As a silver lining to recent events, there is now broader recognition that we all have implicit bias that can infect our choices unconsciously. This has given rise to much virtue signaling and a spike in DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) job postings. This is good – but all employers should focus on DEI, with or without a specialist. After all, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and myriad state and local laws forbid discrimination in all the terms and conditions of employment. It is not a defense to discrimination that you hire minorities, women, and LGBTQ people, if you allow them to be harassed, unfairly paid or held back based on their minority status, gender or other status.
Disrupting bias involves extensive self-reflection and, at work, carefully facilitated conversations. But even before you begin that process, these are some foundational steps that can help you begin to eradicate biased decision making from your workplace.
1. Establish Uniform Performance Standards and Regular Evaluations. Set clear job tasks and standards for how performance will be evaluated at the beginning of employment; these should be the same for everyone in a given role. Require written evaluations on a semi-annual or annual basis, as a backstop: bias often surfaces in more subjective performance evaluations.
2. Recruit Blindfolded. Studies have been conducted by submitting same exact resume more than once – one bearing a traditionally black name and one, a traditionally white name. Guess which resume was selected more often for interviews. To avoid this, have your recruitment software hide the names of candidates. Avoid asking about gender, race, age or ethnicity until the very end of your hiring process.
3. You Have the Data: Now Use It. All employers know what each employee is paid, what bonus they receive and how much time it takes after the date of hire before a person is promoted or is given a bonus or pay raises (and between raises or promotions). Review this data on a position-by-position basis and in the aggregate: look for patterns. Are women paid less; are minorities promoted less often than whites or men? If you don’t use this data for good, a good plaintiff’s lawyer might use it against you.
Simultaneously, check your own biases. Begin to train and engage in meaningful workplace dialogues. See https://biasinterrupters.org, which offers additional free toolkits for employers, managers and employees.
© Allison Walsh, Esq.