Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a public meeting in Washington, D.C. at which invited panelists spoke on national origin discrimination issues in today's workplace.
Participants discussed various recruitment and hiring issues; discriminatory treatment in assignments; pay discrimination; language and accent issues; effective communication and access issues; harassment; and retaliation.
The EEOC's event press release highlighted some comments and issues of which employers should take note. Most notably, one management-side lawyer, Douglas Farmer, testified that the multi-cultural workplace presents challenges for employers. For example, based on their cultural background, some men may find it difficult to have a female supervisor.
The press release highlights some of the solutions Attorney Farmer proposed:
Farmer cited the need for extensive education about both rights and responsibilities under the law. He suggested that the EEOC develop training modules in a variety of languages as well as a model anti-harassment policy, and make them available on its website for employers to download.
You can read the full written testimony from Attorney Farmer, as well as the other panelists here.
While the EEOC sorts these issues out, proactive employers will want to consider second-language employee handbooks and obtaining legal advice before implementing an "English-only" policy in the workplace. Both of these approaches can help you avoid facing charges filed with the EEOC.