Responding to Offensive Remarks
With so much at stake, managers must respond forcefully to any instances of racially or ethnically offensive remarks or behaviors that occur in their presence or come to their attention. In such an instance, address the situation immediately, and explain to your employee that the behavior is unacceptable and must not happen again. Be direct, firm, and factual, and confine your discussion to the specific behavior. Report any incident to HR so it can be determined whether a detailed harassment investigation may be necessary.
Follow your company’s policy regarding employee discipline. Disciplinary measures should be proportional to the seriousness of the offense. For example, in the case of a single "off-color" remark by an individual with no prior history of similar misconduct, counseling and an oral warning might be all that is necessary. On the other hand, if the behavior is severe or persistent, then suspension or discharge may be appropriate. In all cases, it is important to work with HR before taking any disciplinary action to ensure compliance with company policy and applicable law, as well as to ensure proper documentation of the incident and any investigation and remedial actions taken.
It is also essential for employees to know that they will not face retaliation for reporting or complaining about any instances of offensive behavior, or for participating in any investigations regarding such conduct.
Diversity Best Practices
As a general rule, all companies should have a policy in place that clearly states a commitment to workplace diversity and outlines the consequences for discriminatory conduct. The policy should be included in the employee handbook as well as posted on the company intranet, if applicable. If circumstances allow, also consider conducting formal diversity training for all employees.
Finally, commit to implementing workplace diversity best practices, including:
1. Not making assumptions based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, or the like.
2. Respecting all cultures, traditions, and circumstances that may require accommodation.
3. Refusing to allow inappropriate jokes, language, or behavior.
4. Treating all employees equitably.
5. Engaging in ongoing dialogue regarding diversity.
For more information on workplace diversity and discrimination, visit HR360.com.