Preventing employment discrimination in the workplace can be a tricky subject.

Everyone just seems to think they are an expert, but in reality, nobody really knows what differentiates acts that are discriminatory or just plain misunderstanding.

So as an employer, it will be your duty to clarify the misunderstandings and set standard rules about the acceptable and unacceptable actions in the workplace.

However, for you to be able to do that, you have to be informed as well.

If you implement policies without regard to existing laws, it will be considered invalid, or worse, you may also have opened yourself more to discrimination complaints.

So to help you, here are answers to some frequently asked questions about preventing employment discrimination?

What is Employment Discrimination?

This refers to discrimination of an employee or applicant in any employment aspect based on his membership or association to a protected class (age, sex, religion, race, disability, national origin).

Some common employment aspects where discrimination occurs include:

  • Hiring
  • Promotion
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Training
  • Job assignments
  • Termination

What are the laws that protect employees from discrimination?

There are several federal discrimination laws that prohibit employment discrimination such as:

  • Article VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and national origin.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Prohibits discrimination against qualified employees with disabilities
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – Prohibits discrimination against employees 40 years old and above.

If you are an employer in California, your employees are also covered by the Fair Employment and Housing Act or FEHA, which is the state's more powerful version of anti-discrimination laws.

As an employer, should I provide all religious or disability accommodations?

Not at all, you are only required to provide reasonable accommodation but if it will cause you undue hardship then you can decline; but state the reason for the decision.

Are there exemptions to anti discrimination laws?

Well, that is quite tricky but there are some instances where a company or a certain act may not be covered by existing anti-discrimination laws.

Some examples include:

  • Number of employees is smaller than required by law. To be covered by most federal anti-discrimination laws; you have to have 15 or more employees (20 for ADEA). The minimum for FEHA though is 5 employees.
  • If a wrongful act was not based on the victim's membership or association to a protected class then it might not be considered discrimination.

What are the important aspects should I consider when creating anti-discrimination policies?

There are several factors that you should consider but the most important are the following:

  • Defining discrimination and what makes an act discriminatory
  • Specific discriminatory practices that are prohibited
  • The company's grievance system
  • Confidentiality of cases
  • Anti-retaliation rules
  • Penalties for violations

Make sure that your employees are also aware of these policies by including them in the handbook, providing training to supervisors and managers, and posting posters on public areas.

To make sure that your policies for preventing employment discrimination is in compliance with existing laws consult an expert Los Angeles employment law attorney for more information.