What is equity in the workplace? Equity in the workplace means recognizing employees as individuals, from varying backgrounds with varying access to resources. It means that providing support to individual employees may be varied. And it means that businesses have an obligation to provide equity in the workplace for employees. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individual against employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, nationality, or religion. It is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the basis of those criteria. Additionally, businesses have the obligation to provide equity for employees of varying backgrounds and abilities because individuals have different needs. 

Here is an example: an individual from an economically challenged area may have experienced a different quality of education from an individual from a wealthy area. The individual from the economically challenged area may be hardworking and intelligent, but have experienced a lower level of publicly funded education than the individual from the wealthier neighborhood. But don’t these two individuals deserve the same rights in the workplace, and doesn’t the workplace owe the individual from the economically disadvantaged neighborhood the chance to learn and to excel? It does, and in order to do so the workplace needs to provide opportunities for continuing education and professional development as well as equitable compensation for hard work.

Individuals may also be experiencing differences in the forms of barriers to employment. These may include, but not be limited to, economic level, educational background, immigrant status, cultural background, diversity of physical and mental ability, parenting status such as being a single parent, and experience in the criminal justice system. Companies have the opportunity to level the playing field for individuals of these varying backgrounds by providing equity in the workplace.

How can we promote equity in the workplace? Equity in the workplace can begin in the hiring process by taking into account that individuals have differences and by educating hiring team members of unconscious biases that they may not be aware of within themselves. When it comes to salaries companies have the obligation to self-examine: are they providing equity across the board in salaries in consideration of gender, race, age, and ability? And is the workplace providing fair accommodations to employees that may have physical or mental health conditions, language barriers, or who may be a single parent? 

These are only a few of the considerations to be taken into account in order to create equity in the workplace. It is both the opportunity and the obligation of companies and organizations to create an equitable workplace for each individual employee, a process which takes time, resources, and planning and which results in positive change for the world.

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