Employee Non-Discrimination Policies
The current business environment makes a written, non-discrimination policy more than just a good idea — it's a necessity. Although you aren't required to adopt a specific policy, you are required to comply with the applicable state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace.
A solid non-discrimination policy sends a strong message to employees and faced with litigation that your company takes discrimination seriously and that you are willing to do your best to make sure it stays out of the workplace. For business owners, that means your non-discrimination policy needs to be well- documented and at a minimum, you should consider including the following elements:
The general statement sets the tone of the policy. It makes it clear that discriminatory practices and attitudes will not be tolerated in the workplace under any circumstances, particularly when it comes to your company's hiring and promotion practices — areas often vulnerable to discriminatory behavior.
Equal Opportunity Clause
Even if you've never seen an employee non-discrimination policy, you've probably seen an equal opportunity clause. It's the short paragraph that says your company affords equal opportunity to all employees and job applicants regardless of factors such as disability, race, color, age, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation. The wording for this clause is fairly boilerplate and likely widely available on the Internet.
Your non-discrimination policy should also spell out the process for employees to report a complaint. Your reporting process description should clearly assure employees that reporting a complaint will not result in retaliation against them by either the employer or anyone else in the company.
What happens if you discover someone has violated the non-discrimination policy? A zero-tolerance approach looks great on paper, but will only be effective if you're willing to follow through with it. That means you may be forced to discipline an employee if you discover s/he has been involved in discriminatory behavior towards others, regardless of how valuable he/she is to your bottom line.
Due to the legal nature of a non-discrimination policy, you'll want to have your attorney look it over before you publicize it within your company. Once your attorney approves it, it's your job to make sure it is disseminated throughout the organization and that everyone is aware of the company's attitude toward discrimination. More importantly, you will need to set a good example for your employees by following the policy and modeling non-discriminatory behavior yourself.