Diversity & Inclu... General October Diversity...
October Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion Update
October Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion Update

Oct 2nd, 2022
Assembled By
Matt Glowacki, Diversity Equity & Inclusion Chair

Jefferson County HRMA & WI SHRM

Handling Employee Conflicts: When HR Should and Shouldn't Get Involved

​Conflicts will eventually happen in the workplace. How should you handle employee complaints about others' actions? For one thing, you should never ignore them, experts say.

While it's tempting to think the problem will go away if ignored, that never happens—ever—said Sharon Lovoy, an HR consultant and communications trainer.
Employees should be encouraged to alert HR when there is a problem.

"If there is water on the plant floor, you wouldn't want someone not to say something. That's a safety issue," Lovoy pointed out. The same is true for raising other concerns, she said.

HR must then weigh whether the concern is a matter of people not getting along or if more egregious behavior is involved.

"Take every complaint seriously and [give] at least a modicum of diligence to ascertain [its] veracity," said Myrna L. Maysonet, chief diversity officer and partner at law firm Greenspoon Marder LLP, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "We try to focus HR on red-flagging things, seeing the problems that can turn into big problems—morale issues, types of discrimination, type of issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act or Family [and] Medical Leave Act. Things of that nature."

Greenspoon clients are told to have a policy to investigate all complaints, she said, noting it's also important to have an anti-discrimination policy, reporting procedures and a documentation process for recording information such as the date the complaint was lodged and any details.

When complaints involve sexual harassment, take immediate steps to separate the parties, Maysonet said. Ask for witnesses and evidence, and talk to the alleged offender.

Addressing Complaints

However, HR should let managers manage their teams when the complaint does not involve equal employment opportunity (EEO) issues, Maysonet said.
"You don't want to be the person [employees] come to, to deal with every little thing," such as scheduling issues or other matters that fall under the supervisor's purview. "You want your manager to manage the everyday issues. HR can't be the arbitrator of things all the time. Nobody can do that."

For a complaint about an everyday issue, "the goal should be solving it at the lowest level possible," Lovoy said.

She favors bringing the two parties together to talk. Sometimes all the complainant wants is an apology and recognition by the other party that their behavior was unacceptable.

However, an apology where the other party says, "I'm sorry if I offended you" won't fly.

Help the alleged offender understand they've made a mistake, Lovoy said, and facilitate a process where the two people can have a conversation. The apology should include promising not to behave that way in the future. 

Anonymous Complaints, Retaliation

Handling anonymous complaints is challenging, especially if the unidentified complainant does not offer specifics such as the date and time of the alleged incident and the department or people involved.

However, if the department is identified, it's still worth talking to the manager, pointed out David L. Barron, an attorney at Cozen O'Connor based in Philadelphia. And it could be an opportunity for training—something as simple as a five-minute talk at the start of a shift on treating each other with respect or on what forms microaggressions take.

When dealing with EEO-related complaints lodged by employees in protected classes, retaliation is an overarching concern, Barron said. Federal law protects individuals against retaliation when they allege discrimination in the workplace, regardless of the validity or reasonableness of the complaint—and retaliation charges are harder for employers to defend against.

It's important, he said, to have a nonretaliation policy and to communicate it to everyone involved in an investigation, including witnesses and supervisors.

A supervisor who has been accused of discriminating against an employee might react by avoiding the complainant, but that can lead to allegations of retaliation, Barron warned. For example, he noted, the complainant might say, " 'People won't talk to me anymore. They don't invite me to lunch anymore. I was not in this meeting. I wasn't aware of promotional opportunities,' so it's a slippery slope."

Tips for HR

Lovoy, Barron and Maysonet offered the following nine tips for HR professionals handling employee complaints:
  1. Have clear policies on what is and is not accepted behavior, and conduct sessions with employees explaining what the policies mean.
    "It's not enough to throw policies at employees and ask people to sign them," Lovoy said. Educate workers on appropriate behavior and the process they should follow to voice concerns. 
  2. Provide a variety of venues to voice complaints
  3. Hold the complainant accountable.
    Ask, "Is this something you have already discussed with your supervisor?" Maysonet said. If the answer is no, tell the person to have that conversation first. 
  4. Ask the complainant what they expect of HR
    If it's to force HR to make a change on the complainant's behalf, that's unrealistic, Maysonet said. "HR should not be in the business of managing things or people but [instead acting as] the resource and liaison," she explained. "You need to train your managers to manage."< 
  5. Listen, don't argue
    "Try to let [the complainant] do most of the talking," Barron said. "You shouldn't be arguing with that person. It's more about listening in that initial interview." Take notes or obtain the complainant's statement, and ask who they think you should talk to. 
  6. Approach fact-finding with neutrality and objectivity.
    "The important thing is to have a good, objective process," Barron said. If the complaint has to do with HR, for example, HR should not be handling the investigation. "You want to do everything at each step of the way to make sure you're being proactive."
  7. Use your "spidey sense.
    "You need to use your radar to say, 'What's going on?' " Maysonet said. Has the employee complained previously about discrimination? Is the employee on a performance improvement plan? Did the employee who is lodging a discrimination complaint get fired shortly after asking for pregnancy leave? "You have to be able to put things together" when looking into complaints, she pointed out. 
Sometimes you find there are other issues at play—such as managers who give friends latitude they don't give to others, like allowing them to come in late or leave early.

"That lack of objectivity is creating morale issues," Maysonet said.
  1. Maintain confidentiality.
    "You can't promise it completely if you have to do an investigation," Barron noted. "To the extent possible, maintain as much [confidentiality] as possible," being careful about who is included in e-mails and the investigation if it's conducted in-house. 
  2. Conduct a final conversation with the complainant
    Let the individual know that appropriate steps have been taken without divulging details that would compromise confidentiality, Barron advised. 


United States: Four Tips For Accommodating Mental Health Diagnoses In The Workplace

Mental health has traditionally been stigmatized more than physical ailments or disabilities. However, in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the stigma surrounding mental health is lessening. Discussions surrounding mental health in the workplace have recently become more commonplace, as employees in all industries have struggled with an increase in mental health issues. As a result, employers are seeing an increase in mental health diagnosis disclosures and accommodation requests.

Below are four tips/best practices for employers to keep in mind when an employee discloses a mental health diagnosis:


1. Treat mental health conditions the same as physical disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes "mental impairments" in its definition of disability. While not all mental health conditions are considered disabilities, as long as the condition "substantially limits one or more major life activities," it will be classified as a disability under the ADA. The ADA also protects individuals with a history of a mental health diagnoses and those who are regarded as having a disability.
The first thing to remember is to treat an employee who discloses a mental health diagnosis the same as an employee who discloses a physical disability. Mental health diagnoses should not be singled out for extra scrutiny. For example, an employer should not require a doctor's note for mental health conditions if it does not require a doctor's note for physical conditions.


