Today’s guest blog is brought to you by our crew at Inspiring Interns.
In the business world, people’s biases and prejudices may enter into the equation, leading third parties such as clients to engage in discriminatory behavior. This can manifest in a variety of ways, including direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimization. All of these forms of discrimination can take place on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability, age, and religion.
When you have a discriminatory client, it can be quite awkward and tricky to deal with the situation. But there are anti-discrimination laws that every company needs to abide by, and these should be taken into account when confronting a discriminatory client. Moreover, as a company, your overall reputation and success are partly determined by your commitment to equality and fairness.
A client may behave in a discriminatory way by making racist comments or through their unfair business decisions. It is important to resolve the issue in a professional way, following the right procedures. Racism is not always overt – it may be a case of preferring particular candidates over others, without explicitly stating this is due to any particular characteristics, which makes this issue doubly difficult.
Ending the Business Relationship
As a company, protecting your brand and reputation is of paramount importance. For this reason, as well as one’s moral compass, every business should take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. So, if a client ever made a racist, sexist, or bigoted comment against an employee at your company, this may be enough to cut all ties with them.
A client can also be guilty of an order to discriminate, which is when you ask someone to discriminate. For example, a client may ask a temping agency not to accept foreign applicants for a particular job. As a company taking a zero-tolerance approach to this kind of behavior, you may tell such a client that you are now ending your business relationship with them.
Trying to Resolve the Issue
In the face of discriminatory behavior from a client, cutting all ties with them is not always the wisest approach. Indeed, there are often contexts and approaches that can allow you to resolve the issue and continue your business relationship with a client.
For example, a client can be both an individual and a company as a whole. If a particular individual representing a client is behaving in a discriminatory way, then you could raise the issue with that individual’s boss. His or her boss may take whatever approach is necessary to ensure that the business relationship can continue. The perpetrator may face a disciplinary hearing and if discrimination is found, then the individual could receive a disciplinary punishment, ranging from a formal warning to summary dismissal.
On the other hand, if the discriminatory behavior in question is taking place at a company-wide or managerial level, then the problem becomes more challenging. You may inform your client of the seriousness of the problem, while raising the legal implications. This may be enough to ensure that amends are made and the problem won’t arise again in the future.
Discrimination is against the law, so as a business, you are well within your rights to take legal action. However, taking a client to an employment tribunal can be a long, stressful, and expensive process. Also, if you lose the case, then you may have to pay the client for their legal costs. This is why it’s crucial to seek guidance from an experienced adviser before taking court action.
Before going to court, it’s recommended you exhaust all other options. You may be able to fix the problem by having a direct conversation with the discriminatory client, explaining the impact of their behavior, and requesting a formal apology. This approach, however, does not always work; in which case court action be may be necessary. If that’s how things turn out, then you first need to ensure that discrimination has taken place by referring to the relevant legislation. Before taking action, you also need to establish the facts of your case, including:
- The person or organization responsible for the discrimination
- What exactly happened
- When and where the discrimination took place
- Whether anyone else witnessed the discrimination
- The disadvantage or harm you suffered. Without establishing this, it’s unlikely that you will win your case
- Specific examples of unfair treatment
- Why you think you were treated unfairly in these situations
- Whether you have experienced discrimination before
You start the court proceedings by issuing a claim form, which normally incurs a fee you have to pay the court. On your claim form, you need to include the details of your claim, including how the client behaved and why you think this is unlawful. You can also highlight what action you want the court to take, such as compensation. Once you’ve made the claim, the next steps depend on how the client responds.
Since discrimination law is highly complex, it’s important to seek out expert advice as early as possible. This will make it a lot easier to deal with discriminatory clients and resolve the issue in an appropriate manner.
Click the link to view the recent blog: FMLA, ADA, & Workers’ Comp – Navigating the Triangle or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance and benefits.
Sam Woolfe writes for Inspiring Interns, the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency He is particularly interested in self-development, psychology, mental health, and the future of work. Most of all, though, Sam is passionate about helping people find work that is meaningful and fulfilling. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his work at www.samwoolfe.com.