Essay on Strengths and Limitations of Equity Policies in the Workplace

Published: 2021/11/24
Number of words: 2437

Like in most places, the workplace is filled with people from varied backgrounds. To be effective and, more importantly, to attain success and increase profitability, companies must adequately manage this diversity; they must ensure that aspects such as prejudice and biasness do not happen in the working places (Berrey, Nelson & Nielsen, 2017). The government also legislates policies for companies to follow. The importance of these policies is that they provide employees and employers with standardized frameworks to manage inequality and discrimination issues (Berrey, Nelson & Nielsen, 2017). This paper is critical as it critically assesses the strengths and limitations of some of these policies.

Prevalence of Workplace Discrimination and Inequality Issues in The United States

Discrimination and inequality are among the many contemporary work and employment issues (Colella & King, 2018). These are prevalent problems that tend to threaten the success and the very nature that holds society together. Despite their prevalence and the consequences that follow discriminative acts, people still find themselves entangled in the possibilities of these menaces. In fact, various studies indicate that discrimination and workplace inequality continue to flourish, despite many states employing policies that deter these instances. For instance, a study that analyzed workplace trends from 1997 to 2015 found that over one million discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (McMahon & McMahon, 2016). Thirty-four percent of these cases were related to race, 32 percent were related to disability, and the rest were linked to issues of sex.

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Another study conducted between 2009 and 2014 found a total of 916,623 discrimination cases files with the EEOC (Kim, 2015). The highest rates of discrimination within these cases occurred in southern states, with Alabama experiencing the highest discrimination rates, followed by Mississippi (Kim, 2015). Looking at the numbers and the commonness of workplace discrimination in the United States, one may be tempted to think that there are no laws that govern employer-employee relationships while in the workplace, which is not the case. Different US states and the federal government have policies that direct fairness in the workplace. The 1963 Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among others, are some of the available policies that direct workplace employer-employee relationships (Kim, 2015). Nevertheless, all these policies have their strengths and limitations, directly affecting American workers in diverse ways.

Strengths of Workplace Equity Policies

The 1963 Equal Pay Act is one known policy that brought significant workplace changes (Fredman, 2011). Equal Pay Act is one of the federal anti-discrimination policies that addressed wage differences based on gender. The Act was an effort to correct the over 100-year-old problem of wage inequalities that inappropriately affected American women (Fredman, 2011). In the 20th century, women made up a quarter of the American workforce, but they were often paid less than men, even in areas where they performed the same jobs. In some jurisdictions, female employees were forced to contend with policies that affected their working schedules. This policy is significant as it corrected these instances. More importantly, the policy bridged the gap between the rich and the poorest in America. A study by Rubery and Grimshaw (2015) indicated that income inequality has been decreasing in the United States as a result of many companies adapting to the Equal Pay Act. In the 1980s, the average income of the wealthiest 10 percent in the United States was nine times higher than the most deficient 10 percent; today, it is about seven times higher (Rubery & Grimshaw, 2015). The Equal Pay Act worked best at keeping salary and wage decisions from being based on the gender of the employee. It bridged the gap between the rich and the poor but significantly improved how each part of the production is split. In other words, it improved the division of labor. For the first time, women were allowed to work in specific job areas while not sacrificing their wages.

Division of labor is, according to Kurtz, Linnemann, and Williams (2012), an economic idea which states that dividing production into different processes enables workers to concentrate on specific tasks, therefore, adding to overall efficiency. For instance, if a worker can concentrate on one small aspect of production, the overall efficiency of the business will increase. Most people argue that labor division in cases where women are given preferential treatment results from biological traits. However, if one looks at this closely, it is possible to see societies where women perform tasks regarded as men’s jobs in other societies. Moreover, when the Equal Pay Act was passed, most women worked as secretaries and typists; it was hard to find women in significant managerial positions. Today women occupy 10 percent of top managerial positions in S&P 1500 companies (Costantini et al., 2020). The number of women in senior management positions is also increasing in the global context. For example, the percentage of women in senior management positions grew by 29 percent in 2019, which is the highest number ever reported (Costantini et al., 2020). Most would argue that the Equal Pay Act brought equality into the workplace and enabled people to see labor as a commodity; one is paid per the work done, not based on gender. This concept, according to Marx (2020), is known as labor-power. Under capitalism, labor power becomes a commodity that can be purchased and sold in the market, according to Karl Marx (2010). In other words, a worker tries to sell their labor-power to an employer in exchange for wages.

Another policy that has triggered significant workplace changes and eradicated workplace discrimination and inequality is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1964 Civil Rights Act is a landmark labor law that outlaws discrimination based on color, race, sex, national origin, and sexual orientation (Berrey, Nelson & Nielsen, 2017). The importance of this policy is that it hastened the end of Jim crow laws, which enforced racial segregation in the southern United States. The policy ensured that African Americans were provided with equal access to restaurants and other public facilities. It allowed blacks and other racial minorities to break down barriers in the workplace. This Act, just like the 1963 Equal Pay Act, removed inequality in American workplaces; African Americans were allowed to work freely in American corporations. More importantly, they were given salaries equal to other races, including the whites (Rubery & Grimshaw, 2015). This law is even more significant today as more and more groups, including the LGBT, are accorded similar status and protection under this law. The idea that this policy protects a wide range of groups and individuals is among the greatest strengths of this Act.

