Apart from daily issues regarding production and sales, ethical issues within organizations can be difficult and unforeseen for small and big businesses. Discrimination laws and other regulations have gotten formulated and implemented by governments to keep employers and workers responsible. However, these statues and laws do not completely prevent employees within an organization from acting unethically. This paper focuses on ethical issues within a workplace regarding workplace discrimination and harassment. Discrimination usually arises when any treatment within the workplace negatively affects an employee when it comes to accomplishing various job responsibilities and duties (Becton et al., 2017). This discrimination can be anything specific to the employee’s duties within a job that get treated differently based on an individual having various personal characteristics and circumstances.
Ethically Problematic Situation Example
Various ethical issues can arise within business operations, processes, relationships, and interactions as well. For instance, in an organization that I interned some few years back, various ethical issues arose from female and gay employees getting discriminated against and harassed. Linda, who is a former colleague at the organization, was six months pregnant. She had been an employee for five years in this organization, and when a senior position opened up, she applied. However, Linda got passed over, although she had more qualifications and experience than other applicants. On asking the manager why she got passed over, the manager stated that the organization needed a person who would get more dedicated to that position.
Linda got denied the promotion since she was pregnant, which is unethical. The manager discriminated against Linda by denying her the position since he thought she would not get more dedicated as a pregnant mother. Similarly, a friend I made when working at the organization was also experiencing harsh treatment and name-calling by his co-workers in the company warehouse. After Nelson’s colleagues had discovered that he was gay, they nicknamed him ‘princess,’ which is unethical. Nelson usually gets hurt and embarrassed by his nickname.
Ethical Issues in Workplace Discrimination
Employees have the right to a healthy work environment free of discrimination, bullying, and harassment. Discrimination based on religion, age, race, and any other protected attribute is a violation of an individual’s rights. Every person has the right to get treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. Discrimination and harassment can negatively impact the affected individual’s job security, performance, productivity, and health. Further, discrimination and harassment, when not quickly and effectively addressed, can lead to the formulation of negative workplace culture and environment (Goodman et al., 2011). The government and various agencies have formulated and implemented several rules and statutes prohibiting harassment and discrimination against employees.
Discrimination usually occurs when an individual gets subpar treatment based on various protected characteristics. Discrimination within a workplace can occur even when this offensive trait s not directed to a single individual. Employee harassment usually occurs when an individual endures threatening, intimidating, humiliating, or offensive comments or actions because of their protected traits. Laws require employers to offer equal employment opportunities for all citizens (Becton et al., 2017). Employers get required to recruit a diverse workforce while enforcing training and policies that support equal opportunity programs. Organizations should also foster a work environment that is respectful and fair to all types of individuals.
However, there are still several organizations whose practices and culture violate equal employment opportunity commission guidelines. When employee discrimination and harassment based on ethnicity, race, age, gender, or disability happens, it is not only an ethical issue but also a legal issue as well. Harassment and discrimination issues usually have costly public and legal ramifications, which makes most organizations more vigilant. However, employees can encounter discrimination and harassment within a workplace in more indirect ways (Roscigno, 2019). Most small business owners today mostly get faced with various discrimination and harassment ethical issues. When instances occur, they can result in reputational and financial losses for an organization.
Types of Discrimination and Harassment
Harassment and discrimination policies within organizations get implemented to protect employees with differing circumstances and backgrounds. However, harassment and discrimination policies within a workplace usually deal with separate employee treatment types. There are types of harassment and discrimination statutes defined by the equal employment opportunity commission. These statuses include disability where equal treatment and accommodations must get reasonably provided to comply with American with disabilities act. The commissions also have statutes protecting pregnant women where equal treatment and accommodations must get provided for pregnant employees within a workplace (Baker et al., 2012). Employee treatment usually is expected to be consistent regardless of race, religion, sex, disability, or any other protected characteristics.
Workplace discrimination can get taken as any treatment that affects an individual negatively in terms of the job. This unfair treatment is anything related to the job and daily duties that get treated differently based on an individual having any personal circumstances or characteristics. Discrimination is a major ethical issue and a legal one as it violates several federal and employment laws and regulations (England, 2018). Discrimination happens when an individual or group gets subjected to biased treatment based on various factors such as nationality, race, age, color, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, and ethnicity. There are several federal and state laws that prohibit all forms of discrimination above.
The 1964 civil rights act section VII is among the most comprehensive laws prohibiting workplace discrimination. This title and other laws addressing discrimination usually get enforced by the equal employment opportunity commission. State human rights commissions that handle laws and regulation at the state level prohibits discriminatory and unfair employee treatment and practices. Workplace discrimination is illegal in the United States and other countries around the world. However, discrimination been illegal does not mean discriminatory practices stop occurring (Goodman et al., 2011). Further, it is also possible for an employee to experience workplace discrimination without even realizing it. Discriminatory treatment can bring various negative impacts on an individual.
When discrimination within a workplace exceeds unfair employment practices escalating to traits that are physically and verbally abusive, it gets taken as workplace harassment. Most cases of employee discrimination usually comprise hostile work environment complaints. A hostile work environment can be defined as a situation where discriminatory behavior victims get treated in a way, making it hard and impossible to work and perform duties within the provided environment (England, 2018). Workplace harassment and discrimination are illegal, and instances can result in huge financial and reputational losses when not quickly and effectively mediated and resolved. Indirect discrimination is more common than direct since most organizations are more vigilant of their process and policies to avoid negative impacts from instances.
