BEST PRACTICES SERIES: Best Practices for Employers and Human Resource Professionals

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

How to Prevent Race and Color Discrimination in the Workplace


  • Respect cultural and racial differences in the workplace.
  • Be professional in conduct and speech.
  • Refuse to initiate, participate, or condone discrimination and harassment.
  • Avoid race-based or culturally offensive humor or pranks. When in doubt, leave it outside the workplace.
  • Familiarize yourself with the company’s workplace policies and act responsibly.
  • Attend training on EEO principles and learn about your legal rights and responsibilities under the anti-discrimination laws. Also visit for information on discrimination and harassment.
  • Be pro-active. Report incidents of inappropriate, discriminatory, harassing or abusive behavior to your supervisor, Human Resources department, union, or management.

If you experience or witness discrimination or harassment contact EEOC or your local human rights commission

  • Train Human Resources managers and all employees on EEO laws. Implement a strong EEO policy that is embraced at the top levels of the organization. Train managers, supervisors and employees on its contents, enforce it, and hold them accountable.
  • Promote an inclusive culture in the workplace by fostering an environment of professionalism and respect for personal differences.
  • Foster open communication and early dispute resolution. This may minimize the chance of misunderstandings escalating into legally actionable EEO problems. An alternative dispute-resolution (ADR) program can help resolve EEO problems without the acrimony associated with an adversarial process.
  • Establish neutral and objective criteria to avoid subjective employment decisions based on personal stereotypes or hidden biases.

Recruitment, Hiring, and Promotion

  • Recruit, hire, and promote with EEO principles in mind, by implementing practices designed to widen and diversify the pool of candidates considered for employment openings, including openings in upper level management.
  • Monitor for EEO compliance by conducting self-analyses to determine whether current employment practices disadvantage people of color, treat them differently, or leave uncorrected the effects of historical discrimination in the company.
  • Analyze the duties, functions, and competencies relevant to jobs. Then create objective, job-related qualification standards related to those duties, functions, and competencies. Make sure they are consistently applied when choosing among candidates.
  • Ensure selection criteria do not disproportionately exclude certain racial groups unless the criteria are valid predictors of successful job performance and meet the employer’s business needs. For example, if educational requirements disproportionately exclude certain minority or racial groups, they may be illegal if not important for job performance or business needs.
  • Make sure promotion criteria are made known, and that job openings are communicated to all eligible employees.
  • When using an outside agency for recruitment, make sure the agency does not search for candidates of a particular race or color. Both the employer that made the request and the employment agency that honored it would be liable.

Terms, Conditions, and Privileges of Employment

  • Monitor compensation practices and performance appraisal systems for patterns of potential discrimination. Make sure performance appraisals are based on employees’ actual job performance. Ensure consistency, i.e., that comparable job performances receive comparable ratings regardless of the evaluator, and that appraisals are neither artificially low nor artificially high.
  • Develop the potential of employees, supervisors, and managers with EEO in mind, by providing training and mentoring that provides workers of all backgrounds the opportunity, skill, experience, and information necessary to perform well, and to ascend to upper-level jobs. In addition, employees of all backgrounds should have equal access to workplace networks.
  • Protect against retaliation. Provide clear and credible assurances that if employees make complaints or provide information related to complaints, the employer will protect employees from retaliation, and consistently follow through on this guarantee.


Adopt a strong anti-harassment policy, periodically train each employee on its contents, and vigorously follow and enforce it. The policy should include:

  • A clear explanation of prohibited conduct, including examples;
  • Clear assurance that employees who make complaints or provide information related to complaints will be protected against retaliation;
  • A clearly described complaint process that provides multiple, accessible avenues of complaint;
  • Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the extent possible;
  • A complaint process that provides a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation; and
  • Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

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Overview of USEEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.