The COVID-19 pandemic was truly one of the most devastating occurrences in recent history. The pandemic took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, and wreaked havoc on the economies of multiple countries. In addition, the pandemic also caused damage to social relations. Not long after the shutdowns went into effect in 2020, Americans of Asian descent began experiencing increased rates of discrimination, harassment and even physical violence. This phenomenon continued throughout 2020 and persists even today. In the midst of all this awful behavior, employers should take the time to understand their role in clamping down on this type of discrimination and harassment.
Employers need to know that they have both a moral and legal duty to maintain a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. Failure to do so may result in legitimate complaints under one of many federal laws. In this post, we will provide information which employers can use to prevent race-related harassment in the workplace.
The Prohibition of Racial Harassment Under Title VII
Employers should be aware of the fact that racial discrimination and harassment are prohibited expressly under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees (and applicants) are protected from a variety of behaviors by employers, including workplace harassment or discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. Employers need to understand that any type of discrimination or harassment against persons of Asian descent is therefore forbidden under Title VII and may provide grounds for a complaint.
Implement a Clear Anti-Harassment Policy
Most employers have an anti-harassment policy of some kind in place. But, no matter if an employer already has such a policy, the current circumstances warrant a reiteration of these protections. Go ahead and send all employees and managers a fresh copy of the existing policy, either via email or hard copy. Be sure to highlight the critical aspects of this policy, and make it doubly clear that harassment of all types is unacceptable. Depending on your situation, you may want to even amend your current policy to ensure that harassment is fully snuffed out. Remember, the more thorough you are, the more you will be able to create a safe and harassment-free work space.
Prevent Harassment in All Forms
One thing employers will want to keep in mind is that harassment doesn’t just take one particular form. Harassment can take a wide range of forms, especially today. Given the use of technology in the workplace, and its use privately among employees, cracking down on race-based harassment means preventing abusive communication via email, text messaging, social media, videos, and other avenues. This is true even for employees and managers who happen to be working remotely.
Consider the following scenario: you learn that one of your managers was sending abusive text messages to an employee of Asian ancestry. Both of these workers were operating remotely. In this situation, the manager should be dealt with in the same manner as though he or she were working on site. Just because the abusive communication happened “off site” doesn’t mean it occurred outside of your workplace. Although the incident may not have occurred on the physical premises of your office, the relationship between your manager and your employee is still a professional relationship, and therefore any abusive communication must be prevented.