2. Think outside the box.

When engaging in the interactive process with an employee who has a mental health diagnosis that qualifies as a disability, an employer should think of creative reasonable accommodations wherever possible. Possible accommodations may include: more frequent or longer breaks; a quieter work environment; a work-from-home arrangement; more frequent reminders of tasks or deadlines; removing marginal functions; and flexible work schedules to allow for appointments.

3. Accommodating a mental health diagnosis does have limits.

Accommodations for mental health conditions, just like with physical disabilities, should not do away with essential job functions. Employers do not (generally) need to allow employee outbursts in violation of workplace policies, nor do they need to require other employees to work harder because of another employee's disability, monitor an employee's medication, or provide a completely stress-free environment. Employers should also hold all employees to the same conduct or safety standards, regardless of disability, when those standards are job-related.

4. Review accommodation and anti-harassment policies.

Finally, employers should review their current accommodation and anti-harassment policies to ensure they are updated to include mental health diagnoses. When reviewing a handbook or policies and procedures, an employer should also consider whether any additional training is needed for managers and human resources personnel regarding fostering a stigma-free workplace. This can include additional training on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, and steps for assessing situations where employees may need help.


Mental Health at Work Basics from World Health Organization
Key facts
  • Decent work is good for mental health.
  • Poor working environments – including discrimination and inequality, excessive workloads, low job control and job insecurity – pose a risk to mental health.
  • 15% of working-age adults were estimated to have a mental disorder in 2019.
  • Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
  • There are effective actions to prevent mental health risks at work, protect and promote mental health at work, and support workers with mental health conditions.
Work can protect mental health
Almost 60% of the world population is in work (1). All workers have the right to a safe and healthy environment at work. Decent work supports good mental health by providing:
  • a livelihood; 
  • a sense of confidence, purpose and achievement;
  • an opportunity for positive relationships and inclusion in a community; and
  • a platform for structured routines, among many other benefits.
For people with mental health conditions, decent work can contribute to recovery and inclusion, improve confidence and social functioning. 

Safe and healthy working environments are not only a fundamental right but are also more likely to minimize tension and conflicts at work and improve staff retention, work performance and productivity. Conversely, a lack of effective structures and support at work, especially for those living with mental health conditions, can affect a person’s ability to enjoy their work and do their job well; it can undermine people’s attendance at work and even stop people getting a job in the first place.

Risks to mental health at work
At work, risks to mental health, also called psychosocial risks, may be related to job content or work schedule, specific characteristics of the workplace or opportunities for career development among other things. 

Risks to mental health at work can include:
  • under-use of skills or being under-skilled for work;
  • excessive workloads or work pace, understaffing;
  • long, unsocial or inflexible hours;
  • lack of control over job design or workload; 
  • unsafe or poor physical working conditions;
  • organizational culture that enables negative behaviours;
  • limited support from colleagues or authoritarian supervision; 
  • violence, harassment or bullying; 
  • discrimination and exclusion;
  • unclear job role; 
  • under- or over-promotion; 
  • job insecurity, inadequate pay, or poor investment in career development; and
  • conflicting home/work demands. 
More than half the global workforce works in the informal economy (2), where there is no regulatory protection for health and safety. These workers often operate in unsafe working environments, work long hours, have little or no access to social or financial protections and face discrimination, all of which can undermine mental health.

Although psychosocial risks can be found in all sectors, some workers are more likely to be exposed to them than others, because of what they do or where and how they work. Health, humanitarian or emergency workers often have jobs that carry an elevated risk of exposure to adverse events, which can negatively impact mental health.

Economic recessions or humanitarian and public health emergencies elicit risks such as job loss, financial instability, reduced employment opportunities or increased unemployment.

Work can be a setting which amplifies wider issues that negatively affect mental health, including discrimination and inequality based on factors such as, race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, social origin, migrant status, religion or age.

People with severe mental health conditions are more likely to be excluded from employment, and when in employment, they are more likely to experience inequality at work. Being out of work also poses a risk to mental health. Unemployment, job and financial insecurity, and recent job loss are risk factors for suicide attempts.

Action for mental health at work

Government, employers, the organizations which represent workers and employers, and other stakeholders responsible for workers’ health and safety can help to improve mental health at work through action to:
  • prevent work-related mental health conditions by preventing the risks to mental health at work;
  • protect and promote mental health at work; 
  • support workers with mental health conditions to participate and thrive in work; and
  • create an enabling environment for change.
Action to address mental health at work should be done with the meaningful involvement of workers and their representatives, and persons with lived experience of mental health conditions.

Prevent work-related mental health conditions

Preventing mental health conditions at work is about managing psychosocial risks in the workplace. WHO recommends employers do this by implementing organizational interventions that directly target working conditions and environments. Organizational interventions are those that assess, and then mitigate, modify or remove workplace risks to mental health. Organizational interventions include, for example, providing flexible working arrangements, or implementing frameworks to deal with violence and harassment at work.

Protect and promote mental health at work

Protecting and promoting mental health at work is about strengthening capacities to recognize and act on mental health conditions at work, particularly for persons responsible for the supervision of others, such as managers.

To protect mental health, WHO recommends:
  • manager training for mental health, which helps managers recognize and respond to supervisees experiencing emotional distress; builds interpersonal skills like open communication and active listening; and fosters better understanding of how job stressors affect mental health and can be managed;
  • training for workers in mental health literacy and awareness, to improve knowledge of mental health and reduce stigma against mental health conditions at work; and
  • interventions for individuals to build skills to manage stress and reduce mental health symptoms, including psychosocial interventions and opportunities for leisure-based physical activity. 

Support people with mental health conditions to participate in and thrive at work

People living with mental health conditions have a right to participate in work fully and fairly. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides an international agreement for promoting the rights of people with disabilities (including psychosocial disabilities), including at work. WHO recommends three interventions to support people with mental health conditions gain, sustain and participate in work:
  • Reasonable accommodations at work adapt working environments to the capacities, needs and preferences of a worker with a mental health condition. They may include giving individual workers flexible working hours, extra time to complete tasks, modified assignments to reduce stress, time off for health appointments or regular supportive meetings with supervisors.
  • Return-to-work programmes combine work-directed care (like reasonable accommodations or phased re-entry to work) with ongoing clinical care to support workers in meaningfully returning to work after an absence associated with mental health conditions, while also reducing mental health symptoms. 
  • Supported employment initiatives help people with severe mental health conditions to get into paid work and maintain their time on work through continue to provide mental health and vocational support. 

