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Legal Landmines and Demographic Diversity

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Horace Blake
June 16, 2015

As the workplace evolves to meet global needs of private and public organizations, human resource policies should be structured to adapt to ensure effective management of our workforce. Among the issues that must be considered to reflect the values of 21st century workers are culture, family and marriage, as well as education and training. In addition, attention to national and civil law versus strict employment laws has to be bridged to avoid and overcome legal landmines.

Sunday may 2015

Changing demographics, ethnicity and expanding benefits to same sex couples has resulted in a new workplace. These dynamics are not the problem but how they are reflected in hiring and promotion. Basic HR standards dictate that the best person should always get the job. But those making this decision must be appropriately trained so they can recognize the subtleties that exist.

No need to the sound alarm bells

In most organizations, the Equal Employment Opportunity poster is visible, as the law requires. And most organizations are adhering to the law, including affirmative action plans where applicable.  Still, discussions about race, ethnicity or gender relations are touchy. Supreme Court cases and decisions demonstrate that there is still changing opinions related to policies that factor race, sex or ethnicity into hiring. There are those who argue that it affords opportunities to those would not normally be considered. However, we have to move beyond such assumptions and specifically examine:

  • Equal employment law and concepts.
  • Gender, race and ethnicity relations and training.
  • Ethical acknowledgement in employment selection.
  • Uniform guidelines.
  • Government enforcement agencies.

The changing landscape of race, ethnicity and gender relations

One of the largest waves of ethnicity came in the post-Vietnam War period as the children of U.S. soldiers with Vietnamese women arrived in the United States. As we moved into the 1980s and 1990s, there was an increased in mixed marriages resulting in mixed families. Currently, large groups of Americans identify with two or more races. This eclectic mix requires organizations to be ever mindful of how they manage diversity through education and training. Moving into the 21st century, organizations must also consider gender identification. It is even more important that organization know the law, promote inclusion and inherently adopt policies of protection for employees.

Ethics is the guiding light

To navigate what may seem a pathless road, agencies should first adhere to state and federal policies. These should be the guiding force in nondiscriminatory employment practices. However, inside a non-union organization, employees should encourage ethics codes and policies. Companies with very clear policies should make sure officers follow those policies vigilantly.


Author: Horace A. Blake has been involved in public service for more than 25 years. He currently serves on the city’s storm water management committee and previously served for three terms as co-chair, HOA Commissioner and well as on the city charter committee. Horace also served in a volunteer capacity for the State of Texas and Dallas County for eight years. He works as a county volunteer to register and educate voters and works with candidates seeking offices in the area.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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