The human resources team plays a key role in promoting diversity within an organization. After all, it’s HR that works to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds. And it’s up to HR to communicate—not just to executives but to the rank and file as well—just why diversity is important. But how does HR sometimes end up being the problem rather than the solution? And when that happens, how can it be overcome?
It may seem there’s no escaping political divisiveness. All manner of news and social media sources carry angry, frequently hurtful, and often untrue communication. And the workplace is not immune from the damage of those messages.
Presidential campaigns have been heated before, but the 2016 contest seemed especially rife with venom. Since the campaign was so divisive—particularly on race and religion issues that were aggravated by comments about Mexicans, Muslims, and other minorities—some of that discord has found its way to the workplace.
Employment laws prohibit intentional discrimination based on race, sex, or other protected characteristics as well as practices that have a discriminatory impact if they’re not supported by business necessity. Implicit or unconscious bias isn’t technically unlawful in the workplace if it doesn’t cause an unjustified adverse impact.
Yet a presidential candidate in the most-watched debate ever recently responded to a question about whether she “believed that police are implicitly biased against black people” by stating, “Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” The FBI director also recently acknowledged overwhelming research demonstrating the presence of widespread unconscious biases and the way in which those biases may manifest in policing.
“Have a blessed day.” “I’m praying for you.” “Are you a believer?” “Would you be interested in attending church with me?” Comments and questions like those may be common in your workplace. On the one hand, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against employees because of their religion. On the other hand, employers have a legitimate interest in preventing employees from expressing their religion in a manner that is disruptive to business operations and preventing proselytizing from creating a religiously hostile work environment. That can be a real tightrope walk because it’s often unclear where the line should be drawn.
Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs. That may present challenges when an employee claims that a need to share her faith or seek to convert others is a fundamental tenet of her religion. Employers need not provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship. Of course, what amounts to a “reasonable” accommodation and what kind of hardship is considered “undue” is open to interpretation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted an “undue hardship” to be a hardship that presents “more than a minimal burden on [the] operation of the business.” An accommodation that would impede coworkers’ right to work in an environment free from religious harassment would be considered an undue hardship.
Mental impairments are some of the most challenging disabilities to accommodate. Read on to learn about how one company managed a difficult situation with an employee who suffers from a mental health disorder and how your company should respond in similar circumstances.
The White House is urging businesses to take the Fair Chance Business Pledge and commit to providing individuals with criminal records “a fair chance to participate in the American economy.” The idea behind the initiative is that individuals with a criminal history have trouble finding employment, and many communities are hurt because of the lack of gainfully employed residents and good role models. Because nearly one in three adults—almost 70 million Americans—has a criminal record, a large number of people and communities are affected when individuals with a criminal history cannot find employment.
More than 100 organizations have taken the pledge, including American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, the Hershey Company, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Koch Industries, PepsiCo, Prudential, and Starbucks, to name just a few. So if your company is interested in taking the pledge, what considerations should you think through?
There is a common refrain uttered by management lawyers, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Yes, it is cynical, but as employers in the high-tech sector are beginning to discover, it is often true. Currently, Microsoft is dealing with issues as a result of well-intended diversity and corporate social responsibility efforts.
Social responsibility initiative backfires
by Peter Lowe
They were a rag-tag group of has-beens, rejects, and journeymen. They were hired at low wages and with even lower expectations. A recently fired 64-year-old Italian was hired to manage them. They enjoyed a 138-year history, yet no history of success. The odds of the team winning the championship were 5,000 to 1. Yet in May, the team—Leicester City—defied the odds and was crowned champion of the English Premier League. The story of how lowly Leicester City became the champion of one of the world’s richest, most competitive, and far-reaching sports leagues provides valuable tips for HR professionals.
by Celeste Duke
In the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Blake is a trainer sent by corporate to motivate a sales team. In addition to offering helpful gems like the acronym ABC to remind the salesmen that they should “always be closing,” he repeatedly berates them and calls them names while bragging about his own success. He tells the team about a new sales competition that week: First place gets a Cadillac, second place gets a set of steak knives, and third place gets fired.
We hope you have never had a boss like Blake, but it’s likely that you recognize shades of his character in past managers, coworkers, or even a current manager in your organization. You want managers to push employees to do good work and get the best results for the company, but it can be hard to know how far is too far. During his “motivational” speech, Blake asks one salesman, “You think this is abuse?” As it turns out, it just might be, and this could be a new frontier in employee claims.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from banning gay marriage last year, many people who oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons began worrying that the newly recognized constitutional right to gay marriage would conflict with their right to religious freedom. As a result, several state legislatures have enacted “religious freedom laws,” which generally provide statutory protections for people who refuse to act contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs. Religious freedom laws in North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, and Mississippi have caused controversy in recent months, with proponents of these laws arguing that they are necessary to protect religious freedom and opponents arguing that these laws are legalized discrimination. Unfortunately, the conflict between religious freedom laws and the ever-expanding recognition of gay rights is far from over and will almost certainly spill into the workplace and create difficulties for employers.
Tenets of religious freedom laws