Diversity: Trend vs. Legitimate Need
By: Gina Hopson


The Ever Changing Face of Employment
The face of employment is an every changing one and employers find themselves responding to these changes more often than not to conditions born out of the self-imposed need to maintain a certain public image/perception, rather than legitimate need-which is increasingly becoming the case with the issue of Diversity. As a consultant with years of experience in the employment industry, I would encourage employers to stop and consider whether or not being on rosters of "Best Places to Work" is a truly valid reason to invest time, capital and risk in an issue that has the potential to prove quite volatile. For example, many of my native-born-English speaking clients have expressed a growing resentment for job-postings that read: "Bi-lingual in Spanish and English preferred". Their cry is that this is discrimination, veiled in the term diversity.

Trend vs. Legitimate Need
If you're a Hospital Administrator in the state of California where the Hispanic population is one of the most voluminous in the nation and the nature of your business is health, few would likely question the legitimate need to have individuals on-staff capable of communicating with a parent who may have just entered the emergency room with a child who's swallowed a poisonous substance. However, companies who claim to operate with Diversity programs of Inclusion rarely ever post ads with the requirements: "Americans with Disabilities preferred". Just last week in the news it was reported that Dolly Pardon's theme park has been ordered to no longer allow free admission to individuals with disabilities, which is the result of a lawsuit brought against the park on the premise that this is discrimination against those without disabilities.

Following are a few additional viewpoints to consider, the first of which is a quote extracted from a recent article in USA Today:

"Q. Is workplace discrimination common?
Barrera: No. Times have changed. Twenty years ago, it wasn't cool to be Hispanic. It is now. It's up and coming, it's the trend; it's what you want to be. We've been out there becoming doctors and lawyers and politicians and, if I may, retail executives. We've been working really hard educating ourselves. It's out there for immigrants looking for a better life. They have to have that fire in their belly and go out and get it."

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A second viewpoint to consider is another USA Today article published in 2001, which is the same year we experienced 9/11-an event, which continues to negatively impact the job market for all Americans, yet it has been nearly 4 years since the article was written and already it was a warning for non-Spanish speaking Americans as to the possibility they can potentially find themselves unemployable if they cannot learn to speak Spanish.

Following is a quote extracted from the article:
"Americans are finding that not knowing Spanish can be a handicap, whether dealing with immigrants or schmoozing at a business lunch in the boss' native tongue. Even pop culture references sail over the heads of the unilingual - from the taco-craving Chihuahua's "Yo quiero Taco Bell" to the crazy life, "la vida loca," made famous by singer Ricky Martin. "There's nothing foreign about Spanish anymore. It's the second language of the United States," says Sam Slick, who founded Command Spanish, the nation's largest firm specializing in teaching Spanish for the workplace. But the rising linguistic tide also has sparked tension and resentment in many communities."

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As Americans continue to face high unemployment, they're concerned with any matters that serve to diminish their qualifications for hire in what suppose to be a fair-employment-practices market. As a result, legal considerations over this issue are likely to increase. Despite the growing number of Hispanics immigrating into the nation, the United States continues to be predominately English speaking. If you're an employer considering the implementation of a policy of inclusion, make certain that both your HR Generalists as well as Risk Managers have done their homework in this area and above all, make certain it's one based upon legitimate need and not trend.

This article was written and contributed by the President of Partnership Solutions, which is a network of independent professionals specializing in advanced administrative and computer-based technology services. To learn more, visit them at: http://www.partnershipsolutions.biz.