facesDiscrimination in the workplace is a serious issue, and all employers in the U.S. Virgin Islands need to take steps to ensure discrimination does not take place within their businesses or organizations.

This issue may take a variety of forms, and employers are prohibited by law from discriminating against workers based on their age, gender, race, skin color, ethnicity, national origin or disability. In many of these cases, employees may claim that they were unfairly prevented from being hired or obtaining raises or promotions, or that they were unjustly fired. These lawsuits can be extremely costly for businesses and create hostile work environments that may affect productivity.

For business owners and supervisors, there are five steps you can take to address the root of employment discrimination and ensure a more positive and healthy workplace for all:

1. Engage your discrimination policy. Every business and organization should have a clear, comprehensive and ethical anti-discrimination policy in place. Work with an employment law attorney to ensure the policy accounts for all possible scenarios, complies with federal and state laws and is easily understood. Review it with all employees and encourage questions. Although every scenario should be an opportunity for learning and reform, make sure that policy violations come with appropriate penalties.

2. Analyze and reward diversity. Take a look at your workforce and customers and analyze how much diversity you have within your organization. Greater diversity often means that you’ll have employees who bring a wide range of perspectives, which can help your business innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

3. Create a safe environment. Organize committees or groups within the workplace to analyze the potential for discrimination and suggest resolutions to issues. Make sure no one feels that they will be punished for identifying or reporting problems by including a human resources professional in these discussions.

4. Encourage education. If employees have diverse backgrounds, create opportunities for educating each other on different traditions — such as religious holidays — or distinctions between cultures and genders. The more you know, the more you understand and the less there is to fear.

5. Promote cooperation and inclusion. Isolation and separation (or segregation) only fosters misunderstanding, fear and resentment. Create departments and work groups that encourage cooperation, inclusion, education and goodwill between all employees.

By considering and implementing these concepts into your workplace culture, you can help your employees understand each other and avoid potential complications related to employment discrimination claims.

BoltNagi is a well-established and widely respected employment law firm serving businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.