Create an enabling environment for change

Both governments and employers, in consultation with key stakeholders, can help improve mental health at work by creating an enabling environment for change. In practice this means strengthening:
  • Leadership and commitment to mental health at work, for example by integrating mental health at work into relevant policies. 
  • Investment of sufficient funds and resources, for example by establishing dedicated budgets for actions to improve mental health at work and making mental health and employment services available to lower-resourced enterprises. 
  • Rights to participate in work, for example by aligning employment laws and regulations with international human rights instruments and implementing non-discrimination policies at work.  
  • Integration of mental health at work across sectors, for example by embedding mental health into existing systems for occupational safety and health. 
  • Participation of workers in decision-making, for example by holding meaningful and timely consultations with workers, their representatives and people with lived experience of mental health conditions. 
  • Evidence on psychosocial risks and effectiveness of interventions, for example by ensuring that all guidance and action on mental health at work is based on the latest evidence. 
  • Compliance with laws, regulations and recommendations, for example by integrating mental health into the responsibilities of national labour inspectorates and other compliance mechanisms. 


How Workplace Discrimination Can Affect Men’s Mental Health

Discrimination is something people have always had to deal with. Unfortunately, it can affect mental health so much that some employees choose to leave their current job or that they develop certain coping mechanisms in the workplace that can influence their performance and, therefore, change their whole lives. In this article, we’ll have a short insight into men’s workplace discrimination and how they can fight this social construct that’s been causing mental health issues.
What is discrimination?

APA defines discrimination as “an unfair or prejudicial treatment of people based on race, gender, age or sexual orientation”. Although this might sound simple to understand, discrimination is much more than that. From childhood, we’re taught to categorize things and people to make sense of the world. As this is natural and good behavior, the problem is our values regarding other people’s looks and culture. Discrimination can also come from a place of misunderstanding or fear that our parents might’ve had too.

Workplace discrimination

Workplace discrimination happens when people treat someone differently in the workplace due to race, color, religion and more. Laws are supposed to protect workers from:

· Unfair treatment
· Harassment from manager or co-workers
· Denial of a workplace change caused by your religious beliefs or disability
· Improper questions about your genetic history or medical data
Regardless of the laws, more than 8.2 million workers in the UK feel they’ve been discriminated against regarding their gender. Men are especially experiencing this type of discrimination when it comes to being overlooked for promotion or denied in interview jobs due to gender.

According to this recent study, 28% of men say they’ve been victims of discrimination and notice that women get away with more at work.

Judging someone or treating them badly due to their characteristics can impact their mental health by inducing higher stress levels, anxiety, depression, high blood tolerance, and substance abuse. Discrimination can also affect individuals that haven’t been targeted but are just part of a discriminated group (such as LGBTQ+).
Continuous fear of being treated poorly can lead to chronic stress, as daily anticipations of being discriminated against can make people avoid going to work or talking to people.

Reverse sexism, a serious problem

Discrimination against men is also called reverse sexism and is currently lacking research as it’s an overlooked subject. But this is a sensitive topic to pick and discuss because acknowledging that women are more affected by gender inequality puts men in a place where they can’t talk about their feelings.

Men were always supposed to be strong and never show off their emotions. Still, as times change and men feel safer expressing themselves and being emotional, they might face discrimination regarding their workplace behavior. Plus, homosexual men are more prone to stigma and discrimination. Homophobia be difficult to face when it comes to men, and it can:

·  Affect their income;
· Limit their access to high-quality health care;
· Develop poor mental health and substance abuse as a coping mechanism;
· Affect their ability to maintain long-term relationships;
What can you do to fight discrimination?

Dealing with workplace discrimination as an adult isn’t easy, especially when you’re expecting adults to be understanding. Depending on the situation, you can call an advisor and claim workplace discrimination in the UK if the continuous stress has caused you serious mental problems. For example, for severe psychiatric damage, you can get up to £115,730. You can even claim if you’re able to prove that you’ve suffered financial damages, maybe from being fired wrongfully due to your race or sexual orientation. 

Another thing you can do is to seek professional help, as discrimination can often lead to depression, which is usually undiagnosed in men. Unfortunately, due to depressive thoughts, men are more likely to commit suicide than women because they can act more impulsively and show fewer warning signs.

If, however, you find the strength to move on, here are some ways to deal with discrimination:
· You can try overcoming this issue by focusing on your core values. Think about what are your life principles and morals.

· Look for support from family and friends. You can create a support network of people that genuinely care about you to reassure you of your value and worth.

· Provide support. Besides having someone to hang onto, you can also get involved in anti-discrimination programs and events to know and help people who have gone through similar experiences.

· Try not to dwell on it. Although discrimination is a serious issue that can have tragic impacts on people, if you can, try not to ruminate on the problem too much. It can only make you more stressed and anxious, while the problem is not you but how others have their core values instilled.
Common questions regarding workplace discrimination

1. Can your employer fire you due to your mental health condition?
It is illegal in the UK to discriminate regarding mental health issues, including rejecting or promoting someone.
2. Can you keep your situation private?
You can keep your mental health condition private, as long as it doesn’t affect you doing your job or put your safety at risk.
3. Can age discriminate against you?
Employers may want older employees because they are experienced or younger workers, as they are willing to work more, but age discrimination is also illegal.
4. Do workplace discrimination laws apply to small businesses?
For companies with as few as three employees, most laws don’t apply, but sexual harassment is still covered, no matter the number of employees.
5. Can you be fired if you complain about discrimination?
All anti-discrimination laws prevent retaliation, so you don’t have to worry if you make a complaint. However, if your employee fires you, you can make a lawsuit that you’ll easily win.

Workplace discrimination is a serious topic that should be discussed and observed more, especially in men and how it affects their mental health. Unfortunately, the subject is overlooked, but we hope that in the future, men won’t be stigmatized anymore due to their race, sexual orientation or culture in the workplace.


Study Finds Discrimination Can Lead to Cognitive issues in Mexican Americans
The scientific community has long known that Latino individuals are at an increased risk of developing cognitive impairments and Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-Hispanic white people. The reason why this phenomenon exists is less understood. 

This study is the first of its kind to demonstrate that experience of discrimination is one factor that contributes to this disparity.

“This finding shows that the experience of ethnic discrimination at some point during adulthood has a detrimental impact on cognitive functioning,” the study read.
Elizabeth Muñoz, one of the project’s leads and an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said this line of research is personal to her as someone who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She said while doing her postdoctoral work, most of the research she studied was on non-Hispanic white populations.

“I didn’t see myself in that research. And thinking about my family — my aging family members — I didn’t know much about how their aging would look like because the literature was primarily focused on non-Hispanic white participants. We’re seeing a growth in research in this area,” Muñoz said.

In this study, Muñoz and her team for 12 years tracked over 1,000 Mexican adults between the ages of 26 and 62. The researchers tested the subjects’ cognitive abilities and rated their level of experienced discrimination at multiple time points. While the Latino population in the U.S. is diverse, they focused on people from Mexico for this study. 

