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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

How unconscious bias leads to employment discrimination

On Behalf of | May 5, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination |

Unconscious bias refers to the unconscious attitudes, stereotypes and assumptions that people hold about certain groups of people based on characteristics such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation or religion. These biases can influence our behavior and decision-making, even when we are unaware of them.

In the workplace, unconscious bias can result in discrimination in hiring, promotion and other employment-related decisions, harming the company’s culture and performance.

To overcome unconscious bias in the workplace, employers can take several steps:

  • Raise awareness. Employers can conduct training sessions, workshops or seminars. These can help employees learn about the types of biases and how they can manifest themselves in the workplace.
  • Encourage self-reflection. Employees can be encouraged to have group discussions. Here, they can share their experiences and broaden their perspectives.
  • Create inclusive policies and practices. Implementing diverse hiring practices, flexible work arrangements and mentoring programs can promote inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.
  • Use data to inform decision-making in hiring and promotion processes. They can analyze their applicant pool’s diversity and workforce demographics to identify areas where bias may be present.
  • Foster a culture of feedback. Providing feedback to their colleagues and managers about their behavior and decisions can help identify instances of bias and provide opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Hold leaders accountable. Leaders can create an inclusive and diverse workplace through performance evaluations that include metrics related to diversity and inclusion.

By taking these steps, employers can create a more inclusive and diverse workplace where all employees feel valued and supported.

Can employers get sued for unconscious bias?

Although it refers to biases that individuals hold without being aware of them, employers may still be held liable if an employee felt discriminated against.

For example, suppose there is a female employee who was not selected for a promotion. She believes that she was passed over because the hiring manager prefers men over women for the job.

Even if the manager was not aware of this bias, the employee can file a complaint or a lawsuit. If the employee proves that they were discriminated against based on their protected characteristics, the manager may still be liable for damages.

Overcoming unconscious bias is an ongoing process and requires commitment from all levels of the organization. It may be hard to identify them, but there are steps that can be taken to prevent them from happening in the workplace.