What does diversity mean in the employment context?
A recent report on standards that federally regulated companies can use to evaluate their diversity policies and practices provides that diversity refers only to racial minorities and women. Minorities are defined as “Black Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.”
One might expect the term “diversity” to at least encompass protected classes under federal discrimination laws. After-all, these groups have been historically deprived of jobs and opportunities precisely because they are diverse from the mainstream.Yet older workers and the disabled are omitted from the definition of diversity set forth in the Final Interagency Policy Statement Establishing Joint Standards for Assessing the Diversity Policies and Practices of Entities Regulated by the Agencies.
The report was issued by six federal agencies pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The agencies are the Federal Reserve Board, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
The report recommends, among other things, that companies:
- Regularly conduct training and provide educational opportunities on equal employment opportunity, as well as diversity and inclusion.
- Use qualitative and quantitative measurements to assess workforce diversity inclusion efforts in applicant tracking, hiring, promotions, terminations, etc.
- Have supplier diversity policies that provide a fair opportunity for minority-and women-owned businesses to compete for procurement of goods and services.
Because older workers and the disabled are not included in the definition of diversity, regulated companies may feel under no obligation to assess their inclusion in the workplace, and whether they are subject to discrimination in hiring, promotions, terminations, etc. These groups will essentially be invisible, unless the company itself decides to incorporate them into their diversity efforts (which would be wise, given that they are protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act, respectively).
The omission of older workers and the disabled shows how far these groups still have to go to be free from insidious employment discrimination.
The report is called a non-binding, voluntary “general statement of policy.” The agencies plan to use voluntary disclosures by regulated companies to monitor progress and trends in employment and contracting and to identify best practices and successes.