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The Importance of “Diversity Thinking” — and Compliance

All federal employees should be mindful of the importance of workforce diversity, especially federal managers. Executive Order 13583 was signed by President Obama in August 2011: Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce.

According to E.O. 13583:

  • “Our Nation derives strength from the diversity of its population and from its commitment to equal opportunity for all. We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges.”
  • “As the Nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government has a special obligation to lead by example. Attaining a diverse, qualified workforce is one of the cornerstones of the merit-based civil service.”
  • “To realize more fully the goal of using the talents of all segments of society, the Federal Government must continue to challenge itself to enhance its ability to recruit, hire, promote, and retain a more diverse workforce.”
  • “Further, the Federal Government must create a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness to enable individuals to participate to their full potential.”

A Foregone Conclusion

There is no shortage of studies and surveys to show the critical importance of diversity in the workplace, whether in the public sector or the private sector.

This is particularly true as the nation, along with the U.S. Labor Force, becomes increasingly more diverse. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics/Latinos and Asian Americans represent the fastest growing demographic groups.

To most people the benefits of workplace diversity are a forgone conclusion in the 21st century. However, apparently not everyone agrees with the Uncle Sam’s ongoing diversity efforts.

Detractors of proactive workforce diversity efforts should recall that in addition to the public sector, most of corporate America has embraced diversity best practices because they simply make good business sense. The business case for diversity is well documented.

Bringing People Together

The bottom line is that all people need to remember that diversity and inclusion bring people together rather than pulling them apart.

It should be self-evident by now that diverse people bring diverse ideas and viewpoints to the table which promote positive change and innovation. A diverse workforce challenges traditional and antiquated thinking. This subsequently improves productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of business operations and expands the consumer base.

Unfortunately, employment discrimination still remains an unwelcome scourge in the modern workplace – whether blatant or implicit, conscious or unconscious. This is another reason why equal employment opportunity (EEO) and diversity/inclusion programs are of utmost importance for all workplaces.

The federal government knows this and has taken the lead in proactively promoting diversity programs at every agency and serving as a model for the private sector.

Workforce diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity efforts all need to flourish in tandem if the USA wants to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

The federal government understands this vital principle and has taken persistent steps to ensure a diverse workforce for all individuals, regardless of race, color, gender, disability, religion, national origin, age and even genetic information.

In short, fostering workplace diversity is smart thinking — and there’s no fallacy about that.


Also check out: Top New Year’s Resolutions for Uncle Sam: #1 Fostering Diversity Gov-wide

* All views and opinions are those of the author only.

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The only caveat I can see to “diversity thinking” vs. compliance with EEO law is that many employers use diversity as a smokescreen or an alternative to EEO compliance. Learn more on March 12 at 9:30 am EST. EEOC To Discuss Social Media’s Impact On The Workplace | The National Law Review http://t.co/yJtPb0tpOj #cswglobal14

Phuong Le Callaway, PhD

I cannot agree more, “Workforce diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity efforts all need to flourish in tandem if the USA wants to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

Julie Chase

#4 & #6….children…pregnancy and caring for senior parents. In right to hire states the firing…and reducing of hours is common place in the private sector. They don’t have to give you a reason…you’re gone. #5 I don’t think the fed should be in the religion business. Keep it separate. If the fed workplace has prayer rooms….I believe that would be ridiculous. If you need to pray…there 2 scheduled breaks and lunch. I don’t expect an accommodation for that. Unless you want to give me every Holy Day of Obligation off with pay….and there are many. I would need Holy Thursday…Good Friday too of course. (Which incidentally we don’t get that off).

David B. Grinberg

JULIE, thank you so much for sharing your insightful comments and practical observations. You’re absolutely correct about “at will” employment in the private sector. Last in, first out, late for a meeting — however one cuts it, some private employers can be cut-throat.

Also, under Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act — which turns 50 in July — employees may request religious accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs and practices. However, employers may choose to address that on a case-to-case basis.

Still it’s a safe bet that applicants with such requests will fare better in the public sector than the private sector because the federal government strives to be a model workplace.

DR. CALLAWAY: thank you for continued support of, and commitment to, workforce diversity and inclusion — in addition to justice and equality in the workplace.

Julie Chase

Yes there are accommodations for religion but here it is not an issue. A prayer room imho is not necessary. In a hospital yes…that is understandable. In a large office bldg. Not so much. Even in a civil service workspace. As a support for the military there is a chapel on every base. If I wanted to attend the Ash Wednesday Mass in the afternoon. ….my supervisor would say sure….go ahead…just email me your leave slip. That is the way it is. When we have gatherings like a shop Thanksgiving. …someone says the blessing before tbe meal. As a Catholic in Baptist country…I do the sign of the cross…as do my other co workers who are Catholic. If one person objected to the blessing…that would end it. No one has objected. I have a picture of St Michael on my office wall with the prayer to St Michael. My supervisor reminded me if anyone objected. …I would have to take it down. I understand. It has been up there for over 10 yrs and some sailors and Marines said it comforted them.

David B. Grinberg

Julie, thanks again for your comments. You may want to check out this web link, FYI, for more information on religion in the workplace. I hope this is helpful — and I wish you all the best.

David B. Grinberg

FYI: Did you you that EEOC is led by a bi-partisan group of five commissioners appointed by the President. The current Commission is comprised of all women and led by EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien. Meet the all the commissioners here.

Also, EEOC held a very inspiring and informative Women History Month internal program yesterday which featured a panel discussion with three commissioners. Here’s a photo…from left to right:

Commissioner Jenny Yang, Legal Counsel & panel moderator Peggy Mastroianni, Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic. The program was held at EEOC HQ in Washington and video streamed to EEOC employees in over 50 field offices nationwide.

Photo Credit: Tyler Clemons

David B. Grinberg

Check out this White House blog post by EEOC’s newest Commissioner, Jenny Yang. The article, entitled Protecting Employment Rights Across the Country, highlights efforts to “improve federal access and advancement for the AAPI community.” (AAPI = Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders).