Discrimination in the Workplace

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Discrimination in the Workplace Continues Although we live in enlightened times, a recent Gallup Poll found that 15 percent of American workers still experienced some form of workplace discrimination. The study was conducted to mark the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the creation of the EEOC.

The poll found that the two most frequently cited types of discrimination are sexual discrimination (31 percent) and discrimination based on race or ethnicity (36 percent). Also mentioned were age, disability, sexual orientation, and religion. The work areas found to be most susceptible to discrimination are promotion and pay. Being selected for a job and treatment in the workplace were also cited. Wage discrimination and sexual harassment are two big battles women continue to fight. Both topics were in the headlines in 2017; one took center stage and the other was brushed under the covers (at least for now).

Thanks to Harvey Weinstein, the topic of sexual harassment was in the spotlight, setting off a tsunami as women around the world reacted with their #MeToo stories. As the movement progressed from Hollywood to media companies, to Capitol Hill, and finally into corporate America, the topic had a platform. From the boardroom to the factory floor, women who had been sexually harassed shared their stories.

As companies rushed to put zero-tolerance policies into place and issue new training requirements, lawsuits and class-action cases were settled more quickly, some very publicly. In August 2017, the EEOC reached a $10 million settlement with Ford motor company for sexual and racial harassment at two Chicago plants.

In contrast, little was reported on the reversal of the new regulation designed to combat the wage gap between men and women. The revised EEO-1 would have gone into effect March 31, 2018, and required companies with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with 50 or more employees to report W-2 wage information and total hours worked for all employees. The EEO-1 form already requires employers to report data on race/ethnicity and gender.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) initiated a review and immediate stay to the U.S. EEOC “in accordance with its authority under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA),” reversing the regulation that had been revised on September 29, 2016.

Pay equity advocates who had supported expanded pay-data reporting were critical of the suspension. “We see through the Trump administration’s call to halt the equal pay rule that requires employers to collect and submit pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity to the government,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. “Make no mistake—it’s an all-out attack on equal pay. [It] sends a clear message to employers: if you want to ignore pay inequities and sweep them under the rug, this administration has your back.”

How important is equal pay? According to the analyses of the 2014-2016 Annual Social and Economic supplement published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the United States economy would have produced additional income of $512.6 billion if women received equal pay; this represents 2.8 percent of 2016 gross domestic product (GDP).

In addition, poverty rates would drop from 10.8 percent to 4.4 percent, and the number of children with working mothers living in poverty would be nearly cut in half, dropping from 5.6 million to 3.1 million.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Why is workplace diversity so important in today’s business environment?

  2. What are the major sources of workplace discrimination? Cite specific examples from the case.

  3. What steps are companies taking to ensure that employees are not discriminated against?

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