Researchers found that people experienced less racial discrimination with age, but the study participants who perceived more in early adulthood were more likely to develop cognitive issues.

82% of Americans say they don’t know of condition that could lead to Alzheimer’s
“And interestingly, we found that those individuals who were born in the United States … were a part of that group that experienced higher discrimination than the group who experienced lower discrimination across the study period,” Muñoz said.

Conversely, the study participants who chose to test in Spanish were less likely to experience higher levels of discrimination.

“Maybe they have tighter social networks: they live close in close-knit neighborhoods that are occupied by individuals of their same race, or ethnicity. What we call ethnic enclaves, for example. And that might be protective to them in terms of their exposure to discrimination,” Muñoz said

The researchers for this project secured more funding to continue tracking these participants. In the next phase of their project, they hope to study whether the cognitive changes they observed in this study get worse and develop into a Mild Cognitive Impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease.


What Are Employer Obligations When the Alleged Harasser Is a Customer?

The laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC) protect your employees from discrimination by anyone in your workplace and harassment is a form of employment discrimination. As an employer, it is your responsibility to maintain a harassment-free workplace – whether the harasser is a manager, a manager in another area, a co-worker, vendor, client, or customer.

What Constitutes Harassment?
It is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.

According to the EEOC, examples of harassment include:
  • Derogatory jokes
  • Slurs
  • Pressure for dates or sexual favors
  • Epithets or name-calling
  • Insults
  • Physical assaults
  • Threats or intimidation
  • Ridicule or mockery
  • Offensive cartoons, graffiti, or pictures
  • Interference with work performance
Employees may pursue a claim against their employer if evidence of harassment, such as these examples, exists.

EEOC Guidance Regarding Harassment From Customers in the Workplace
In environments where employees interact with clients, customers, contractors, or vendors, harassment can come from outside of your workforce. Waitstaff, hospitality workers, and healthcare providers may encounter harassment from customers or patients.

The laws enforced by the EEOC protect employees from being harassed by anyone in the workplace – including clients, customers, and patients. You are legally obligated to act if a non-employee violates discrimination laws at your place of business.

What to Expect if an Employee Files an EEOC Complaint for Customer Harassment
Before filing a claim with the EEOC for third-party harassment, an employee should first report the incident to you. If the employee is not satisfied with your response, the employee has grounds to file a claim against their employer with the EEOC.

Once a claim is filed, the EEOC will notify you of the complaint within 10 days. That notice will include instructions on how to respond. You may be asked to present your side of the story in a position statement, provide personnel files, agree to an on-site visit, or share the contact details of any eyewitnesses.

At this point, you should speak to a labor and employment attorney with experience representing employers in EEOC investigations. An attorney can help you navigate the EEOC process, respond to requests on time, and avoid costly mistakes.

If the agency determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that harassment did occur, both parties may agree to mediation. If mediation does not take place or is not successful, the EEOC will conduct its investigation.

Reducing Liability for Employee Harassment by Customers or Clients
If the EEOC investigates a discrimination charge and decides to file a lawsuit or if the complainant is dissatisfied with the results of the EEOC investigation, the discrimination claim may end up in federal court. There are no official federal guidelines regarding employer liability for third-party harassment at the workplace. However, the consensus within the court system is that an employer may be held liable for harassment if they knowingly allow the harassment to occur without acting.

Reasonable Measures
To lessen the chance of an EEOC claim and subsequent legal action, take reasonable measures to protect employees from third-party harassment at work. Investigate the incident or incidents and document your findings. Then take action to deter further discrimination or harassment.

Depending on the situation, reasonable measures to deter and stop harassment may include:
  • Ask customers to stop the offensive behavior or leave your place of business
  • Implement safety measures such as physical barriers or panic buttons
  • Allow the employee to avoid interactions with the harasser
  • Ask the harasser’s manager or human resources department to intervene
  • Terminate the client relationship
  • Depending on the severity of the harassment, you may even have to involve security or law enforcement.
In many cases, employees may feel pressure to let the harassment happen for fear of losing a sale, tips, or commissions. Be wary of a “customer is always right” attitude and make it clear that you will not tolerate inappropriate or harassing behavior at your workplace.

If you know an employee is being harassed by a client or customer and you don’t take reasonable actions to protect your employee, you can be held liable for creating a hostile work environment.


Bisexuals Less Likely Than Gays and Lesbians to Be Out at Work

A new study has found bisexuals reported experiencing less workplace discrimination than their gay and lesbian counterparts, although the findings suggest the disparity may be the result of fewer bisexuals being out at work.

The report from the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute, entitled “The Role of Sexual Orientation and Gender in Workplace Experiences of Cisgender LGB Employees” surveyed 935 LGB adults about their workplace experiences.

The key findings of the report showed that significantly fewer bisexuals were out to their supervisors or coworkers than gays and lesbians. Only 36 percent of cisgender bisexual employees reported being out to their supervisors and only 19 percent reported being out to all their coworkers. Fully half of gays and lesbians, for comparison, were out to their coworkers, and 75 percent reported being out to their supervisors as well.

The report suggests these numbers influenced reported experiences of workplace discrimination. For example, 10 percent more gay and lesbian workers reported discrimination in the workplace than their bisexual counterparts, 34 percent to 24 percent respectively. However, that number narrowed among out gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers, with 33 percent of out bisexual workers reporting discrimination compared to 37 percent of out gay and lesbian workers.

The report also found that bisexual men suffered more workplace discrimination than bisexual women. Of those surveyed, 46 percent of bisexual men reported being fired or not hired due to their sexual identity, while only 27 percent of bisexual women reported similar experiences. Overall, 60 percent of bisexual men reported instances of workplace harassment over their careers, compared to only 38 percent of bisexual women. The report concluded the data suggested that the overall younger average age of female participants in the survey compared to their male counterparts provided less opportunity over the lifetime of their careers to experience discrimination in the workplace.

The report included several quotes from participants in the study, documenting the extent and brazen nature of the types of discrimination faced by gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers. These included use of anti-gay slurs and rhetoric.

“I was called the f-slur and often referenced as ‘fruity’ or ‘soy boy’ as a grown man. I was not promoted because I did not have a female partner,” said a Black cisgender bisexual man from Virginia.

Some reported extortion and outing the person to their coworkers.

“My boss threatened to tell my coworkers I was bi if I didn't work weekends,” a Latinx cisgender bisexual man from New Hampshire said.
Others reported being fired after they came out.

“I was…working for a small-town local insurance company. The woman I worked with and I were having a casual conversation and she made a discriminatory remark about homosexuals. I told her that I was bisexual, and she cut the conversation off instantly. Within two days, the owner fired me because he said he was ‘looking to go in a different direction,’” said a White cisgender bisexual woman from Kentucky.

