To keep your workplace running smoothly, you need to have policies and rules in place. These might include everything from rules on keeping passwords secret to dress code guidelines.
You should always ensure any policies and rules you have in place follow legal guidelines, but there is still a potential for a policy that is completely legal to be discriminatory. You must be aware of this and ensure you avoid such situations.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains discrimination occurs when a policy or rule does not apply equally to everyone or puts one group of people at a disadvantage. For example, if you have a policy about hairstyles that prohibits certain styles which associate with specific races, then it could be a problem. You are discriminating because the prohibition of certain hairstyles impacts one group more than any other.
In general, you should be able to spot a problematic rule or policy if it is causing certain employees to have a negative experience at work. Often these situations are easily remedied by removing the rule of policy because in most cases, they are not necessary.
You should find it much easier to develop policies that do not discriminate if you stick to only those which impact the job duties and performance. For example, in most situations, dictating specific hairstyles makes no sense because the way someone’s hair looks has no impact on how he or she does the job.
There are always exceptions. For example, a hairstyle rule may be essential in food service for health reasons. However, it should never put one group at a disadvantage.
Developing fair and equal policies may be a learning experience. You may put something in place and later see it is not working. As long as you recognize the issue, you should be able to avoid discriminating.