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Discrimination at Work

While Americans remember slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. on the national holiday honoring his contributions to equal rights, taking a hard look at the state of workplace is disheartening. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 15 percent of American workers still experience some form of workplace discrimination.

According to Gallup, nearly one in four women was a victim of discrimination in 2005, more than twice the number of men. Among racial and ethnic groups, 31 percent of Asians, 26 percent of African Americans, and 18 percent of Hispanics reported discrimination incidents at work. But that's not all: 17 percent of workers said they were discriminated because of their age, 9 percent because of a disability, 4 percent because of their sexual orientation, and 4 percent because of their religion.

How can discrimination be this prevalent when companies everywhere conduct diversity training, form diversity councils, and preach diversity as a core value? Bluntly stated, for many organizations, it's all lip service. Whatever their stated reasons for implementing diversity programs, most companies do so, not to discourage discriminating behavior, but as insurance to mitigate lawsuit settlements that might result in their business-as-usual practices.

Employees are not naive. Gallup found that employees who rate their company's diversity efforts highly are more likely to remain loyal to their employer. But when workers sense that their organizations' commitment to diversity is insincere, their loyalty wanes.

Susan Meisinger, president of the Society for Human Resource Management, said it best: "In today's global marketplace, workforce diversity is not a politically or morally correct obligation--it is also a business imperative. It simply makes good business sense to use the talents of all workers."
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