Some reported the discrimination was based on the abuser’s religion.

“I was told I was going to hell during a job interview for liking women,” said a White cisgender bisexual woman from Michigan.

The report used an anonymous cross-sectional survey conducted between May 5-16, 2021 with U.S. sexual and gender minority adults ages 18 and up who were in the workforce the week of March 1, 2020.



Gender identity support is still lacking in the workplace

Support for the LGBTQ+ community regarding sexual orientation has probably never been higher after decades of campaigning. By comparison, the construct of gender identity and who we are or identify as, as opposed to who you are attracted to, is newer to many and it seems the two are often being confused, but why is this important in the workplace? The answer is simple. Because respecting an individual’s choice is at the heart of any solutions at work.

Workplace discrimination is still rife

Discrimination with regards to either sexual orientation or gender is obviously illegal but micro-aggressions, misgendering, bias, ridicule, exclusion, harassment and bullying are still rife in the workplace. According to FRA (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights) in 2019, 21% of all LGBTQ+ Europeans reported experiencing workplace discrimination; jumping to 36% for transgender people specifically.

Gender assignment and choice

Being assigned a gender from birth, no longer means it is a given about who that person will identify as, and that may change through discovery, realization or overcoming stigma. Freedom of thought and expression, and respect for an individual’s right to identify as whoever they are is paramount. As is not having a cis-only lens. Many of us (regardless of our sexual orientation or gender) don’t like labels anymore or don’t fit neatly into a specific tick box.  

Sexual orientation and gender identity are different facets and are independent of each other. Sometimes accepting your sexual orientation may unlock a suppressed understanding of one's gender identity or vice versa, but not necessarily. In my experience, some trans people’s orientation may change or evolve post-transition, but for many nothing changes about their sexual orientation, just who they identify as. I have been married to my wife for 36 years and I am still attracted to her as a person, even though I am also a woman myself. I am a woman married to a woman. Is my relationship now lesbian or queer? 

Does it make any difference if you have had surgery or not?  The closest I can come to accept a label if pushed, is I am a transgender woman who is pansexual, that is to say, that I am attracted to someone regardless of their sex or gender identity. Ultimately, I don’t like labels which are largely used to lump everyone together for the benefit of simplicity. 

How can HR support gender identity or sexual orientation at work?

1. Work culture is everything

Ensuring respect for all colleagues and having a diverse and inclusion-rich culture will move us toward everyone having the right to be accepted and valued at work. Psychological safety is paramount so that everyone has the right to be who they are without fear of discrimination or microaggressions.

2. Don’t make assumptions

Judging or assuming someone’s gender identity should be a thing of the past. Encourage people to share their pronouns so you communicate appropriately and avoid misgendering and write yours as a part of your email signature to show allyship. 

3. Looking through a modern lens is here to stay

This is true, particularly because having your own unique identity is really resonating with the younger generations. The best way to be inclusive is to talk and show gentle openness and respect for any individual’s choice.

4. Understand every person has their own journey 

Respect the boundaries of those thinking about their gender identity and sexual orientation. People will share their personal details when they feel ready to. Don’t push someone to talk about things they aren’t ready to talk about. Be compassionate and warm so that when the timing is right, you can show support. 

5. Educate yourself and use the right language

Ensure you don’t mix up the terminology between gender identity and sexual orientation and don’t use judgmental language. For example, this glossary of LGBTQIA+ terminology can be useful as a guide. Ask questions, look things up, and show your interest.

6. Include those who might feel excluded

You might be surprised about the impact that one friendly smile can have.
Making these things part of the workplace behaviours will help those who have struggled to feel supported, and ultimately help them become more engaged in their work.

Canada, US Fight Ageism in the Workplace
Canadian and U.S. residents currently work side by side with colleagues from five different generations. As the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the workplace, experts say older workers in both countries have been denied new career opportunities and access to job training.

"Ageism is prevalent in every aspect of the employment lifecycle—from recruiting to termination," said Frank Cania, SHRM-SCP, founder and president of HR Compliance Experts LLC in Pittsford, N.Y.

Around 93 percent of older employees say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to a 2022 survey by AARP
"We need older workers to stay in the workforce longer," said Laura Tamblyn Watts, founder and CEO of CanAge, Canada's national seniors advocacy organization, in Toronto. "Older workers stabilize teams, and they have strong skills working with all generations." 

Age Discrimination Protection 
Tamblyn Watts noted that U.S. companies are pushing forward faster with age discrimination protections, whereas in Canada, the federal government is taking the lead while companies are lagging behind.   

The Canada Labor Code eliminated mandatory retirement in federally regulated workplaces in 2012, explained Ellie Berger, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.

Age discrimination cases at most of Canada's private companies are handled at the provincial level, Berger noted.

Employees over 18 years old in Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan are protected from age discrimination, Berger stated. Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and Yukon have no mandatory retirement age.

Employees in British Columbia are protected against discrimination in the workplace starting at 19 years old, stated Cissy Pau, principal consultant at Clear HR Consulting in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, employers cannot refuse to hire, train or promote people based on age or unfairly target older workers when downsizing or reorganizing.

If employees experience discrimination based on age, they can report it by filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. 

After hiring, an employer in B.C. might legitimately need to know the employee's age for a purpose like enrollment in a pension or benefits plan, according to the British Columbia government.

For employees to make an age discrimination complaint under the British Columbia Human Rights Code, there should be a connection between the way they have been treated and their age, the British Columbia government stated. Individuals must file a complaint within six months of the event.

Older workers in Canada filing age discrimination complaints may have to wait years for a resolution, Tamblyn Watts noted. Nonetheless, they could possibly get their jobs back. 

Employees may also receive monetary damages from their employers for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect, said Evaleen Hellinga, an attorney with SpringLaw in Toronto.

"Awards are fairly unpredictable in Canada and can range anywhere from $500 to $50,000 [CAD]," or approximately $381.90 USD to $38,190 USD, she added. "They will not be the large settlements seen in the United States."

US Rules
In the United States, employees over 40 are protected from age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Cania stated.

Many older adults find that they are faced with only two employment options, full-time work or retirement, when they want options somewhere in the middle.Organizations that have offered alternative work arrangements, including job sharing, phased retirement, flexible scheduling and remote work, have found these options attractive not just for older adults but also for many other employees seeking greater flexibility. 

[See SHRM members-only toolkit: Employing Older Workers]
The United States also can employ a bona fide occupational requirement regarding age, Cania noted. In addition, an employee in a bona fide executive or high policymaking position—such as a C-suite executive or a company leader—could be forced to retire. 

