How HR Should Deal with Racial Discrimination Among Remote Workers

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals
Racial Discrimination Among Remote Workers

Despite numerous laws against discrimination, it is still present everywhere. You can still read or hear reports of race, gender, sexual orientation, or other kinds of workplace discrimination in the media or real life.

Of the many types of workplace discrimination, racial discrimination is one of the most rampant forms, whether in face-to-face or remote work. It often comes in the form of microaggressions, which are indirect, subtle, or unintentional acts of discrimination against a marginalized group. 

These acts have been present even before the pandemic, but there was a rise in cases when people started working remotely. As an employer or HR personnel, you must maintain a zero-tolerance approach to racial discrimination and take each report seriously to protect your employees and the organization. 

Below, you will find some practical advice on how to handle racial discrimination in a virtual setup.

1. Reiterate the organization’s stance against racial discrimination

Once you’ve received a racial discrimination complaint from one of your employees, you must act quickly and carefully to reassure the rest of the staff and protect your image as a brand, company, and employer. For starters, employers should never tolerate racial discrimination in the workplace. Ensure that this position is disseminated to the entire company.

Aside from releasing a formal statement via HR and the management team, you can also remind employees of the anti-discrimination policies highlighted in your handbook. You should also orient your employees about these policies as early as the onboarding phase. 

2. Follow a fair and transparent investigation procedure

Follow a careful strategy in handling discrimination complaints because it may lead to a wrongful termination lawsuit and strain your employee relations if mishandled. Before approaching the situation, brush up with the appropriate investigation procedures to ensure a fair and transparent trial. Keep the details of the investigation confidential.

3. Impose the appropriate disciplinary action against the erring employee

Your organization should have a disciplinary process regarding the several types of discrimination. Before imposing a punishment, refer to your disciplinary procedures and review all necessary documents to present to the parties involved. 

Here are some questions to help you determine if racial discrimination was present:

  • Was the discrimination repeatedly done by the offending employee against the discriminated employee?
  • Were there other scenarios that merited the discriminated employee being treated differently because of race or ethnicity?
  • Did the discriminated employee display discriminating behavior towards others?

When the sanctions have been decided, inform the erring employee in writing. Include all the procedures involved and the reasons that particular sanction was imposed. You should also Inform them that they have the right to appeal and ask for a copy of the notes taken during the investigation.

4. Support the staff member who has been negatively affected by discrimination

Experiencing racial discrimination can be stressful and severely impact a person’s mental health, especially when they are stuck at home coping by themselves.

As an employer, you should acknowledge that racism can impact your staff emotionally, mentally, and physically. It would be great if you have an existing Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to give added benefits to the discriminated employee. A robust EAP can deal with the employee’s concerns regarding their mental health and well-being in light of the discrimination.

You can also demonstrate support by granting flexible work hours and leaves as they request. Most importantly, listen to what your employees say about racism and advocate for change. Have informal discussions at lunch, work, and even after work, then turn these ideas and suggestions into action.

5. Conduct diversity training sessions for all employees

It should be part of an organization’s development program to include training on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). These give your employees a better understanding of institutional racism and encourage them to discuss and address the issue, no matter how uncomfortable.

Managers and leaders must be trained on different approaches to handling racism discussions within their departments. They should know how to spot racist language and redirect conversations when they become racially inappropriate. 

6. Create safe spaces for employees to talk about racial discrimination

Racism is still very much present in the workplace, whether intentional or not. So, creating safe spaces in your organization is vital to let employees express their voices and share their experiences without being judged or bullied. But how do you do that in a virtual workspace?

For one, you can allot a definite time and a physical space in the office where employees can discuss these topics openly. Of course, this can be replicated for remote workers using online meeting spaces. 

Stronger Together

Racism is bad for the business in all aspects. It allows a divisive work culture that does not give importance to morale, teamwork, and productivity. It gives your organization a bad reputation. 
If racism is rampant in your workplace, it makes it difficult to attract, maintain, and nurture employees. But that can be remedied by taking a firm stand against discrimination, caring for your employees’ mental health and well-being, and creating a safe space to discuss this issue without judgment and ridicule.

Yes, discrimination is still present, but it does not have to be in your workplace. You can find many other tips on managing workplace issues like discrimination by messaging us today for instant assistance.

Arvin Ramos