” Sexism falls into the definition of

“More than 60 women consider suing Google, claiming sexism and a pay gap”Theheadline of this widely read newspaper (The guardian) is one of many reviewingforms of discrimination in the workplace.

With on-going scandals such as the#metoo social media movement light is shed over the issue of sexism in theworkplace. Sexism falls into the definition of discrimination: ” treating aperson or a particular group differently, especially in a worse way from theway in which you treat other people because of their skin colour, gender,sexuality etc.” (Cambridge dictionary).Inthe 21st century, governments worldwide came up with laws andregulations concerning all forms of discrimination in enterprises, with theincentive of making sure that the workplace is a safe and inclusiveenvironment. However,without Human Resources departments’ theses laws are less effective neither foremployees because they might not know the full extent of their rights or how toassert them, nor for companies because they may not follow them and findthemselves in a situation where their image is hurt. Hence, Human resources arein the front line in dealing with discrimination throughout the recruitmentprocess and in the functioning of companies.

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Thisessay will discuss how discrimination impacts individuals, and how the Humanresources department tries to overcome discrimination without jeopardizing theprofitability of their company.  Discriminationtakes different forms. First, the most obvious one is direct discrimination: treating someone lessfavourably on the grounds of a protected characteristic. (Canadian definition).Facing this type of discrimination individuals, are faced with differentoptions depending on the timeline of the incident happening: either in thehiring process or within the company.

Taking legal action against enterprisescan be a costly and tricky process in the case of an application being rejectedfor no valid reasons. Also, in the event of experiencing discrimination withinthe company where one is employed, reporting the incident to the management or toa hierarchical superior can lead to unfortunate consequences. The victim may besubjected to harassment – violating someone’s dignity or creating an offensivework environment – or being victimised- treating someone poorly because theymade a complaint about discrimination-. In both cases, the victim is unsureabout the results given that without a reliable Human Resources department one isalone standing against the company. Indirect discrimination is when there is a practice,policy, or rule which applies to everyone in the same way but has a worseeffect on some people rather than others.(quote citizen advice.

Org) . In thiscase the occurring of a discriminative behaviour is more delicate to prove, becauseit may not be the intention of the company to discriminate certain individuals.Hence, the use of the PCP (Provision, criterion or Practice method) in courtsof law. The point of this method is to assess whether something does give arise to a difference in outcomes depending on the particular characteristics ofan employee. When taking legal action against a company for indirect discrimination,the plaintive has a chance to win if and only if a PCP is proven to be occurringto his situation.

( Equality act 2010 USA).Moreover, some argue that there is a cultural dimension todiscrimination. (sexual harassment by clients). On the one hand, the approachof ethical relativism is one in which it is suggested that moral values aredifferent depending on the cultural environment of societies. By that mattersome companies can use this point of view to hide discrimination under the veilof cultural norms. On the other hand, another approach seems more suited toclarify discrimination: absolutism.

This school of thoughts considers that onlyone moral position prevails. In the age of multinational companies withsubsidiaries all over the world it is obvious that what constitutediscriminatory behaviour should be normalized throughout the world, taking intoaccount a people’s culture but not hiding behind it. (Hofstede 6 dimensions ofculture).For instance, in a fictive situation where theheadquarters of a company are based in a country that scores low on Hofstede’smasculinity vs. femininity cultural dimension. A woman executive is sent tocomplete a mission in a subsidiary that is in a country that is more of apatriarchy.

The said executive is facing sexual harassment from her malecolleagues. Coming back to the headquarters, she complains to her direction aboutthe inappropriate behaviours that she had to deal with. As a response themanagers explain that it is rather normal to be treated in that manner in thatcultural environment. It is in this type of situation where arises theimportance of considering discrimination as a universal phenomenon that cannotbe justified by culture because it would leave the victim with nothing butfrustration. According to Ibarra et al.(2013) « women are constantly judged in the workplace by the way theydress, talk and even by their ‘capacity to fill the room’ ».

In addition,harassment in the workplace is a very sensitive subject. Although, with therecent scandals Hollywood is facing, whistle-blowers are stepping forward andpeople begin to talk, the majority of employees’ victims of harassment do notreport these issues due to their fear of losing their jobs and the power oftenbeing linked to the harasser. The issue of sexual harassment as a part ofdiscrimination is not only linked to women but also to men. More and more arecoming forward with sexual harassment complaints, even though it is harder forthem to do so due to the society’s pressure on what a men should be.(Tanner C)In order to preventdiscrimination, governments and international institutions have legislated onthe matter.

In fact, several countries have created legislation to shield employeesfrom discrimination. The common grounds between theses different legislationsare the clear definition of discrimination, the definition of protectedcharacteristics such as gender, race, religious beliefs and sexual orientationas well as the action taken by justice against discrimination. Yet, individualswithin companies often face a deadlock. The constant fear of not being able toprove their claim, and of being dismissed make it difficult for employees tocome forward with discrimination claims. Especially when minorities, seniorsfor instance, even when hired within a company lack growth opportunities. Plusthe job market being saturated, the process of finding another position mightbe an even harder task. Overall, the law protects individualsagainst discrimination.

Governments have tried legislating on the issue however it isthe human resources management’s role to apply theses legislation and make surethat their company is a safe and diversified place to work for their staff.


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