Discrimination in the Workplace 2015?

Leadership_picDiscrimination in the Workplace 2015?

What would the case be in your organization?

An article I read recently in HR Magazine dealt with the responsibility of HR leadership for championing a non-discriminatory culture. The article specifically relates a mistake made by the author 20 years ago while interviewing a pregnant applicant (“Why HR Must Go Beyond Words – Preventing workplace discrimination is about more than saying the right things.” by Carolynne Marshall HR Magazine, SHRM, July-August 2015) and then asks the question, “How much has changed in 20 years?”.

How much do you think it has changed and how well are employees and potential employees protected from discrimination today?

Let’s talk about an example or two that I am aware of within the recent past.

#1: Pressure of a Separate Standard

As Jim Olds (name changed to maintain privacy and avoid law suits) approached his mid 60’s he experienced increasing pressure each year in his annual salary and performance review. His peers within the organization became increasingly younger as attrition (?) took its toll on older workers. He had been offered a buy-out to retire but had turned it down. His immediate supervisor frequently harassed him about “unplanned absences” even though Jim had accrued a bank of paid time off and always reported in if absent per company protocol. (Note: Jim was diabetic but chose not to provide that information to his employer.) When needed Jim worked weekends and remotely when needed in off hours. Jim documented his work in detail and also his conversations with HR and management as things continued to escalate. Every time he referred to disagreements with his interpretation of his supervisor’s comments he was dismissed without discussion. When he related his situation to a friend he was advised to consult an attorney but didn’t as he was hesitant to take that action while he still had his job. Then, after approximately two years of this scenario, just before Thanksgiving, Jim was called into a meeting with his supervisor and the HR manager, summarily dismissed after which, he was escorted out of the building.

#2 The Trouble with Best Intentions

A long-time employee, Tom Done (not his real name), who was in his mid 60’s, with no negative performance communications having been provided at all (documented or verbal), who had successfully held key responsibilities over his tenure, voluntarily offered his supervisor a verbal “heads-up” that he was considering retirement within the next 15 months if things went as he expected.

Two months later he was called into a meeting and told that management thought if he was going to retire they would prefer he do it sooner rather than later. In fact, they added, they had identified a strong candidate for his replacement. Nothing was put in writing however. Faced with an environment of betrayal and lack of integrity Tom tendered his retirement immediately giving the company two months’ notice as per a verbal agreement he previously had promised management.

Recently, we at Stratalyne ran a poll of a group of IT professionals on whether or not they thought there was age discrimination within their industry. With 258 respondents here are the results:

Question: Do you think there is age bias in the workplace related to:

  • Younger workers                                  – result (13%)  34
  • Older workers                                        – result (31%)  80
  • Both Younger & Older workers  – result (55%) 144

Age discrimination claims in 2013 were more than 21,000 in the U.S. according to AARP Bulletin article (“Forced Out Older Workers Are Fighting Back”, Flick, Carole, May 2014).  But, it is suggested that this does not reflect the totality of this problem since scenarios seldom provide solid evidence of intent.

Related resources and articles:

Workplace Discrimination Employment Laws (Discrimination in the Workplace – HR Hero Line)

Discrimination by Type (www.eeoc.gov)

By Michael Sacco

Stratalyne Business Solutions LLC

© 2015 Stratalyne Business Solutions LLC

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