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Seven ways to effectively ways of deal with incidents of racism in the workplace

by , 25 June 2013
Civil society group, Equal Education (EE) has asked Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to apologise publicly for a 'racist' statement she made last week. In her statement, Motshekga said EE was a 'group of white adults organising black African children with half-truths'. She was reacting to EE's announcement that it was taking her to court for breaching an agreement to publish the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure by 15 May, News 24 reports. While the minister's spokeswoman has said there were 'no racist intentions' in the minister's statement, managing incidents or allegations of racism in the workplace isn't as simple as dismissing them....

Racism in the workplace can take place on a micro-level between employees or between an employer and an employee or a specific group of employees.

For example, where an employee uses racist language to another employee or where a white employee refuses to work in a team with a black employee. Further, where an employer gives preferences to white employees and thereby prejudices black employees.

That's why it's crucial that you eradicate racism in the workplace.

So 'make sure you know how to create a peaceful and tolerant working environment and take action if racism rears its head. It's not worth the legal or financial cost,' cautions The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

Here's what you can do…

How to manage incidents of racism in the workplace

Encourage your employees to report any incidents of racism or racist behaviour to you so that you are made aware of issues before they escalate and can take action as soon as possible.

#2: Should you become aware of an incident of racism in your workplace, investigate the matter immediately. Failure to do so could result in you being held liable.

#3:If it transpires that an incident of racism has or have taken place, the employee who's suspected of having committed such acts must be disciplined in terms of your disciplinary code.

#4: Failure to report racism should in itself be regarded as a disciplinary offence and you should advise your employees of this. However, if it turns out that untrue and unfounded allegations of racism have been made, then the employee who made those allegations should be disciplined.

#5: Always remember to follow the correct procedures when applying the appropriate forms of discipline and consult your disciplinary code and procedure.

#6: Reassure the innocent employee that racism is not tolerated in your workplace and that the actions of the other employee will not be tolerated.

#7: Offer assistance to the employee who has been affected by an incident of racism. For example, you can give him time-off or counselling.

The dangers of allowing racism in the workplace

Racism in the workplace is often covert in nature and targeted employees are systematically undermined over a period, which undermines their confidence and ultimately their ability to perform.

Remember, irrespective of the size of your business, you must not allow racism of any form in your workplace as it is not tolerated in any circumstances the Constitution, various Acts of Parliament Employment Equity Act (EEA) and South African courts view it very seriously.

An employee who's subjected to racist slurs or racial harassment could have a claim under the EEA or under the Constitution and could even sue you in the Equality Court.

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