Ensuring Title VII Compliance in Your Organization

In the United States of America, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has long been considered a critical piece of legislation. It calls for the enforcement of voting rights for all eligible citizens and makes school segregation totally illegal.

Additionally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 addresses the workplace with the anti-discrimination laws found in Title VII of the Act. These laws prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, and sex, including gender, gender identity, pregnancy status, and sexual orientation.

As you audit your own policies and practices to ensure you’re in compliance with these laws, it’s important that you do more than just make sure you don’t discriminate against anyone. Your department should be working to reduce bias across the entire organization and ensure that every employee feels comfortable to be themselves. 

While this will take some education, care, and effort, it can — and will — pay off for both your company and those who work with you.

Defining Bias in the Workplace

Before your department can start tackling bias in your organization, you must understand what it is. At its core, bias is all about the assumptions you make about people that affect your behavior toward them. 

In the realm of business, this behavior can cover everything from hiring practices, to assigning roles, to comparing employees when you’re considering candidates for promotion, for example.

Biases can be conscious or unconscious. When you have a conscious bias, you are aware of your skewed motivations and are actively choosing to discriminate against another person. An unconscious bias, on the other hand, is acted upon without this awareness.

There are several different types of conscious and unconscious biases that may occur in the workplace, including:

  • Conformity Bias: Based on others’ ideas about a person
  • Beauty Bias: Based on whether a person meets society’s beauty standards
  • Affinity Bias: Based on a perceived connection due to shared traits or interests
  • Halo/Horn Effect: Based on a single positive or negative attribute
  • Similarity Bias: Based on the other party’s similarity to you
  • Contrast Effect: Based on comparing people to one another
  • Attribution Bias: Based on factors you think influenced someone’s success or failure
  • Confirmation or Intuition Bias: Based on your faulty assumption that your feelings are true and correct
  • Affect Heuristics: Based on unimportant details like a person’s name or style of dress
  • Illusory Correlation: Based on your faulty correlations between unrelated concepts

Discrimination can happen based on any of these biases. For example, the fact that 46% of LGBTQ+ employees have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives may very well be a testament to the prevalence of several types of biases, including conformity, contrast, confirmation, and illusory correlation biases.

The Importance of Addressing Anti-Bias in Your HR Department

As an HR professional, you must address bias when you recognize it in yourself and others. If you don’t, it can expose your organization to compliance risk and make employees feel uncomfortable in the workplace, impacting culture, retention, and engagement, and, in many cases, resulting in lawsuits. 

If you’re unsure about where to start, consider the following three methods you can use to begin reducing bias in your organization. 

1. Audit Yourself

It’s challenging to address bias in your organization if you don’t first recognize it in yourself and your own department. 

Consider doing your own research or personal training in regard to bias and try to uncover some of your own issues. Then, consider having a third party audit your HR practices to see if there is any evidence of those biases in your communications or hiring, compensation, promotion, or disciplinary practices.

2. Raise Awareness

Once you have audited yourself and your department, it’s time to raise awareness about bias among the other employees in your organization. You can send out an email series featuring online resources or post notices and information to help employees understand and recognize unconscious bias and its harmful effects.

3. Provide Training

After your employees have learned a little about unconscious biases, it’s time to provide them with some unconscious bias training. It’s important that this training be focused on helping employees understand that they hold the power to recognize and eliminate their own biases and give them concrete suggestions and benefits for continuing to grow in this area.

Tips to Ensure Title VII Compliance in Your Company

In 2022, the EEOC received 73,485 charges of workplace discrimination (19% more than in FY 2021), resolved 65,087 charges, and secured over $381.7 million for victims of discrimination in private sector and state and local government workplaces through voluntary resolutions and litigation. If you want to keep your organization out of that kind of trouble, here are a few ways you can ensure compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws:

  • Consider attending training on equal opportunity employment principles and practices
  • Encourage employees to report incidents of discrimination or harassment to their supervisor or to your department and ensure they understand the reporting procedures in your organization
  • Have a knowledgeable third party check your policies and practices for evidence of discrimination
  • Make sure to post the required Title VII notices in a place where all employees can see them, as your company can be fined if you don’t do so
  • File your EEO reports every year without fail, if applicable to your organization. These require disclosure of the ethnic, gender, and racial makeup of your workforce and evidence of your anti-discrimination efforts

When you follow the law under Title VII, you can protect your organization and those who lend their talents to help you accomplish your mission.

Beyond Compliance: Building Workplaces Where Every Employee Matters

From the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, to his untimely passing in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. worked tirelessly to ensure that laws existed to protect the rights of all American citizens. As an HR professional, your compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an opportunity to continue that legacy.

Though the Act goes a long way in making sure workplaces across the nation are free from bias, it’s up to you to ensure your organization stands for inclusivity and authenticity at work. This not only reduces your compliance risk exposure but also helps you create a space where employees can be happy, productive, and engaged, knowing they are protected and cared for at every turn.