Ageism Prevention Practices
Human resources experts recommended that employers take all allegations of ageism seriously and instill the following practices:
  • Start a conversation about ageism with an intergenerational workforce—define what ageism is and address it in the company's diversity, equity and inclusion policy.
  • Create mentor roles for older workers. 
  • Train employees and management on harassment and discrimination prevention policies in the workplace.
  • Consider a voluntary retirement policy for employees to obtain benefits if they retire at a certain age.
"HR professionals should ensure they have the knowledge necessary to set the tone for ageism prevention policies, practices and training," Cania said. "HR should establish itself as a subject matter expert and become the go-to resource for executives, managers and employees."

Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia.


New Research Shows Job Ads Deter Applicants Age 40 And Older

Research confirms that language used in job advertisements can deter applicants aged 40 and older from applying. Published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the study "Help Really Wanted? The Impact of Age Stereotypes in Job Ads on Applications from Older Workers" was conducted by Ian Burn (University of Liverpool, UK), Daniel Firoozi, Daniel Ladd and David Neumark (UC Irvine, US). 

Ageist language that deters older workers from applying for jobs has the same effect as direct age discrimination; both reduce the employment of older workers.

The study team created and randomly posted a bank of fake job ads to determine how job-ad languaging impacted applicant response by age. The researchers selected the roles of administrative assistant, retail sales and security guard since those jobs generally demonstrate a higher hire rate for workers over 40. To test the impact of language, the advertisements focused on three common age stereotypes–communications skills, physical ability and technology skills.

Findings showed that job-ad language related to ageist stereotypes, even when the language was not blatantly or specifically age-related, deterred job seekers age 40 and older from applying. In some cases, languaging resulted in a lower application rate from older workers extending down to about age 35.

This research follows a 2019 study demonstrating employers discriminate against older workers by using fake resumes to apply for actual jobs. By comparison, the recent study created fake jobs to test the language on real applicants and showed that even a subtle shift in language “might signal that an employer holds ageist stereotypes about older workers or is otherwise less interested in hiring older workers.” 

Ageist Language
In an email, Dr. Neumark reaffirmed the team’s surprise with the results of machine learning-generated phrases, which are quite subtle. “It’s not surprising that blatant ageist language is perceived as blatant,” he wrote. “Our evidence speaks to real-world job ads and phrases that do not include these kinds of blatant–and exceptional–language. What I do find surprising is the magnitude of the effect—that the discouragement of older workers from applying is as large as the effect of direct discrimination from our 2019 study.”

The study focused on three common age stereotypes and used language pulled from real-world job postings. An example of required communications skills for an administrative assistant job ad shows the shifts in language. 

Not Ageist (control): You must be good at working without supervision.

Because ageism is often combined with ableism, questioning physical ability becomes an ageist default through which employers discriminate. For example, You must be able to lift 40 pounds (subtly ageist) and You must be a fit and energetic person (highly ageist). 

Finally, ageist stereotypes often point to the assumption that older workers, in particular, are not skilled with tech and have a lower ability to learn new technologies. An example in job postings might be, You must use accounting software systems like Netsuite, Freshbook and QuickBooks (subtly ageist) and You must be a digital native and have a background in social media (highly ageist).

Last year the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made it clear that job postings using words like recent graduate, young and energetic convey preference and could be a sign of systemic age discrimination. Understanding how age bias is expressed in everyday language not only helps companies reduce potential discrimination in hiring practices but also helps educate job seekers of all ages on a potential sign of an ageist work environment.

Why This Research Matters
As Neumark writes in the study’s introduction, “Lengthening work lives for those able to work is a crucial part of the policy response to population aging.” People are living longer and healthier lives, which translates to a need or desire to work longer.

Extensive research documents the extent to which employers discriminate against older workers in hiring. The more research pointing to the impact of language, and other behavioral responses, on disenfranchised groups–including older applicants and workers–the better educated everyone becomes on how to prevent it.

It’s Time to Pay Black Women What They’re Owed
For centuries, Black women’s labor has been essential to the creation, growth, and functioning of this nation and its economy. Yet Black women still aren’t being paid what they are owed.   

September 21 is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day—marking how far into this year Black women must work to catch up to what white, non-Hispanic men made last year alone.   

The wage gap costs Black women $1,891 per month, $22,692 per year, and a staggering loss of $907,680 over a 40-year career.  
That gap stems in large part from the fact that Black women are overrepresented in low-paid jobs and face both race and sex discrimination at work. They are also often both primary caregivers and breadwinners—but outdated, sexist workplace policies too often force Black women to choose between bringing home a paycheck and caring for themselves and their families. 

COVID-19 has only contributed further to these inequities: Many Black women lost their jobs, were forced into part-time work, or were pushed out of the labor force altogether.    

That’s why, earlier this year, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) polled Black women across the country to understand how they’ve really been faring in the pandemic. Here’s what we found
  • Nearly one in five (19%) Black women report they lost or quit a job during the pandemic, more than three in 10 (31%) report that they or their employer reduced their hours, and almost one in four (23%) say they changed jobs during the pandemic  
  • Over four in 10 Black women (42%) make $15 per hour or less, compared to just 13% of white men 
  • More than one in four Black women (27%) report that their current or most recent job doesn’t provide any key benefits—i.e., no health insurance, retirement benefits, paid sick days, paid family or medical leave, or paid vacation time   
  • More than one in four Black women (28%) say their financial situation is worse now than before the pandemic began 
  • Over half of Black women (51%) report that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health—but most Black women who report a negative mental health impact (73%) did not seek treatment from a mental health professional, which may be driven in part by the discrimination that Black women have faced in the health care system, including the tendency for their concerns not to be taken seriously by health care professionals, along with access and affordability barriers  

These inequities, a product of America’s entrenched white supremacist systems, cannot be solved overnight. But from our survey, we at least have a place to start.  
An overwhelming majority of Black women (around 80% or more!) expressed support for the following policies, and many others: 
  • Gradually raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour, then automatically increase it to keep pace with rising wages  
  • Provide access to comprehensive health care with no cost-sharing  
  • Increase the wage that employers are required to pay tipped workers, so that tipped workers are entitled to the same minimum wage as anyone else, before tips 
  • Grant employees the right to request a work schedule change without fear of retaliation, and require employers to provide at least two weeks’ notice of work schedules for people in jobs with variable hours 
  • Protect employees’ right to discuss salaries with colleagues, so employees can find out if they are being paid unfairly compared to their coworkers 

Federal bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Raise the Wage Act, the Schedules That Work Act, and more would implement these commonsense solutions. Furthermore, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would ensure Black women who are pregnant can stay attached to the workforce by guaranteeing them reasonable, medically necessary accommodations. 

