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Understanding Workplace Discrimination

12 Nov 2015

Employers can be held directly responsible for discrimination or vicariously liable for the actions of their employees, if they have failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination from occurring in their workplaces.

There are differences in what actions are considered unlawful discrimination, however, employers should ensure they do not discriminate (or allow their employees to discriminate) on the basis of the following:

Race, nationality, national extraction or social original; sex, sexuality, transgender and transexuality; marital status; pregnancy; age; physical or mental disability; family responsibility, and ethno-religious background. This is not an exhaustive list, but is a good base point for reference.

An employer can be held responsible for the action of their employees (vicariously liable) if they have not taken all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination in the workplace, and do not deal effectively with a complaint  discrimination when it is made.

WorkplaceEmployers have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and abuses in their workplace, and to address complaints of discrimination and aggravation quickly and confidentially. Some of the steps that employers should take to prevent exploitation and discrimination are:

Having a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy that is committed to by all workplace participants (including managers, directors and contractors).

Having a grievance resolution procedure that is clear and concise.

Providing information to your employees of where they can go to get help outside of your workplace if they want to (for example, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or the Anti-Discrimination Board)

Training all employees on what is unlawful discrimination and abuse, and what behaviors are expected of them at work

Ensuring all managers are trained on how to appropriately investigate and handle complaints

Making discrimination and abuse a feature of discussion at staff meetings

Displaying posters and other materials in staff rooms that clearly state that abusing and discrimination will not be tolerated in your workplace

Regularly reviewing your workplace policies to ensure they remain current and do not indirectly discriminate

Making a commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity by including it as a common selection criteria for all positions in your workplace

This is not an exhaustive list of steps to take, for further help and information, contact a workplace law expert or HR supervisor, who can provide specific advice on discrimination in the workplace and how to avoid it.

With increasing trends of global migration, organizations within the private sector, public service, and non-profit industries must now adapt to meet the expanding needs of diverse customers and service-users at the service, design and strategic levels.3 Diversity is not only beneficial for the workforce but can also benefit an organization's capacity to compete and capitalize on opportunities in the local and global marketplace.

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Understanding Workplace Discrimination

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