religion. Once an employer has been declared and certified as an employer he/she is bound by the provision of the act and all employment related decisions are to be done in reference to the provision of this framework. According to this law one is declared one is declared an employer if he runs an entity that employs 15 or more employees each day for 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The civil rights act of 1964 protects employees from among other things against any form of bias and prejudice based on skill color or race. Title VII protects whites as well the minority groups such as black Americans and Hispanics. It states that it is unlawful to discriminate anyone on this basis. The law also prohibits discrimination based on sex. The act states that it is unlawful to favor women over men and the reverse of the same is also outlawed. It also stipulates that a woman should be denied a chance for employment because she has children or she is of childbearing age. Sexual harassment has also been covered under the act and it has been by far the most common claim. Some sex harassment claims results in result in adverse employment actions and some claims that does not result adverse employment action. The greatest advantage of the civil rights act of 1964 provides for protection against a wide of grounds for discrimination in general and specifically at the workplace (Rogers, 2013). But it has disadvantages too, for instance it is not easy to provide direct evidence for a plaintiff to claim that he/she has been discriminated against or treated less favorably. Moreover, discrimination may be forced upon certain groups, for instance film role requires a woman to effectively perform it, and this will have an adverse effect on men even though it wasn’t meant to discriminate.
The other law that specifically deals with issues of discrimination in employment are the age discrimination in employment act (ADEA). This act protects people above the age of 40 from discrimination. When companies are resizing or scaling back the work force in most cases they target high wage earners who are often older, in their forties. The greatest advantage of this act is that employers are forced to treat older workers with dignity and respect. For instance, they can’t be forced into early retirement or fired on the basis of their advanced age. On the other hand, the disadvantage is that it is not easy for a plaintiff to proof in a court of law that the dismissal was due to their advanced age. Because one provides that employees fired above 40 were more than those under 40, performance evaluations of the two groups and even the qualifications needed.
In conclusion, while it is true that taking heed to all these laws that deal with employment discrimination can be daunting, involving and tedious for most employers, the fruits of equality and fairness can also be great for any business and efforts must be made to take them into account.
Rogers, T. (2013). Employment discrimination law and litigation, 2013. New York, N.Y.: Practising Law Institute.
Rodrigues, P.R., (1997). Experience of enforcement agencies: current issues in Dutch anti-discrimination law in: McEwen, M. (Ed), Anti-discrimination Law Enforcement. A comparative Perspective. Avebury, Adershot, pp.50-64 (http://www.cgb.nl/engels/rodriquez1.html