Embracing Diversity in the Workplace without Being Discriminatory

Categories: blog

Many of us have watched and thoroughly enjoyed the TV series, “The Office,” and chuckled at Michael Scott, the Dunder Mifflin office manager who seemingly violates every best managerial practice. One such illustration was the “Diversity Day” episode where, in an ill-fated attempt to repair an off color remark that he made, Michael insists on creating his own diversity seminar. It included Michael assigning each staff member an index card with a different race on it, which caused tempers to slowly simmer to a near breaking point.

While we chuckle at the obvious mistakes Michael made, the work force in America is undoubtedly becoming more and more diverse, and employers and employees must know how to embrace diversity and its benefits, while also being sensitive. One organization that tracks demographics of the American work force made the following findings:

“Hispanic/Latino and Asian workers make up a greater share of the workforce now than in 2001. Hispanics/Latinos held 13 percent of jobs in 2014, up from 11 percent in 2001, and Asians held 5 percent of jobs in 2014, up from 4 percent in 2001. White workers, meanwhile, lost share of total employment, dropping from 71 percent in 2001 to 69 percent in 2014. Black/African American workers held 12 percent of all jobs in 2014, unchanged from 2001.”  Source: Career Builder’s “The Hiring Site.”

Having a work force that is diverse in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity provides several benefits, such as:

  • encouraging innovation, creativity and adaptability – by permitting a greater supply of ideas, as well as solutions to problems and issues;
  • broader service capabilities – by providing an array of collection of skills and experiences (e.g. through diverse languages and cultural understanding), it permits and opens the door to a company to provide global service to customers;
  • opportunities for more effective execution – when diversity and free expression is encouraged in the work place, it can inspire employees to not feel “stifled,” and, instead,  perform to their greatest talents and abilities.

Many top successful CEO’s, such as Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies, not only embraces diversity within his companies, but attributes it to his success. In an interview with Entrepneur.com in March of last year, Richard said,

Over more than 40 years of building our businesses at the Virgin Group, my colleagues and I have seen time and time again that employing people from different backgrounds and who have various skills, viewpoints and personalities will help you to spot opportunities, anticipate problems and come up with original solutions before your competitors do.”

Therefore, embrace diversity within your business. However, be mindful to what a diverse work force means – being sensitive to the differences, and not discriminatory. Don’t be Michael Scott!

In addition, do not indirectly discriminate and thereby subject yourself to a possible discrimination claim by failing to hire the most qualified candidate in a quest to have a more diverse work force. Passing over a more qualified candidate in hiring (or in a promotion situation) solely based upon a characteristic such as race, ethnicity, gender or age, could lead to a Charge of Discrimination and a potential suit. In such a scenario, although improving the work place diversity may have been the goal, it may not be done so in a discriminatory manner.

At Wilson McCoy, P.A. we have experience in advising employers on good hiring practices, hosting diversity trainings for employers, as well as advising employees or candidates if they have been the subject of discrimination.  If you would like to know more about your rights or seek advice in such a particular circumstance, please contact us at (407) 803-5400 or info@wilsonmccoylaw.com, for an analysis of your situation and to schedule a consultation.