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Can You Train Staff to Not Be Discriminatory?

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By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

For employers, the most dreaded legal claims usually involve discrimination. Whether it is employee on employee, or employee on customer, or vice versa, dealing with these claims can truly be a nightmare.

In addition to costly legal bills, the potential public relations headache that can ensue from a manager discriminating against 26 people at the same time can hurt any business's bottom line, not to mention morale. Fortunately, employers can help everyone by providing good training to employees on how to handle themselves and others when discriminatory conduct is observed, or even better, how to keep it from even happening in the first place.  

Diversity Training

For the most part, providing your staff with some form of diversity training is critical even though the subject could be overlooked when founders start their business or submit an LLC filing. How much training will likely depend on each staff person's role. For example, staff members that interact with customers or clients likely need more training than staff members stock shelves or drive delivery routes. Unfortunately, most employment training, particularly on issues like diversity, is just rubbish. Sitting down employees in front of screen with a bunch of training videos might technically satisfy some requirements, but employees aren't likely to learn much that way.

Often, employees may not know that something is offensive. As times change, the language we use to talk about certain groups of individuals changes. It's important that your staff stays up to date on the best ways to communicate with diverse groups so they will know how to not discriminate, or even offend, customers or their co-workers. Here are two ways to make your training more interactive and meaningful:

  1. In addition to going over standard policies for handling sensitive issues, have your employees stand up and practice mock scenarios.
  2. Ask employees to write written responses about how they'd handle a given situation and how those interactions make them feel.

See Something, Say Something

Commonly, when employees see a problem, they don’t speak up. Unfortunately, that can lead to bigger problems down the road. For example, if one staff member offends a customer and another staff member overhears it, if that other staff member doesn’t step in and say something, the offending staffer may not be held accountable or have the chance to learn from their mistake.

For the best outcomes, diversity and sensitivity training should not be "one and done" events, but should be ongoing and built into every company culture.

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