Discriminatory behavior victims can experience various challenges arising from discrimination. Victims can experience added anxiety and stress, making it hard to concentrate on duties at work. Additionally, victims of workplace discrimination mostly experience lower performance and productivity levels. Work-related stress and anxiety can easily get into the way of an individual’s personal life, leading to lower life quality and even health issues attributed to increased stress (Roscigno, 2019). Discriminatory behavior usually makes it challenging to move up one’s career if one is getting targeted because of their religion, size, ability, age, ability, sexuality, or ethnicity. Organizations usually provide various avenues for employees to report harassment and discrimination, among other unfair and unethical practices.
How the Situation Got Solved
The organization implemented various changes in learning about discrimination and harassment against Linda and Nelson. The solutions implemented by the organization aimed at maintaining organizational values while repelling the unethical and intolerant discriminatory behavior. The organization implemented company policies for human resources and conflict resolution. Further, a channel got formulated that allowed employees to report on any discriminatory and other unethical behaviors within the organization anonymously. Implementing the policies and procedures as an ethical move that also minimizes company liability should instance occur (Baker et al., 2012). The policies had various consequences for employees, and managers found to be discriminating and harassing their colleagues and juniors.
Policy against harassment also got implemented to resolve and prevent future issues. The organization also implemented continuous education and training programs that ensure employees understand and are in compliance with discrimination and harassment laws. Employee relationships at the organization now get monitored consistently. Continually monitoring these relationships helps the management stay informed of the status on the ground and identify while mitigating any ethical violations that occur before they grow into larger issues (Becton et al., 2017). The strategy implemented by the organization proved effective in preventing harassment and discrimination. Further, the response from the organization was within the ethical and legal lines.
Ethical Issue Solution Suggestions
Under federal and state laws, organizations get expected to prevent discrimination and harassment. Employers also get expected to address arising disputes fairly and quickly. Unresolved discriminatory behavior claims can lead to government and various agencies’ investigation and lawsuits for former and current employees. Lawsuits and investigation can lead to huge reputational and financial losses for an organization. Most employers are usually liable for discrimination and harassment perpetrated by supervisors and managers (Goodman et al., 2011). Organizations, both big and small, must formulate and implement anti-discrimination policies while creating effective strategies for detecting, preventing, and resolving employee discrimination and harassment.
Therefore, an organization needs to foster a positive workplace culture free of bullying, discrimination, and harassment. Although there will never be a cure for harassment and discrimination, an organization can also implement employee training and education to foster a diverse workforce while sensitizing individuals on ethical and legal issues of discriminatory treatment within the workplace (Roscigno, 2019). Employees’ understanding of racial, cultural, sexual, and ethnic differences that are separate for job qualifications can help and organization in preventing some discrimination and harassment instances. An organization should also develop and enforce a written policy that defines procedures and rules.
The first step toward preventing and countering discriminatory behaviors within a workplace is formulating clearly and comprehensive policy. An employee handbook is essential as it outlines company expectations of the behaviors within the work environment. Every employee handbook should comprise policies on discrimination and harassment that every employee receives and signs to acknowledge receipt and compliance. This policy should encompass a wide range of potentially discriminatory behavior and acts within the workplace (England, 2018). The policy should also include protocols that outline how discrimination and harassment complaints will get handled, submitted, investigated, and resolved.
An organization should also implement a continuous process for solving discrimination and harassment issues. For all organizations, resolving arising issues fairly and quickly is vital. Even when an organization does not face potential legal issues and lawsuits, unresolved workplace discrimination can cause it to lose credibility and trust with employees. Consistency in how an organization resolves and addresses issues proves that it expects all employees and stakeholders to get treated fairly and within the same standards in terms of discrimination (Becton et al., 2017). However, it is important to note that there lacks a single right procedure and method for workplace discrimination and harassment. Therefore an organization needs to implement processes fitting its structure, size, and resources, among other needs.
Further, it is also important to continuously educate and sensitize employees on their roles and duties to prevent discriminatory treatment. For most organizations, addressing the issues in employees’ onboarding process and the handbook can prove ineffective in preventing discriminatory treatment. Some state and federal laws require that employers implement regular training programs on anti-discrimination (Baker et al., 2012). Ensuring company employees are aware of implemented procedures and policies and now where and how to report arising issues is important in proactively preventing discriminatory treatment. The organization can also conduct an enhanced and separate program for managerial and supervisory employees since they are usually the company’s first defense line in preventing workplace discrimination and harassment.
Discriminatory behavior and treatment within a workplace should not get tolerated. Workplace discrimination usually exposes an organization to potential and costly lawsuits while undermining productivity. Federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination and harassment based on their gender, race, ethnicity, and other protected characteristics. In organizations, both small and big, preventing and avoiding ethical issues usually gets initiated for the top level. Therefore, organizations need to implement various strategies and plans to avoid and prevent workplace discrimination and harassment (Goodman et al., 2011). Discriminatory treatment is a major ethical issue facing most organizations across industries. When an organization creates a healthy work environment with the right leadership and people, it sets up its business and employees for success.
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- Roscigno, V. J. (2019). Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and the Impact of Workplace Power. Socius, 5, 2378023119853894.