Diversity in the Workplace - Answers to Your Frequent Questions

06.10.20
Group Of People Sitting Indoors 3184360

Recent events have brought discussions of diversity and inclusion, particularly around race, to the forefront. While we don’t have all of the answers, we do have some that may be useful to you within your own companies. 

Q: What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

A: Diversity can include race, ethnicity, gender identity, age, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation. It can also include people with different educational backgrounds, personality types, cultural references, experiences, or physical abilities.

Inclusion is when every single person in the community is valued, heard, respected, empowered, and feels a true sense of belonging.

You cannot have one without the other. In order to have a sound workplace, you must have both a diverse workforce and ensure that it is truly inclusive for all.

Q: What should I do to make sure my company is dedicated to diversity and non-discrimination?

A: This is a big question and probably bigger than we can summarize in a paragraph or two. First, it starts at the top. If you do not have buy-in from your executive team that diversity in your workforce is important and discrimination will not be tolerated, you will struggle with making this a priority in your organization. 

From there, start small. Assess where you are as an organization from a diversity standpoint. Make your stance known to your employees through clear communication. Consider conducting diversity awareness training for your employees. Review your policies and practices to ensure you have the basics covered. Work with your Nextep HR business partner on this endeavor. We can provide guidance and resources to assist!

Q: What should I do if an employee claims they feel discriminated against?

A: Employers should have a policy and plan in place. Listen and take their situation seriously. An employee should have multiple ways to reach out, should their manager be the one who is discriminating against them. 

Investigations into discrimination complaints should be prompt and employers need to remember that retaliation for making a claim is illegal. At the end of the investigation, the employer will need to follow up with the person who issued the complaint to let them know what took place. 

If you do not have a process in place to handle discrimination complaints, reach out to your HR business partner! We have resources to help walk you through this process, including free access to a Complaint Hotline.

Q: What are the legal safeguards against discrimination in the workplace?

A:  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Under Title VII, an employer may not discriminate in any term, condition, or privilege of employment. Examples include recruiting, hiring, promoting, transferring, training, disciplining, discharging, assigning work, measuring performance, or providing benefits. 

Title VII also prohibits harassment based on membership in a protected class. Retaliation is also illegal if you oppose discrimination protected under Title VII, or participate in an EEOC investigation or discrimination claim. 

Q: How can I make sure my hiring practices avoid discrimination?

A: Companies should review their hiring practice to ensure no room is left for discrimination. Considerations include analyzing your application process to determine if a “no name resume” policy or removing any photos associated with applicant information is a good option for your company. 

Additionally, recruiting at historically Black colleges, taking a hard look at company demographics, and avoiding hiring practices that create adverse actions are worthwhile to consider. 

Q: What if one of my employees wants time off to attend a social justice protest?

A: Be generous in allowing paid time off (PTO), even if it’s with short notice. 2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges. Just as we’ve made exceptions and allowances for other events such as COVID-19, we should allow grace for these events, too.

Q: My employees are looking for an official company statement on diversity and inclusion. What do I do?

A: In the absence of communication, people will have no choice but to assume the worst. Don’t hide from current events or from tough issues. Meet to decide your company’s official stance and any action items, contact your HR business partner at Nextep to work through drafts, and make the statement as soon as possible.

Q: What is Nextep doing to commit to racial diversity?

A: At Nextep, we get a lot of things right as an employer and as a thought leader in our community. That being said, we have no delusions of perfection and can do better.  

Nextep will continue to support our Black employees and will develop programs to educate our non-Black employees, holding each other accountable for living our values. We will continue to hire and support a diverse workforce. Through The Nextep Charitable Foundation, we will donate $50,000 to nonprofits that support the Black community. And we will match employee donations to nonprofits that support the Black community.

We can all do better, and we’re committed to being part of a positive change in our organization and community.

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