We are calling on Congress to pass these bills now. Because Black women’s annual loss to the wage gap could have paid for eight months of a family’s groceries, eight months of child care, and eight months of rent during the pandemic.   

Black women are the backbone of our economy. They support us—it’s about time we start supporting them.  

Today and every day, Black women deserve so much more. 


The Psychological Toll of Being the Only Woman of Color at Work
The first time I was seriously bullied at work, I convinced myself it was no big deal. As the first woman in my family to graduate from a four-year college, I thought could handle anything.

But my body knew something was wrong. My heart would beat faster when the elevator was about to open up to my office’s floor. I’d have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, despite being an early riser my whole life. I stopped wanting to socialize with friends, despite being an extrovert. Most of the time, I was just too exhausted to go anywhere.

Then the dark thoughts showed up, uncalled for. No one can see me here anyway, I kept thinking. I would replay scenarios in my head from interactions with coworkers. Initially, I would feel shame for not knowing how to respond to subtle acts of exclusion (also known as microaggressions) like having my name mispronounced and my English complimented, as well as being the only woman of color in my department. But soon I felt self-loathing and anxiety when I was at risk of being fired after a senior leader made a complaint about how I was difficult to work with, without giving any reasons or examples to back it up.

Having no women of color to turn to, I felt like I was living in an alternative reality. Today, I know there’s a word for what I experienced: racial gaslighting. But back then, I questioned myself literally every day. Eventually, the burden became too much to bear. I could see myself turning into a cynical, bitter shell of myself. I saw up close how the rules were different for my white peers — the white men and women who got promoted despite underperforming, the male leaders who only hired attractive white women. I was left out of meetings, social gatherings, and inside jokes, and I never saw anyone who looked like me.

It took a toll — not just the bullying, but the daily acts of exclusion. Eventually, I quit, despite advice from my family and friends that I shouldn’t leave such a lucrative opportunity. But I was broken mentally and spiritually.

“It’s common for victims of workplace discrimination to conceptualize how they are the problem. That conceptualization takes the form of guilt and shame, severe anxiety, and panic and worry, such that you can no longer be effective in your role,” says Danielle Jenkins Henry, licensed marriage family therapist associate (LMFTA) and founder of Dream Life Out Loud, a psychotherapy practice for Black women. “You’re isolating yourself because of the embarrassment and shame that you might feel for raising these types of concerns or trying to shield yourself from scrutiny,” she notes. The cognitive distortions I started experiencing, where every interaction with my coworkers had me feeling stressed or anxious after the bullying incident, is common. “It becomes a cycle, and there’s no way to get out.”

I interviewed hundreds of women of color for my book, Inclusion on Purpose. What I found was that my story wasn’t unique. And due to a variety of factors, including a lack of mental health providers of color, women of color aren’t getting the mental health help we need. It’s a crisis where individual women of color begin blaming themselves for systemic bias.

“There’s no cover or safety. You don’t know whom to trust. You feel shame and embarrassment: How did I get myself into this? What could I have said or what did I do? Or maybe I can try harder? Or maybe I can contort myself so that they’ll see me and they’ll recognize that I’m a high performer? And that is just a cycle of abuse,” says Jenkins Henry.

It’s why she set up her psychotherapy practice to ensure Black women would get the mental health support they need. The genesis of it was personal. Jenkins Henry struggled with her own mental health after facing severe workplace discrimination in her previous career in marketing.

“After five years as a high performer, I took on a new role. I felt powerful and strong,” she recalls. But soon after, a white woman on the new team publicly humiliated and ridiculed her. When Jenkins Henry brought it up with her manager, they said the woman had a history of making racist comments but she shouldn’t “pay her any mind … she’s just toxic.”

When Jenkins Henry was purposely excluded from meetings and emails related to a project she was managing, her boss suggested she take a different approach. But nothing worked. Instead of addressing it with the white woman, Jenkins Henry’s manager decided to hand off her project to a white man with less experience, sending an email to the team with the announcement, stating Jenkins Henry hadn’t been “effective” in the project.

“I was devastated,” Jenkins Henry said.

After facing an even more egregious incident of racism from a very senior leader at the organization, Jenkins Henry complained to HR and an investigation began. But the Black woman investigator “laughed at [her] and basically told [her] this was not going to go anywhere.”

That’s when Jenkins Henry knew she had to get out. “I didn’t even know what support looked like — I never needed support. I never experienced anxiety. And so when I left … I realized that I needed to heal. I needed to heal parts of myself that I had never seen or considered,” she said.

She decided to get her degree to become a licensed therapist. “Now I get to support other women who are suffering in their workplaces, who are struggling to find support and break generational patterns that they don’t even know they can heal from.”

Women of color facing workplace bias and discrimination must take care of their mental health first and foremost. Here’s how.

1. Know you can leave.
“You don’t have to keep going in there and taking abuse,” Jenkins Henry says. Many women of color feel like they have to “go in there and fight,” especially if they’re the first in their family to have a corporate career.

But she urges women experiencing discrimination or the cumulative impact of microaggressions and bias that “you can fight a different battle.” While many of her clients feel like they have to prove that they have what it takes to prevail at work, Jenkins Henry urges them to think about what the cost is to do that. “There are parts of ourselves that we need to protect,” she says. Parts we forget about when we’re caught up in distortions, anxiety, depression, and isolation. “There are parts of our spirits that are being damaged, and that is what needs protecting when we experience discrimination in the workplace.”

2. Find adaptive coping strategies.
Jenkins Henry notes that often, even while facing bias or discrimination, her clients may not be able to leave for financial reasons, or they need to stay on while being put up for promotion or to wait for stocks or benefits to vest.

“So I always tell my clients, we need adaptive coping strategies for them to be able to continue to show up and do their job, if that’s what they want to do.” These include meditation practices or other strategies to ensure they’re getting enough rest, eating, and exercising. Building internal reserves is key to navigating the external challenges of biased workplaces for women of color.

3. Find a support network.
Jenkins Henry encourages women of color to reflect on who’s in their support network. “Is it a church organization? A sorority or a fraternity? A network of colleagues, perhaps in an employee resource group? Identify who can support you, who is aware of what is happening, and where you can go so that you don’t feel so isolated,” she says.

A support network can help you find your power, strength, and healing. Other support partners can be a therapist, coach, friends, or your partner. It takes a village. Most importantly, Jenkins Henry urges women of color not to isolate themselves.

4. Plan your exit strategy.
Some of the questions women of color should ask themselves is: Is it the right time to leave? Should I be making a plan B? Am I suffering so much that it’s time to leave right now?

If women of color need to leave immediately, Jenkins Henry advises them to consider options like filing for medical leave or seeking a clinical diagnosis. Other exit strategies could be finding a new role within or outside the company, or taking a break like a sabbatical.

