Workplace Discrimination in Healthcare Industry
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Discrimination in healthcare organizations in relation to management is a very important issue to consider because medical institutions are service-based companies that are required to meet numerous standards of established industry norms and challenging technical improvements. This is justified by the most important product of their activity which is healthcare. There are several particular discrimination issues that are faced by both potential and actual healthcare employees. This is believed to prevent patients from getting high level of service which results in re-hospitalizations, fatal errors, and other life-and-death problems.
This particular issue was chosen for analysis because of the interest in the working processes that take place inside non-commercial organizations and, especially, healthcare industry that always puts patients at the heart of the organization. The peculiarities of non-profit organizations here are combined with the unique features of medical institutions – the unparalleled environment is quite challenging and interesting to research. Our personal interest in the topic is that our career paths are leading towards the healthcare industry and its administrative policies and procedures. On the one hand, it is about producing a very unique service that is provided according to extremely specific parameters of each client (or patient). There are standard norms, requirements, statistics and figures that explain one or another disease. The doses for each therapy or medication course are clearly defined. On the other hand, dealing with human body health is a process that is sometimes beyond the explanation of science or human understanding.
In many cases, it is extremely difficult to forecast any outcomes; that is, why there is always a great risk of failure. Sometimes, these misfortunes or mistakes result in human deaths. However, even if there are many cases in which hospital specialists failed, it won’t necessarily mean that the amount of potential clients will decrease. Healthcare industry is not profit-oriented. Nevertheless, doctors and other medical specialists represent one of the well-paid positions in the U.S. The issue of discrimination in healthcare industry is quite specific due to the peculiarities of the job listed above, but, at the same time, they may relate to any sphere of business. For example, in healthcare industry discrimination is very important to evaluate the inequality of opportunity in other industries because this is one of the most challenging activities that require expertise, profound knowledge, completed education, physical stamina, and many other significant qualifications (Amble, 2003).
Working in healthcare industry is a lot about job satisfaction, and it is a very nice way to make a decent income. Workplace discrimination is worth covering in relation to healthcare organizational management because any type of inequality in any service organization results in the decreased level of customer satisfaction. However, in this case, this is not merely about losing the trust of the customer, but it is about losing people’s lives. When an employee, either potential or current, faces additional challenges in this stressful workplace, it becomes almost impossible to deliver the highest level of service to patients. Medical institutions that tolerate discriminations based on age, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or physical disabilities risk losing their best personnel because of prejudices and stereotypes.
Background and Context
The overview of the laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace includes such federal laws:
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Title VII. This act prohibits any discrimination based upon the race, ethnicity, age, gender and national origin. It is applicable to all local and state governments, education institutions, and private employers that contain more than 15 employees.
- Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is quite close to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – it simply applies all of its standards to the federal government as the hirer. Fair Pay Act of Lilly Ledbetter switches when the restrictions of a statute starts for the employees claims of salary discrimination according to Title VII and ADEA (the Age Discrimination in Employment Act). The claim that an unjust employment practice happens not merely when the employee is subject to unfair and illegal employment salary or practice, but when the worker is just a subject without any right to vote in the administration’s practice or decisions. Every time such things happen a compensation fee is required to be paid.
- Equal Pay Act of 1964 prohibits salary and pay discrimination based upon gender. Women and men who operate in identical working conditions must receive identical salary. Equal Pay Act includes all workers that are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act issued by federal government.
- PDA (Pregnancy Discrimination Act) protects the rights of mothers and newborn children; it prohibits any workplace discrimination based upon pregnancy condition and other medical conditions related to it.
- FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) protects the rights of pregnant women or other parents along with the rights of the employees who suffer from serious medical diseases or conditions. There were two new case types introduced to the main body of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Both of them protect the rights of the employees who are willing to join military service. A family leave protects the employment of the employees.
- Age Discrimination Act (or ADEA) prohibits any discrimination made based upon the age 40 and over. This act relates to local and state government institutions, employment agencies or other labor-oriented organizations, and any private employers that hire more than 20 employees.
- ADA Amendments Act and Americans-with-Disabilities Act prohibit any discrimination made against job applicants or employees that have proper qualification. Moreover, no associations should be made in relation to the individuals with disabilities. It means that if an employer assumes that a potential employee or job applicant has a disability, when in fact he doesn’t, no discrimination should take place. The list of covered employees and employers is identical to the one stated in the Title VII.
- The Civil Rights Act of the Nineteenth Century was changed in 1993 and protects the rights equally in accordance to the law and summarizes the damages taking place under the Title VII, the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act is a federal law act issued in 2008. It prohibits employment agencies, labor unions and employers from discriminating employees based upon their genetic information. Genetic information should not be used in underwriting decisions and/or setting up higher charges or premiums (US EEOC, 2010).
