Laws and doctrines help establish the choices that determine the rights of citizens in society regardless of gender, race, or age. Palumbo and Wolfson (2011) explain that many social systems emerged from ancient roots that were cultivated to treat people differently based on the race or sex. In addition, although evidence suggests early matriarchal traditions existed, patriarchal models have dominated Western civilization for millennia (Palumbo & Wolfson, 2011). In fact, the rise of patriarchy produced the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over family and society as a whole. Furthermore, men held power in all important facets of society. In short, a patriarchal system has been enforced, cultivated, legitimated, and perpetuated in a variety of manners throughout the ages and supported by religion and laws. In modern society, however, these practices are now viewed as a form of discrimination that federal government agencies like the EEOC, oversee based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Discrimination in the workplace is an ongoing issue in the evolution of humanity. According to Seaquist (2012) discrimination in a business environment affects not only the individual, but the climate of the company as a whole (Seaquist, 2012). A leader’s best defense, as in any legal issue, is to keep meticulous records, develop effective strategies and policies to discourage discrimination and incorporate systems to monitor behavior that include checks and balances. The challenge, however, that most leaders face, is that there are many forms of discrimination; it is not isolated to race, age, or sex only. In fact, discrimination can appear in the form of class, level of academics, religious preferences, and even based on the kind of pet an individual has. Discrimination in short is a concept that creates separation and distrust in people because it focuses on their “inequalities.”
Many of the founding fathers of this country believed that equality is the ideal that is at the core and fiber of every human being. Fredman (2011) in the meantime, asked us to contemplate the following concept: “When one person is like another, does that entitle them to be treated alike?” For example, for centuries it was commonly accepted that women were not like men and therefore deserved fewer rights. This concept still exists today in many countries. The same premise is used to deny rights to people of color, ethnic groups, sexual orientation, disability or age. Although one can agree or argue whether individuals are different or alike, many still contemplate as to whether they should or are entitled to be treated equally. This would suggest that the treatment of equality is predicated on the principle that justice is inconsistent. This paradox is evident when we accept that equality is formulated in different ways contingent upon the specific concept that is applied. This explains how the consistencies or inconsistencies of two individuals that appear to be alike, are in fact different in terms of things like: (a) access to power, (b) opportunities, and (c) material benefits that manifest in unequal outcomes. Therefore, an alternative view of inequality emerges that is based on perception of justice that is concentrated on balancing maldistribution (Fredman, 2011). This is one way to explain how discrimination continues to thrive and exist.
Some employers, however, engage in certain kinds of discrimination to justify their business practices. For example, many of the employees hired as cocktail waitresses in certain environments are employed based on a certain attractive look, age, gender and physical features. The reasoning behind this is that it is part of their marketing strategy which is aimed at a dominant male clientele. Although this can be construed as discrimination, EEOC mandates also protect an employer’s right to choose how to run their business and the marketing strategies they deem effective for their industry. As long as a company can produce evidence to support their business is based on profiting by hiring a certain group, whether based on attractive looks, religion, age, gender, or other criteria, the business can engage in this practice legally and within the framework of employment laws. In other words, a business owner can operate an establishment, hire a specific type of employee for specific duties, and the EEOC will not consider it discrimination as long as the employer can provide substantial reason and evidence to support their justification in doing so, that is consistent in their industry. Ultimately, it is the job of each and every business leader to make sure they are familiar with the business laws that govern their industry to ensure that they are not violating any statutes with respect to employment and discrimination laws.
Fredman, S. (2011). Discrimination law. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Palumbo, C., & Wolfson, B. (2011). The law of sex discrimination (Fourth ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Seaquist, G. (2012). Business law for managers. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.