Of course, it’s important to look at your financial resources to understand the options and support available to you. “What I try to prevent for my clients is what I experienced, which is that you go to work one day and you just simply can’t go back,” she says.



Is it legal to deny a promotion to someone with a beard?


A manager said she won’t promote a worker with a beard — even though he has a medical exemption not to shave. How is that even legal?

Reader: My company has a strict no-beard policy except for a medical exemption. A younger guy in my department recently jumped through the hoops for exemption. When the general manager found out, she made some snarky comments about the policy and how he knew about it when he was hired four months ago. We all thought her tone was a little unprofessional, but shrugged it off. We then found out the GM cornered our manager and said she won’t consider the new guy for future promotions because of his beard. Isn’t that a form of discrimination? Am I overreacting? I don’t like shaving either, but I also like my job and don’t see having a beard as the right professional hill to die on.

Karla: I’ll admit, after years of fielding questions focused on women’s makeuptattoos and clothing in the workplace, it’s refreshing to get a letter about men being judged on their appearance.

To recap: Generally, employers have the right to set and enforce grooming standards and dress codes — even arbitrary ones with no bearing on health, safety or performance. The policies just can’t discriminate against or impose an unequal burden on a particular gender, race, or other legally protected group. Employers should also accommodate workers with disabilities, medical conditions or religious beliefs that conflict with the policy.

It may not seem like a big deal to go along with an annoying workplace rule that does not personally cause you physical discomfort. But imagine if shaving daily were intensely painful and caused long-term damage to your skin. You don’t mention why your colleague sought a medical exemption, but a quick consult with Dr. Google indicates that a condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB) — severe razor bumps often leading to infections and scarring — is a common reason for avoiding shaving.

It’s so common that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission mentions it in a fact sheet on workplace grooming and attire policies. And it specifically notes in another fact sheet that in some cases, a no-beard policy could be considered racially discriminatory against Black men, who are especially prone to developing PFB.

I wonder why no one has pointed out that your colleague has followed the appropriate protocol to qualify for an exemption, and therefore he is in full compliance with company policy. If your general manager insists on punishing him for obtaining this medical accommodation, she may be inviting a lawsuit.

So, yeah. Your GM is being unprofessional, and possibly biased, and it’s high time someone asked HR to tell her to knock it off before she gets herself and her employer in trouble.
Even when it’s a matter of health and safety, accommodations are possible for those who are unable to shave for medical or religious reasons.

For example, coronavirus-preventive N95 masks are less effective when worn over beards, presenting a moral dilemma during the pandemic for health-care providers following the Sikh faith, which prohibits cutting or shaving hair. Although some made the difficult choice to shave, others were able to use equally effective alternative masking solutions and protective gear without having to violate the tenets of their faith.

Largest private-sector nurses strike in U.S. history begins in Minnesota
If it’s possible to work around a no-beard policy when the stakes are life and death, I’m hard-put to imagine a job where accommodation isn’t possible.

Then again, at least one federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Marine Corps should be allowed to prohibit Sikh personnel from wearing beards, turbans and other faith-based signifiers when joining boot camp, so the matter is far from settled.

At any rate, it’s worth questioning why the policy exists at your workplace.

Are there legitimate health or safety reasons? Or is this just one of those unexamined traditions where standards of “professional” hairstyles, speech patterns, appearance and demeanor just happen to align with the practices and preferences of the demographic in charge?

Again, it costs you little or nothing to comply with a clean-shave policy if your face and faith don’t object. These follicular follies may not be a hill worth sacrificing your career on. But by that logic, I would question whether this policy is the hill your employer’s integrity deserves to die on.



Agencies probe AI's impact on the American workplace

The top official at the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said that government contractors have an "especially important role to play" in ensuring that automated technology in the workplace doesn't discriminate against qualified job-seekers.

Top officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs are warning about the potential for automated technology in the workplace to accelerate discrimination.

They hosted a roundtable of experts on September 13 as their agencies consider the proliferation of automated tech including artificial intelligence for job recruiting, interviewing and hiring.

"We have important work to do ahead," said Jenny Yang, director of the OFCCP, which enforces equal employment opportunity laws among federal contractors. 
The two agencies are focused on promoting equity in tech-basedhiring systems as part of a joint venture to expand access to jobs for underrepresented communities, called the Hiring Initiative to Reimagine Equity.

There's also the Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Fairness Initiative, an EEOC effort meant to ensure that tech in hiring and employment decisions doesn't flout civil rights laws.

This federal focus comes as automated technology and artificial intelligence are increasingly being used by employers.

Nearly all Fortune 500 companies use online, algorithmic recruitment sourcing and hiring tools, said Eric Reicin, president and CEO of BBB National Programs, a non-profit that oversees self-regulation programs for businesses.

These tools include video screening tools that analyze things like facial movements to make assessments about candidates; automated sourcing and recruitment platforms that use public data to make predictions about competencies and chatbots that screen potential applicants, said Wilneida Negrón, Director of Policy and Research at worker organizing platform Coworker.org.

This technology isn't necessarily discriminatory, but can be.

"To be clear, I am not suggesting that automated hiring systems cannot be used consistently with [diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility] initiatives," said Charlotte Burrows, EEOC chair. "But it's important to understand the ways in which the assumptions included in the design of some programs that automate employment decisions can affect the diversity of candidates selected."

Algorithmic screens could "increase the diversity of our talent pools … if they measure the skills and abilities needed to succeed," said Yang. But using "proxies" like education level to screen out candidates can eliminate people who could actually be good at the job.

Digital advertising platforms can also allow employers to show job ads only to certain workers based on race, genderand age, said Peter Romer-Friedman, a principal at Gupta Wessler PLLC, who has worked on a lawsuit centering on Facebook's practices in this area.

He suggested that new EEOC regulations or guidance on how "digital intermediaries" involved in advertising or sourcing jobs are covered under the law would be helpful, although Reicin cautioned that "these are complicated and evolving technologies, so a one-size approach … may or may not work."

The EEOC said that it would issue technical assistance on the use of AI in employment decisions when it launched its AI initiative last year. It issued guidance in May with the Justice Department focused on the impact on people with disabilities specifically.

The agency is continuing "to gather information and listen to stakeholders to inform how we can use our tools like guidance and technical assistance to increase compliance with federal EEO laws and diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in both the private and federal sector," an EEOC spokesperson told FCW.

Yang called out businesses that work with the federal government in particular, saying that "federal contractors have an especially important role to play in taking proactive efforts to identify potential barriers that may exclude qualified talent and contractors must take action-oriented steps to address any problem areas."

When asked about whether OFCCP is planning on wielding its power in this area, a Department of Labor spokesperson told FCW that "OFCCP is exploring safeguards and resources that will assist employers and workers in utilizing technology in a way that opens doors to opportunity."


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