The historical context, social changes, and the trend of globalization that have taken place in the last hundred years have led to a change in the structure of the labor force, making it more diverse in terms of ethnicity, demographic and gender characteristics. These changes, coupled with a proven positive relationship between employee diversity and company performance, have made diversity management a strategic business challenge. This, in turn, was reflected in the shift in human capital management practices in general and talent management practices in particular towards more targeted ones aimed at specific groups of employees. Diversity management in the public sector is no less affected by these positive trends. However, there are mixed interpretations in this area. The case in question shows how important it is to plan clearly for diversity management to avoid the repercussions of lawsuits.
Diversity Initiatives Discussion
Workforce diversity is defined as a pool of employees, consisting of people with certain human qualities or belonging to different cultural groups. It is based on the assumption that there are many characteristics by which people can differ from each other: age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, and culture (Berman et al., 2019). Research shows that a diversity of the workforce can influence the success of organizations (Berman et al., 2019). It enhances the creativity, innovation, and productivity of work teams and improves their problem-solving ability through a combination of each employee’s unique knowledge and experience (Ritter-Hayashi et al., 2016). In this regard, diversity can become a source of competitive advantages for companies, reduce employee turnover and absenteeism.
In addition to organizational benefits, a diversity of the workforce contributes to increased employee job satisfaction due to an improved organizational climate (Berman et al., 2019). Besides, work teams consisting of specialists with different sex, age, and ethnic characteristics are more effective – on average, in their achievements, they exceed the results of individuals who make decisions and homogeneous groups by 60% (Larson, 2017). It is also necessary to respect gender diversity in the workplace since it provides a company with different types of knowledge and management styles, a high level of innovation, which, in turn, can become a source of sustainable competitive benefits (Roh & Kim, 2015).
Many legislative initiatives support diversity management in the public sector. First of all, it is equal employment opportunity – one of the principles of labor relations in civil society, which declares equality of opportunities in employment, promotion, and dismissal of all workers, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, and any other characteristics.
The most critical piece of legislation that emerged from the civil rights movement in the United States in 1958-1968 was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which legalized the prohibition of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. In the field of employment, banned the use of discriminatory language in laws regulating electoral procedures and also banned segregation in schools and public places. Also noteworthy are laws such as The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. All these laws and other normative legal acts indicate that at the government level, they have seriously responded to the challenges from society, the heterogeneity of which has given rise to the need to form new rules for interaction between different social groups.
The idea of affirmative action assumes that the rights of the dominant majority are respected inherently since the culture of this majority is official, develops at the state level, and the rights of minorities are also naturally infringed (Berman et al., 2019). The policy of special measures is aimed at overcoming inequality, social stratification. Various sources of affirmative action measures have been embodied: constitutional provisions of the legislation, court orders, informal and voluntary programs, various affirmative action strategies for the private and public sectors, mechanisms for enforcing affirmative action measures.
The primary federal law that regulates the equal employment right of individuals is Executive Order 11246, which requires that all employers having fifty or more employees and Federal contracts of at least $ 50,000 must file written affirmative action plans. The plans must outline goals for hiring women and minorities and timetables to which the contractor must commit faith efforts.
Background on the Case
An unforeseen economic crisis caught California state higher education institutions by surprise. The Office of Philanthropy (OOP) at Santa Anita State University is no exception. OOP faced the challenge of cutting costs while keeping The Office of Marketing as productive as possible. When evaluating employees’ performance, Darlene Stewart was chosen. Despite many years of experience at The Special Communications unit (she worked there for almost twenty years) and her dedication to the organization, employee productivity was minimal. The workload was significantly reduced when the team’s work was restructured: it could not cope with deadlines and increased workload. Thus, she was entrusted with smaller, routine tasks, based on the considerations that it is easier to keep a woman with some work than to fire her and face the consequences of lawsuits. However, management now decides that the company cannot afford to continue funding Darlene Stewart’s position and will have to be fired.
The Discrimination Issue Identified in the Case
Aside from age discrimination, Ms. Stewart faces performance rating discrimination. Timely identifying employees on whom profit depends, interaction with customers and partners, implementation of project directions, staff loyalty, brand reputation allows one to maximize the team’s potential and develop the business. However, differentiation according to the criterion of the value of employees in terms of their usefulness for the business can be openly discriminatory and be regarded as social injustice. The apparent weakness of the resource-based approach is that it does not take into account employee engagement, well-being, burnout, and company loyalty – the critical HR categories that dictate current trends in the global employment market (Rubin & Edwards, 2020). Today, HR specialists do not doubt that these factors combined influence can turn a non-key employee into a critical employee and vice versa.
Often, key employees of companies are, as a rule, informal leaders with high social capital (Rubin & Edwards, 2020). However, the director’s previous policy ruled out Ms. Stewarts from team communication, thus cut off from the opportunity to develop her social capital. Also, the system for evaluating performance indicators should be transparent and understandable for both employees and managers. The situation has developed so that the officially insufficient productivity of Ms. Stewart was not reflected; in addition, the employee was not warned about the possible consequences, and her performance indicators were not discussed and recorded after the negotiations.
Potential Strategy for Addressing the Discrimination Issue
To use the criteria for assessing employee performance correctly, it is necessary to reflect the procedure in legal documents (employment contract and other related acts) and discuss the assessment system in advance. The assessment presents a particular difficulty because the effectiveness of the work of the personnel is determined by many factors, including those that are assessed by quantitative and qualitative methods: the features of the employee’s functional responsibilities, the amount of work done in quantitative terms, the deadlines (intermediate and final results), the level employee qualifications, the complexity of the tasks and many other indicators. When developing indicators and criteria, it is necessary to operationalize each quality indicator strictly. More preferable is a quantitative assessment, more accurate and objective. However, in practice, every company has several positions for which quantitative analysis is insufficient or inapplicable. Nevertheless, as the experience of leading companies shows, the assessment of personnel performance cannot do without accurate measurements (Rubin & Edwards, 2020). Employee performance evaluation starts with them, and the more clear and precise the indicators are, the fewer grounds for discrimination.
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