Top Diversity Articles of 2014

Jan 2, 2015

Pregnancy discrimination. Offensive Halloween costumes. ‘Deadly sins’ for women at work.

Those were among 2014’s best-read SHRM Online diversity and inclusion stories. Here’s a look at the articles that captured readers’ attention during the past year:

Labeling Millennials: Is It Misguided and Discriminatory?

Lazy. Unfocused. Demanding. Overly dependent. If an HR manager caught you labeling all workers older than 50 this way, he or she would haul you aside for a chat on age discrimination. Yet these terms are frequently used—in news articles, books, speeches and, yes, workplaces—to characterize the entire generation known as Millennials.

Yang: Pregnancy Discrimination and Workplace Retaliation Remain Problems

Women suffering workplace repercussions while pregnant or raising children and workers who are retaliated against by their employers for pursuing discrimination claims are two areas Jenny R. Yang plans to focus on as the newly named chairwoman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Yang is the first Asian-American to lead the national agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws and champions equal employment opportunities.

Women in Science, Engineering and Tech Leaving ‘in Droves’

Startling numbers of women working in science, engineering and technology (SET)—the same industries that grade schools are urging girls to pursue—are considering leaving those fields because of gender bias, a new report found.

The report by the Center for Talent Innovation, a global think tank, discovered that, despite high ambition and passion for their work, women in SET fields in the U.S., Brazil, China and India are “languishing in the middle rungs of their organizations and, as a result, are much more likely than men to report that they plan to leave the industry within the year.”​

Deadly Sins for Women at Work

Aimee Cohen admits that she tends to buy into the myth that “everything has to be perfect.” She shares this about herself to illustrate how she, like so many women, practice bad habits—Cohen likes to call them “sins”—that can sabotage their careers.

“It’s the Martha Stewart syndrome—you can’t bring store-bought cookies to your child’s class; they have to be homemade with homemade sprinkles,” said Cohen, author of Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success (Morgan James, 2015). “I fall into this trap. Writing this book really brought that home. If I was going to wait for every word in it to be perfect, it would have never made it into your hand. It’s paralyzing that you can second-guess yourself over and over.”​

Of Ebola, Terrorists and Plane Crashes

Ebola containment suits. ISIS terrorists. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 passengers.

Welcome to potentially popular—and problematic—costumes that could show up at your workplace Halloween party.​

Of Hijabs, Short Skirts and Rastafarian Locks

The EEOC has issued a new publication addressing workplace responsibilities regarding religious dress and grooming under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In fiscal year (FY) 2013, the EEOC received 3,721 charges alleging religious discrimination—a number that has more than doubled since FY 1997, when 1,709 charges were filed. In a question-and-answer guide, released March 6, 2014, the commission gave employers practical advice about the law by offering examples based on EEOC litigation.

The new guidance points out that examples of religious dress and grooming practices include wearing religious clothing or accessories, such as a Muslim hijab (headscarf), a Sikh turban or a Christian cross; observing a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments, such as the Muslim, Pentecostal Christian or Orthodox Jewish women's practice of not wearing pants or short skirts; and adhering to shaving or hair-length observances, such as a Sikh’s uncut hair and beard, Rastafarian dreadlocks or Jewish peyes (sidelocks).

Future Pregnancies Now Addressed in EEOC Guidance

After a high-level executive with a 2-year-old son told her manager she was trying to get pregnant, the manager said a pregnancy could interfere with her job responsibilities, and two weeks later demoted her to a position that paid less and had no supervisory duties.

The EEOC went after the employer, concluding that the manager’s actions and the demotion’s timing amounted to unlawful discrimination.

That’s one of many examples the EEOC provides in its new Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance, which now addresses discrimination based on the intention to become pregnant, and not just against women who are currently pregnant.

Including All Employees During the Holidays

Atheists, Muslims and other employees who don’t celebrate Christmas often feel left out amid the workplace holiday parties and department-decorating contests. How can employers create a spirit of celebration while remaining sensitive to the needs of all workers?

“It’s fine to have a holiday party,” said employment attorney Doug Kauffman, a partner with Balch and Bingham LLP in Birmingham, Ala. “You have to be careful not to water down the season just to be politically correct or sensitive to those who don’t celebrate.”

Pay Is Millennials’ Top Job Concern, Survey Says

Forget the idea that Millennials would rather have flexible hours than a good salary. A recent survey by websites Business Insider and News to Live By found that pay came first when U.S. adults ages 18 to 36 were asked what matters most to them in a job, followed by meaningful work and a positive relationship with co-workers.

Flexibility was important, but it trailed in fourth place.

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