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Consequences of Discrimination in the Workplace

by Maureen Malone

Federal law protects employees in the workplace from discrimination based on factors such as age, race, sex and disability. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these laws and ensures that employees and applicants receive equal pay and opportunity for hiring, promotion and training. If you're manager or company owner, make sure that you and your employees do not allow discrimination or the serious consequences that come with it into the workplace.

Company Reputation

If discrimination is happening at your company, employees will talk about it to their friends, family and possibly even the media. These accusations can cause serious damage to your company's reputation. In addition, you may find fewer qualified applicants apply to work at your business and clients and customers may take their business to a company with a better reputation for fair practices.

Employee Morale

Discrimination also creates poor employee morale. Employees may feel that benefits, rewards and promotions have little to do with performance so they stop doing their best work. You may also see a decrease in employee competition for promotions or sales contests if they feel that winners have already been determined based on discriminatory practices. Employee turnover will also increase as employees leave your company to work for one that offers equal opportunity.

Discrimination Complaints

Employees who have been discriminated against can exercise their right to file a complaint against the company with the EEOC. The EEOC will examine all your company's employment practices including hiring and firing; promotions; recruiting and job advertisements; compensation and benefits; training programs; and other conditions of employment. If you or your company are found guilty of discrimination, the EEOC will attempt to reach a conciliatory or settlement agreement that may include back pay, promotion, hiring or reinstatement. In addition, your company may have to pay attorney and court fees. There could also be additional punitive damages for monetary losses, mental anguish or inconvenience.

Lawsuits

If your company is found guilty of discrimination and you don't reach a conciliatory agreement with the EEOC, it may file a federal lawsuit against the company. If the EEOC charge is dismissed, the employee could file a personal lawsuit against your company.

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