Now that we understand what discrimination is and what are some of its various prevalent faces and forms, we need to understand what an organization can do to minimize discriminatory practices. Secondly we also need to determine the role played by HRM in discrimination. Diversity of workforce is one of the unique features of American corporate world. In addition, human resource managers are required to understand the importance of developing a discrimination-free perspective in order to make policies more effective. Recruitment, screening, interviewing and performance appraisal are some of the primary responsibilities of Human Resource personnel in an organization. It is from this department that discrimination arises and plagues the entire organization. However, the organizational policies play an important role in why HR managers behave the way they do. If a company does not have clear anti-discrimination policy, HR mangers might not even understand the importance of having and managing a diverse workforce. In order to remove discrimination from the organization, we first need to properly train the Human resource personnel, as they are responsible for recruiting staff and conducting performance appraisals.
Human Resource managers should adopt interviewing system that applies fairly to every single individual and similarly their method of evaluating an individual's performance should also be free of bigotry. They must work to ensure that every single individual is evaluated fairly and that screening process is not biased in nature. For example in the process of recruitment, it has been noticed that disabled candidates are often treated unfairly and the questions are more directed towards the disability than a person's ability to perform his/her job properly.
Mello (1995) explains how human resource managers may apply discriminatory practices when screening a potential disabled candidate: "Discrimination against those with disabilities in employment settings has often involved the use of application blank questions and/or interview questions that have inquired into the existence of a disability. While the existence of a disability often has no direct relationship to the prospective employee's ability to do the job, it has nonetheless been used to exclude individuals with disabilities from being hired. Rather than inquire into the existence of a disability, employers need to determine an applicant's ability to perform the functions of the job. Many individuals with disabilities have exemplary job performance; hence, the mere existence of a disability often does not impact an employee's ability to do his/her job."
Human resource managers are therefore responsible for combating the problems of discrimination arising from unfair means of recruitment and evaluation. They must understand the special needs of many diverse groups and formulate strategies and policies that suit everyone equally. For example a system of evaluation should be based on six important rules of fairness that Folger and Greenberg developed in 1986. There is an evaluation system that gives ratee a chance to accept or reject ratings and can also ask other employees to check the ratings. Secondly it is also important to help employees understand the rating criterion. According to Folger and Greenberg, the following six rules should be part of every evaluation process.
Consistency Rule: allocation procedures should be consistent across persons and over time
Bias Suppression Rule: personal self-interest in the allocation process should be prevented
Accuracy Rule: decisions must be based on accurate information
Correctability Rule: opportunities must exist to enable decisions to be modified. Representativeness Rule: the allocation process must represent the concerns of all recipients
Ethicality Rule: allocations must be based on prevailing moral and ethical standards. (Folger and Greenberg, 1985, 146)
These rules help in the development and formulation of an evaluation process that is considered far and just and that does not adversely affect anyone. Such measures can also protect the employers from litigation or discrimination charges. It must be borne in mind that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has given certain guidelines for organizational culture and policies, failure to adhere to which can lead to serious trouble for the companies. If a company is found to be adhering to all guidelines, it has a better chance of winning a discrimination lawsuit compared to a firm where such practices are found missing. The reason why it is extremely important to have clear policies is because if the organization makes it crystal clear that it has zero tolerance for discrimination, its employees especially the HR management is likely to adopt more appropriate measure to manage a diverse workforce. It has been noticed that often the companies do have a policy but still the problems persists in the workplace, this happens when the executives of the firms fail to covey the policy to the staff and when adequate measures are not taken to educate the HRM specialists. The Supreme Court has made it very clear that having an anti-discrimination policy is not enough and employers would come under attack if it has been found that the companies did not take appropriate measures to educate the staff. For example in the cases of sex-based discrimination, some employers were able to avoid penalties when it was found that the organization had taken the most appropriate measures to prohibit and discourage sexually offensive behavior.
With good policies and strict ant-discriminatory practices, it is also important to properly educate the HR personnel regarding what constitutes discrimination and how should it be avoided at all costs. Some firms have been giving training in anti-discrimination but this has failed to be as effective as a new program called diversity training in which HR personnel are shown the right and most effective way of dealing with multi-ethnic and a highly diverse workforce. In the first new years after the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964, anti-discrimination training became the norm in HR departments of many firms. However, this was usually limited to simple communication of certain rules about conduct and what was considered improper conduct. Even today, some firms have continued training HR personnel on these lines but most large dynamic firms can no longer afford to stick with conventional training programs where discrimination is concerned. They understand the significance of proper education and training for HR mangers and therefore since the passage of ADA in 1992, firms are focusing on specific types of discrimination including sexual harassment.
Bendick et al. (2001) write:
Starting in the mid-1980s and accelerating throughout the 1990s, many of these efforts have evolved into more ambitious undertakings with a different label -- diversity training -- and a more strategic role in human resource management... For example, a 1995 survey of the 50 largest U.S. industrial firms found that 70% had a formal diversity management program, typically including training, and an additional 8% were developing one (Lynch, 1997, p. 7). In a 1994 survey of members of the Society for Human Resource Management, 33% reported that their employers provided training on workforce diversity, making it about as common as training in sales techniques (35%) or clerical skills (3-1%) (Rynes and Rosen, 1995) and in a 1995 survey, 50% of members of the American Management Association reported having formal programs for managing diversity, with training a usual component; this figure had risen from 46% in 1992 (AMA, 1996, p.6)."
Diversity training has been viewed as an effective strategy for removal of discriminatory practices. Apart from training HR mangers, it also educates other staff regarding their roles and responsibilities in positive management of diverse workforce.
As the workforce is generally becoming more diverse with the inclusion of older people, more women and higher number of minorities along with disabled individuals, it is extremely important for organizations to understand that just giving training in legal aspects of discrimination is not enough. HRM departments should be well educated in all matters concerning discrimination and a comprehensive education program should be developed for the organization to adapt properly and willingly to a more diverse culture. Training and educational programs should help employees understand the importance of diversity. HR plays an extremely important role in removal of discriminatory practices by not only adopting more appropriate measures for recruitment and evaluation but by providing proper training and education to every employee regarding discrimination and diversity.
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Marc Bendick, Mary Lou Egan, Suzanne M. Lofhjelm: Workforce Diversity Training: From Anti-Discrimination Compliance to Organizational Development. Journal Title: Human Resource Planning. Volume: 24. Issue: 2. Publication Year: 2001. Page Number: 10.
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