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Interviewer Tell me, Mr Griffin, are diversity risks really still an issue? Aren’t companies these days dealing with diversity?
Mr Griffin Oh yes, they are very much an issue. We have come a long way since those days when employers were allowed to discriminate against job candidates just because of their race or their sex. The trouble is, the boundaries of diversity and discrimination are widening. Companies have a lot more to consider than a person’s skin colour or a person’s gender.
Interviewer So can you give listeners an example of what kind of things you are referring to here?
Mr Griffin Okay, let’s see. Well, one growing area of discrimination is ageism. In 1998, companies in the United States had to pay out more than fifty-five million dollars to employers who had filed age-related discrimination complaints against their companies. That’s a lot of money.
Interviewer Phew! So how should companies protect themselves from this kind of thing?
Mr Griffin Well, first of all they should think carefully about their recruitment policies and then they should take out insurance to cover themselves.
Interviewer Isn’t that expensive? For the companies, I mean.
Mr Griffin No, not as expensive as you might think. These days most small and medium-sized organisations take out EPLI – that’s Employment Practices Liability Insurance. The cost of the insurance has fallen over the years, and if a company isn’t covered and loses a discrimination case, well, let’s just say this is the cheaper option!
Interviewer You’ve mentioned ageism as a growing concern, but what other kinds of diversity should managers be aware of?
Mr Griffin Well, you’d probably be surprised to hear about some discrimination against single people, against married parents, against people who are too tall, too short, too heavy!
Mr Griffin Oh yes. Security firms are a good example here. They typically state that their employees need to be over or under a certain height or weight. They claim it’s necessary for the job, but there have been cases where people have claimed discrimination.
Interviewer And won?
Mr Griffin Sometimes, yes. Then there are people with a criminal background. Employers used to feel justified in turning away job applicants just because they’d been in trouble with the law.
Interviewer Isn’t that still the case?
Mr Griffin No, not exactly. The law states that employers can only reject a job applicant with a criminal record if the crime bears a direct relation to the job in question. So somebody who has served a sentence for, let’s say, stealing cars would be all right in a job as a kitchen porter.
Interviewer And Mr Griffin, tell me, how many people actually go through with their threats to sue a company for discrimination?
Mr Griffin Well, I haven’t got the latest figures for the UK, but in the United States the Equal Opportunities Commission receive around eighty-five thousand complaints every year and that figure is rising. Race and sex account for most of the complaints that are filed, but age discrimination is on the increase too.
Interviewer So, any words of advice for risk managers?
Mr Griffin Well, first of all make sure that you have adequate insurance. Then address the issues of diversity from within the organisation. Get the employees involved. Celebrate the differences and try to build up a reputation as a fair employer. And remember – it is worth investing time and effort in addressing these issues because statistics have shown that you’re much more likely to be sued by an employee than a third party.