Workplace discrimination can have multiplying effects on an organization. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, is responsible for enforcing government laws regarding the many types of workplace discrimination, including age, disability, race, religion, and gender discrimination. The consequences of discrimination can be devastating for an organization and for the individuals affected by harassment and other discriminating acts. In 2012 alone, the EEOC reported 99,412 private sector charges against employers for workplace discrimination.
Often, fines and prosecution result when workplace discrimination occurs. This may happen when discrimination goes unchecked or is not addressed properly by a manager or other company official. Legal effects may include litigation expenses associated with a company's defense against a discrimination suit. If a court finds that an employer is guilty of discriminatory acts, it may be held responsible for attorney fees, fines and compensatory and punitive damages. An employer may also need to pay restitution to the victim of harassment. In 2012, the EEOC filed 122 lawsuits for discrimination against employers. The EEOC also conducted 240 investigations resulting in 46 settlements.
Discrimination in the workplace also results in reduced productivity. This happens for many reasons, including reduced morale. Employees who are discriminated against lose the desire and motivation to work, reports the EEOC, and these effects can be long-lasting. Next, absenteeism is common in work environments where discrimination is prevalent. Staff time off for depositions, conferences and court proceedings can also result in reduced productivity. The company's reputation and even its sales may be damaged when high profile cases are reported in the news media.
Some companies must pay stiff penalties resulting from lawsuits or if they fail to enforce and carry out EEOC or other government requirements to limit discrimination in the workplace. An example would be affirmative action laws that help improve diversity in the workplace. Companies that work diligently to avoid discrimination and promote a diverse work environment will avoid much of these consequences and they will benefit from having a much more diverse corporate culture.
Discrimination has physical and emotional consequences on the workforce. Many employers see discrimination in terms of financial burdens, but it can have tremendous impacts on the physical and emotional health of employees. This is true of the immediate employees affected, but it can have ripple effects on other people for days, weeks, and months. Often, discrimination is not an isolated event. The EEOC reports that employees in workplaces that have been the scene of discrimination experience anxiety, depression, and stress. This situation may lead employees to look elsewhere for work, adding to company costs for recruitment and training of new people.
Aanya Rose has been writing since 1998. Her work has appeared in "ADDitude," "Curl," "Diabetes Alternatives," "Fitness," the "Healing Path" and more. She has served as a channel manager for various websites and worked in consultation and training. Rose holds a B.S. and Ph.D.