If you are a business owner, you are no doubt aware of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and how it affects the hiring of employees and working conditions. As your business expands, however, you should be cognizant that many of your managers will not be as familiar as you are. As recently as 2013, a major restaurant franchise was fined for violating Title VII in its hiring practices, and all of its managers in a nine-state region were required to receive Title VII training as part of the legal ruling on the case.
The costs involved for a violation can be substantial for a large corporation, but for smaller businesses, it could result in serious financial loss and even bankruptcy. An overview of some of the less well-understood points of this landmark legislation can help you determine what your managers should know about race discrimination and Title VII.
Title VII protects applicants against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color, national origin, sex or religion. Discrimination can occur during hiring and job training as well as be a factor in promotion or termination. Regarding race, discrimination is not simply a matter of refusing to hire or promote someone of a particular racial group. It can extend to employees whose spouse is a different race, workers who are members of an ethnic-based group or employees who are associated with schools or places of worship that are perceived to be affiliated with a certain ethnicity. Title VII has specific prohibitions against workplace policies that cause minorities to be excluded, provided these policies cannot be shown to be work related.
Your managers should understand that asking for any information from a job applicant that could disclose that individual’s race could be viewed under the law as a form of discrimination, as the presumption is that no one would request information of that type for any other reason than to make choices about hiring. You might be surprised to learn that background checks can be considered as fitting into this category. To protect yourself and your business, you will need to be sure to comply with Title VII’s guidelines on how to conduct a background check for criminal records in a proper manner.
When looking for job applicants, you cannot only recruit or advertise in places where a certain race predominates, or require certain education or skills that are not relevant to the job as a means of preventing certain races from qualification. Perception is all that matters here. You may find that your managers are doing this inadvertently, so you should always be monitoring the entire hiring process with these perceptions in mind.
How to Define Race Under Title VII
Race is a concept that can be difficult to define, so be familiar with the categories included in Title VII. Under this legislation, race can be determined by an individual’s ancestry, physical features, or cultural behavior. Bear in mind that not everyone in a particular racial group has certain physical features like hair texture, skin tone, or body shape, but if certain features are associated with a race, you cannot base employment decisions on them.
This may seem obvious, but many characteristics of race under Title VII are not easy to guess; for example, you cannot make employment decisions on illness or health conditions that are known to be associated with a certain race. If you are wondering how that could ever happen, realize that having a no beard policy in your workplace would automatically prevent some African-American males from finding employment with your company as many have a skin condition that is aggravated by shaving.
The bottom line is, anything that can interfere with a person’s ability to obtain a job or do their job, be it physical or psychological, can be considered discrimination. Keeping yourself well informed on Title VII will ensure a more comfortable workplace for everyone.
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