November 29, 2021

Remember – Discrimination is Color Blind

It is the people who are not. A conversation is developing around colorism, similar to but different from and broader than racism. It is not a new concept, but getting renewed attention. On a related note, and for the second time in about 30 days, I read another news story about a white man claiming he was fired because of his race. The first case resulted in a $10M award (that’s right Million). Both plaintiffs alleged that their ousting was the result of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative (aka DEIB, add Belonging).

I suspect that an “A” for Accessibility may soon be added to the acronym. This year, President Biden has issued two executive order addressing Equity in the federal government. The most recent, on June 25th, included DEIA.

With all these re-evolving concepts, employers are landing in hot water as a result of backlash or “reverse” discrimination claims, as described above.  Legal issues aside, it is also an employee relations challenge.  Here are just a few examples of frustrations I have heard from employees who:

  • do not or cannot have children feeling less valued because they are not offered as flexible work schedules, paid leave, or other benefits as employees who are parents;
  • are fathers feeling minimized because they are not given comparable attention or flexibility as working moms;
  • are Caucasian feeling tenuous about how they are perceived following “unconscious” (aka subconscious) bias training that addresses their privilege; and
  • are heterosexual feeling similarly tenuous about current terminology and whether (or not) to use binary terminology (like “father” and “moms” above).

While you’re at it, remember that anti-discrimination laws are blind to much more than just color.  This recent headline from the U.S. EEOC reminds us of just one example. Men can be unlawfully harassed based on their sex, too.

Whatever you call your initiative, formal or informal, proceed with considered caution. Be intentional, thoughtful, and purposeful in what you do. Understand why you are doing it. Take care in how you implement it.  Be patient.  And remind your employees to do the same.