The federal laws are supported by the state and local laws applicable to separate communities. Many of them are identical to the federal acts, but there are several subcategories not mentioned in the federal documentation. They include:
- Discrimination of Sexual Orientation was first introduced in 2009 in the American House of Representatives. Employment Non-Discrimination Act (or EDNA) is now a federal act that is designed to prohibit workplace discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Therefore, discrimination of sexual orientation is not under the federal law as there are separate state municipalities and some states that prohibit bisexual, homosexual and transsexual workplace discrimination. Court cases related to the interpretation of the existing acts are great examples of the constant attempts to introduce sexual workplace anti-discrimination.
The current state of the law has both positive and negative tendencies: on the one hand all possible risk groups for workplace discrimination are embraced and protected by the corresponding federal laws but on the other hand these situations take place again and again, and in many cases it is not clear enough what is counted as discrimination at all. Another problem is the established procedure for filing a complaint – it should be very fast and detailed to get the approval from the EEOC, and the potentially discriminated employee always has a chance not be approved to sue the company.
Body of the Paper
The traditional procedure of claiming a workplace discrimination case starts with filing with the EEOC; if the claim is found reasonable by the EEOC, it may support the side of the employee suing the employer. If this occurs, a suing right letter will be issued allowing the employee to continue with his/her action. The employee is then able to file a discrimination complaint according to the federal law Title VII. Legal process then begins.
When it comes to the consequences of workplace discrimination, they are divided into two categories: the ones experienced by the employer, and the ones suffered by employees (Mayhew, 2010). The final losses may be tangible or intangible. The difficulty in determining workplace discrimination is that it is more visible in it is in material form. Tangible discriminations include penalties, fines, bad publicity, and legal expenses. The federal government has the authority to impose fines and penalties upon the violators; it results from the investigation and discovery of the workplace discrimination. There are several governmental bodies that are responsible for pressing penalties and fines on the violating employers: Wage and Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the U.S. Department of Labor. These organizations are empowered by Congress and also endorse the settlements of the employees if the act of work discrimination has been identified. The major discrimination costs and sanctions to be covered are related to the litigation of the workplace discrimination complaint. If workplace discrimination is not found, the investigation expenses, attorney fees, and reduced productivity of the company because of the time loss due to the required witness testimony are major setbacks for the organization. Moreover, if the employer is found guilty in the workplace discrimination, the jury may order the company to shoulder all case-related costs and attorney fees. The amounts of general sanctions such as punitive and compensatory damages, employment restoration, and pay back damages may become catastrophic.
Women appear to be the widest discriminated group, especially when it comes to salary difference gaps and hiring new workers (Gregory, 2003). The cases of racial discrimination still occur, but the previous old theories about the domination of one race versus another are now replaced by the misconceptions that the representatives of a certain culture may have unexpected influence on the final outcome (US EEOC, 2011). As for religious discriminations, their number has increased over the past few decades. The tension in political climate and lack of economic stability appeared to be the major stimulators for this phenomenon. Age discrimination is seen as well, hiring new workers based upon age restriction as one of the major criteria will, eventually, turn out as ineffective due to the latest demographic shifts that take place in both developed and developing countries. It is also useless to discriminate women as their number in the world population is constantly growing. The newer discrimination forms include disability, AIDS syndrome, and sexual orientation.
When it comes to the employer’s strategy, every manager should be aware of the possible ambitions, interests, needs and desires of each subordinate. It is highly recommended to receive feedback on any intergroup or in-group relations. The influence of peers may result in heavy wages and charges to the entire company. The best way is to track feedback from employees and make sure this information is processed by several independent executives. Good communication with employees is what every company needs to achieve.
As for the strategy of complying with the law or changing it, it is not reasonable to change the existing formulation in the shape of amendments and laws but all of the regulations need to be supported by real mechanisms of punishing the employer for workplace discrimination – at the current moment it is very difficult for the employee to prove he is right. Moreover, there are no industry specifications available – for instance, no discrimination specificity is provided for workplace discrimination in healthcare industry. The procedure of filing a complaint should be altered to become more feasible and simplistic for the employee. The employee should be less dependent on the regulatory and governmental bodies related to workplace discrimination cases.
