Discrimination at the workplace is a complicated phenomenon due the existence of numerous competing interests. This complexity is further compounded by recent findings that some types of discrimination results to economic benefits to the employer. Such complexities seem to be the reason why there are too many anti-discrimination laws in America.
Freakonomists, like other professionals, have tried to provide a statistical analysis of discrimination at the work place, and view it from a race-based perspective.
Statistical discrimination is viewed as the perceived ability of a worker based race, which influences the chances of employment (Harford, 2007). In comparison to the unconscious theory of discrimination, statistical discrimination seems to involve non-racial stereotypes such as age and gender. For instance white males seem to be less discriminated against as compared to females and other minority groups.
Additionally, people are perceived as belonging to a social group rather than as individuals. This clouds judgment on unique individual abilities (Orey, 2006: Harford, 2007). In contrast, unlike statistical discrimination, the theory of unconscious discrimination perceives discrimination as unconscious and that it influences split-second decision making, especially regarding hiring for top management positions.
This implies that managers are unaware that their hiring practices are discriminatory (Orey, 2006). On the other hand, statistical discrimination is prevalent and seems to improve a company’s profits. This implies that employers are likely to overlook prospective employees if they are not white males, since white males seem to generate good business. This makes statistical discrimination almost impossible to eliminate (Harford, 2007).
These theories do indeed highlight the need for laws and policies against discrimination, especially regarding hiring practices. Other than the fact that such discriminatory practices overlook unique abilities from minorities and women, they also curtail their growth, development and professional achievement. Additionally, anti-discriminatory law is likely to enlighten employers on unconscious bias towards minorities and women, and how these biases ought to be eliminated.
These theories portray discrimination at the work place as automatic, and that it goes beyond the simple issues of race and gender. There is an economic dimension to discrimination, which cannot be overlooked. Post (2000) argues that anti-discrimination laws exists to “neutralize widespread forms of prejudice that pervasively disadvantage persons based upon inaccurate judgments about their worth or capacities”.
However, there are laws and policies that do not serve this purpose, due to their economic un-sustainability. These include laws and policies that require employers to have compulsory affirmative action programs to facilitate hiring from minorities and people from disadvantaged groups.
These laws only seem to work on the short term as they are implemented as legal requirements rather than for the promotion of growth and development of minority groups. Employers are uncertain of their economic benefits since they negatively affect a company’s productivity (Moran, 2012). This assertion should be viewed in light of Harford’s (2007) assertion that statistical discrimination improves a company’s profits.
In light of this, it is evident that there is need for more anti-discriminatory legislation to address the present realities. Since compulsory affirmative action programs are not sustainable on the long term, there is need for the government to legislate new laws on voluntary affirmative action programs. Such legislation ought to consider the plight of marginalized groups without having significant negative economic effects on employers (Moran, 2012).
The assertions made above indicate that changing societal dynamics impacts on the way discrimination is perceived. In light to this, it is imperative for laws to be changed at the same pace as changes in these dynamics. This ensures that the law does not become obsolete.
Harford, T. (2007, Feb). The achievement gap. Forbes Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/25/economics-discrimination-education- lead_achieve07_cz_th_0301discrimination.html
Moran, R. (2012). Whatever happened to racism? Retrieved from http://www.allbusiness.com/government/employment-regulations-u-s-equal-employment/4073535-1.html
Orey, M. (2006, May). White men can’t help it. Bloomberg Business Week. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_20/b3984081.htm
Post, R. (2000). Prejudicial appearances: the logic of American antidiscrimination law. California Law Review. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?