Scroll Top

DISCRIMINATION IN CORPORATE FIRMS

Introduction

Workplace discrimination includes any attitude, variance, or alienation that has the effect of disregarding or inhibiting equal opportunity or treatment within the workplace. Discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly in comparison to others based on features unrelated to the person’s areas of expertise or the inherent qualifications of the job. However, most prejudice is oblique or the product of inherent or unconscious bias, and it occurs when laws or practices appear impartial but in reality, lead to discrimination. In such instances, discrimination may be more challenging to identify and require more relentless efforts to overcome it.

Analysis

Corporate Firms and other Workplaces in the United States have long been hubs of harassment and discrimination, especially for those individuals who are not white, heterosexual, male, light-skinned, unmarried, young or able-bodied. Amazon was sued last year for having racially discriminatory recruiting policies and COVID-19 safety protocols[1]. Although there was no official lawsuit, a Facebook recruiter and two unsuccessful job seekers filed a complaint before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging Facebook of racial discrimination against Black employees and candidates in hiring, promotions, assessments, and salaries [2]. Similarly in India Job seekers and employees are discriminated against by their offices or employers based on an individual’s caste, gender, age, religion or region from where they belong. The notion that Private corporations, unlike government enterprises, depend on the skill and competence and talent of individuals is prevalent in Indian society, and by openly recruiting and encouraging Dalits and other minority groups, the private sector will lose efficiency, profitability, and productivity. Economist studies have revealed that access to well-paying occupations or high-end positions in the corporate world remains limited to the most privileged segments of society. Discrimination and difference in salaries of employees based on their gender are common around the world even in the 21st century, where women’s rights are protected under various laws of countries.

Discrimination can take place during the assessment of employees at two stages: before and after recruitment as an employee. To make it more precise, they are discriminated against before being hired by a law firm based on the law school they attended, i.e., NLU vs. non-NLU candidates. In most cases, corporate firms have a strategy of hiring those candidates who have received extraordinary scores and attend prestigious law schools in India. There is also a scarcity of qualified mentors who can help people flourish in their careers. Students from lesser-known law schools are deemed to be non-intellectual and are not recognised or given a chance to demonstrate their capabilities. Post-employment discrimination includes cases like unfair treatment of an individual based on their age or religion, unequal payment of salaries to women, inhibiting promotion of an individual based on personal biases, sexual harassment at the workplace etc. Today victimisation can also be seen in law firms, where an individual is treated unfairly after supporting or filing a complaint against their seniors at the workplace. Employees experiencing discrimination at the workplace are more likely to suffer from health-related problems and mental distress than those who do not experience any form of discrimination or prejudice. Discrimination by corporate firms is not only restricted to its employees but also extends towards its customers. It can be seen that most law firms charge their clients differently for their services based on either their gender, income or religion. Big corporations choose to make vague and ambiguous contracts and use legal jargon to take advantage of their customers. It is difficult for a layman to understand complex legal language, making it difficult for them to properly interpret the details given in contracts, ultimately leading to misrepresentation and taking advantage of common people by big corporations and firms. To protect the interests of the common people, led to the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 by the Indian Parliament. Eliminating discriminatory practices might reduce a firm’s potential liability for complaints of unjust employment policies. Expenditure for legal advisers to defend a firm’s employment policies, as well as settlement fees, can bankrupt a firm. Employees can be demoralised and disheartened by discriminatory employment practices. Employees who are discriminated against or who are insulted by discriminatory practices eventually seek for the job elsewhere. It reduces the firm’s staff turnover. Unchecked workplace discrimination has disastrous impacts on the workforce, including decreased productivity and poor performance. Eliminating prejudice is critical for maintaining a productive workforce in which employees believe their employers value their skills, knowledge, and expertise. Employee dissatisfaction and discontent can potentially harm a firm’s reputation. In a competitive labour market, reputation is an essential differentiating factor. As a result, eradicating prejudice is a vital step in developing a workplace that embraces diversity.

Measures taken to reduce Discrimination

Various measures have been taken by Indian Government over the years to protect the interests of employees as well as customers from the shackles of Corporations. Certain clauses in the Indian Constitution prohibit discrimination, like Article 15[3] of the Indian Constitution prohibits the state from discriminating against its citizens based on their sex, race, caste, or gender. The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 addresses concerns about salary discrimination, recruiting, and promotion among employees. This Act suggests that men and women must be paid equally for equal work, and there must be no disparity in the salaries they receive. This Act further states that women must not be treated differently than men during the recruiting process and must not be discriminated against simply because of their gender. The Supreme Court of India issued guidelines against sexual harassment in the workplace in the case of Vishaka and Others v State of Rajasthan and Others in 1997[4], also known as Vishaka Guidelines. The guidelines outline certain procedures that employers must take to prevent cases of sexual harassment. The standards also state that women must have adequate employment conditions with regard to their health, hygiene and work.

Conclusion

Discrimination among employees can be observed in any workplace, including legal firms. It could be racial discrimination, gender bias, age discrimination, sexual discrimination, or discrimination against employees who lack technological expertise. Gender bias includes sexual harassment, which can be reduced by establishing grievance committees to investigate these issues. Following the inquiry, serious action must be taken against the accused to ensure that this does not occur again with other employees.

 In order to tackle them, anti-discriminatory policies must be implemented. Anti-discrimination measures must ensure that employees’ rights to equality are not jeopardised. If the discrimination continues in the legal field, it will violate the legal principles that the lawyers are acquainted with, which is a breach of the right to equality and justice. The only way to avoid prejudice is for a company to develop a policy that has no tolerance for any sort of discrimination and no shortage of opportunity. The corporation must maintain its stand on equality so that the policies it has implemented do not go underutilised. The firm must ensure that the policies are evaluated on a regular basis so that any new or modernized policy can be included in the battle against discrimination.

Author(s) Name: Zainul Abideen Khan (Savitribai Phule University, Pune)

References:

[1]Minyvonne Burke, ‘Ex-Amazon manager says she scoured applicants’ social media to determine race, gender’ (NBC News, 26 February 2020 <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ex-amazon-manager-says-she-scoured-applicants-social-media-determine-n1143441> accessed 27 December 2022 

[2] Tyler Sonnemaker, ‘A Facebook recruiter filed a federal complaint alleging the company is biased against Black employees and job candidates’ (Business Insider, 03 July 2020) <https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/news/a-facebook-recruiter-filed-a-federal-complaint-alleging-the-company-is-biased-against-black-employees-and-job-candidates/articleshow/76760658.cms?utm_source=copy-link&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Click_through_social_share> accessed 27 December 2022

[3] Constitution of India 1950, art 15

[4] Vishaka and Ors v State of Rajasthan & Ors. (1997) 6 SCC 241