One of the brightest court cases related to the issue of workplace discrimination in healthcare industry is the case of Staub vs. Proctor Hospital. It dwells upon the complaint of Vincent Staub who was a technician in Proctor Hospital located in Peoria, IL. The period of Vincent’s employment was from 1990 and until April 2004 when he was fired. Mr. Staub claimed that this happened because of his engagement in the military services. The original decision of the jury who supported the position of Mr. Staub was overturned by the Seventh Circuit Court. The latter believed that the manager responsible for firing Mr. Staub was unaware of his military service engagement. It still isn’t clear what the initial conflict was about because one of the executives was informed about Staub’s military service involvement and did not count it as a reasonable excuse for being absent. This means that the hospital schedule was not adjusted to fit the individual needs of each employee, and for Staub which was just a weekend a month and two training weeks in summer camp. The head of the department did not put much effort into protecting the rights of Staub. It felt like the second in command who was responsible for both preparing work schedules and bullying Staub for his military engagement had some serious prejudices against the personality of Staub and military camps in general. That executive was exceptionally rude and even tried to set up a plot against Staub. The decision of firing Staub was made by the human resources vice president who reviewed the disciplinary warnings and complaints connected to it. These warnings were based on the military reserve activities Staub had to be involved in for several times. The case was remanded while the original jury decision was put under the doubt of error. This healthcare workplace discrimination case demonstrates that the jurisprudential basis for conducting all the amendments and workplace discrimination protection regulations does not exist in real-life practice.
There are impressive grounds for fighting workplace discrimination in any sphere of activity, but they are not supported by real penalties that scare off violators. The cases taking place in relation to workplace discrimination are usually sued against the entire company but not a separate organizational element that is responsible for the violation.
Multiple cases of sexual discrimination in workplace of healthcare industry are found (Collins, 2009). The most frequent occasion is connected with gays not being accepted to a healthcare position because of the stereotypes and prejudices arising out of their homosexual, transsexual or bisexual orientation. One of the major problems in the current state of workplace discrimination in the U.S. jurisprudence is that no effective mechanisms of fighting for the right are developed for employees. The procedure of filing a complaint against employer is quite long and unpredictable, as employees fall under the influence of the EEOC and have to wait for the granted right to sue (Fishman, 2010).
The trend of the workplace discrimination is obvious; nowadays all American employees need to be hired, paid and treated based upon their qualifications, skills, knowledge, level of creative thinking, contribution, and other factors instead of age, gender, ethnicity, race, physical condition, or sexual orientation. The law protects employees from workplace abuse caused by colleagues and bosses, but tight time limits and red tape procedures apply. These are the reasons why protecting one’s rights is especially challenging for an employee as any procrastination leads to a failure. Many cases of discrimination are difficult or even embarrassing to report; for instance, many women feel too embarrassed to report sexual harassment.
Surely, more effective mechanisms of defining and finding workplace discrimination should be introduced. Employees need to have more equal opportunities to file a complaint because the existing procedure is quite long-lasting and requires high reaction speed. There is no necessity in developing newer theoretical amendments and acts intended to protect the right; the real mechanisms and instruments of influence on the violators should be introduced. The employees often feel uneasy to reveal their dissatisfaction with the current situation and abuse in order not to spoil the relationships inside the workgroup and with the boss. In many cases, bosses and peers are unaware of the discomfort and pressure the other part feels. However, when the conflict results in firing the employee, it is frequently too late to report any complaints due to the peculiarities of the legislative procedures. The system of reporting and filing complaints can be established online in order to preserve privacy and security of employees. Embarrassment and emotional reactions can also be eliminated with the help of establishing Internet committees that will work through all the complaints. The impact of the proposed change will be enormous; the organization will be able to preserve the most valuable staff members and specialists. The team building will improve greatly because the atmosphere of equality, understanding, and peace will result in the enhanced level of service provided to the patients. A strong team of professionals who cooperate for the benefit of the patient will be able to put their customer at the very heart of the organizational process instead of concentrating on prejudices and stereotypes. An effective informational system involving all the employees should be introduced to improve the level of trust and commitment inside the medical institution. The hospitals can also start social campaigns advertising tolerance, patience, understanding and flexibility in order to work for the benefit of the patients.
Summary and Recommendations
Healthcare industry is a very important sector that embraces all individuals and offers high salaries for all kinds of employment. However, workplace discrimination did not miss this branch of the industry, so the level of inequality is similar to the one shown in other companies. Medical institutions are non-profit organizations that work with high risks and involve stressful and challenging circumstances. In many cases, these peculiarities serve as stimulators for the discrimination.
The most popular forms of workplace discrimination in healthcare industry are those misjudgments based upon age, gender, physical condition, sexual orientation, military service, and engagement. In spite of the strong jurisprudential basis, many laws and regulations called to protect the right of the employees simply do not work in real-life situations (Chandler, 2010). The procedures of filing complaints are too long and procrastinated. The recommendation is to introduce an online employee complaints committee that will remove embarrassments and will ensure privacy, justice and speed barriers for the employee. This should be governmental and independent organization with many specialists who work for the benefit of the companies (including hospitals) and their customers.