Limitation of Workplace Equality Policies

It is essential to understand that anti-discrimination and inequality policies are often organized around fixed categories of potentially disadvantaged groups: ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, among other groups. The idea that workplace anti-discrimination and inequality policies protect a selected group of disadvantaged people is one of the most significant limitations. This is a limitation because many other individuals, including white males, do not belong to any of these disadvantaged groups. For instance, a white male may be dismissed from his job because he is white-skinned or can be dismissed to create space for another black male. This instance, according to Coston and Kimmel (2012), is known as reverse discrimination; prejudice and discrimination directed to a person based on their membership of a privileged racial or ethnic group.

Reverse discrimination can happen with the Equal Pay Act. In this case, men tend to be underpaid, and women’s wages tend to overpass the wages offered to men. This situation can also be observed with the Civil Rights Act. The 2009 Ricci vs. DeStefano supreme court case offers an excellent case study of how this can happen. The US Supreme Court agreed that the plaintiffs, in this case, white employees, were unfairly kept from job promotions because of their race. The court found the defendant, the New Haven Fire Department, guilty of discrimination against the whites to remedy discrimination against African Americans. Reverse workplace discrimination happens, and more significantly, it threatens the progress made by the majority. In a national survey conducted by National Public Radio, the majority of whites (55 percent) confirmed that white Americans face increased rates of discrimination in the United States (Gonyea, 2017). They agreed that most American companies favored blacks more than whites in job applications. In other words, it would be correct to say that the policies enacted by the government to deter discriminative workplace behaviors increase discrimination but in an inverse direction. The whites and other dominant groups are being discriminated against to remedy workplace discrimination against minority groups (Gonyea, 2017). The significance in this case in relation to social classes is that reverse discrimination as a result of these policies leads to the creation of a wealthy social class dominated by the minorities. In other words, these concepts go against the social reproduction theory, whereby the whites claimed their dominion over other social classes in America.

According to Munro (2019), social reproduction theory emphasizes that social inequalities replicate themselves over time throughout generations. For example, conventional thinkers assume that the significant social disparity between wealthy and resourceful families and poor elements of society is replicated across generations. In simpler terms, a large group of people with wealthy parents tend to up pretty wealthy themselves. At the same time, those with poor parents tend to end up poor. The idea of social reproduction was first proposed by Karl Marx, who believed that social inequalities perpetuated over time. According to Marx, the upper class has many advantages because the very nature of having enough money provides one with the ability to acquire more resources to get ahead (Munro, 2019). The contrary is true; having less money limits one’s ability to acquire critical life resources such as education. However, and because of reverse discrimination, minorities are bettering their chances of success. More and more people from disadvantaged groups are receiving an education. One may argue that the growing prevalence of reverse discrimination is, for the first time in history, allowing minorities to perpetuate their wealth across generations.

Furthermore, most equity policies provide inadequate protection against discrimination. For instance, the Civil Rights Act’s usefulness in preventing discrimination against LGBT has triggered great civil debates in recent years. One part of the conversation agrees that this Act does not offer protection for this group, while the other claims that discrimination against the LGBT can be argued under sex (Berrey, Nelson & Nielsen, 2017). Three cases were presented before supreme court judges in 2019. These cases raised the question of whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT against discrimination. Two of the three cases were submitted by men who were fired because they were gay. The third case addressed the issue of transgender discrimination. The US Supreme court rules in the two cases that it was illegal to dismiss workers from their jobs because of their sexual orientations. The United States Supreme Court agreed that even though the Act does not explicitly indicate protection and support for the LGBT, it does protect gays, lesbians, and transgender employees against discrimination based on their gender and sexuality.

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The workplace anti-discrimination policies that exist today provide less protection for disadvantaged groups. Some, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, provide protection, but they create another significant problem altogether. There is a need to enact laws that cover all these loopholes. One proposed policy that tends to offer solutions to these problems is the Equal Rights Amendments (Berrey, Nelson & Nielsen, 2017). The importance of this legislation and the aspect that makes it different from the rest is that it ends the distinction between men and women and between races in employment and property ownership. In other words, this policy ends the gender narrative and provides an even playing field for all genders, including men, women, and transgender.


Disadvantages groups, including women, people living with disabilities, racialized workers, and LGBT, face continuous workplace discrimination. To change this instance and, more importantly, to protect employees against workplace discrimination, the governments enacted policies that direct businesses on how to engage with their employees. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1963 Equal Pay Act have helped build inclusive and diverse workplaces. The Equal Pay Act helped in ending a 100-year-old workplace issue of wage differences. It allowed women to earn wages based on their effort rather than their genders. At the same time, the Civil Rights Acts ended America’s racial segregation and allowed more blacks to join the overall American workforce. These policies help create inclusive workplaces, but their very structure is flawed. For instance, it is not clear whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees. Another limitation is that these laws focus more on protecting minorities and other disadvantaged while developing a new form of discrimination: reverse discrimination. The whites and other dominant groups are increasingly experiencing discrimination as a result of these policies.


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Coston, B. M., & Kimmel, M. (2012). White men as the new victims: reverse discrimination cases and the Men’s Rights Movement. Nev. LJ13, 368.

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Rubery, J., & Grimshaw, D. (2015). The 40-year pursuit of equal pay: a case of constantly moving goalposts. Cambridge Journal of Economics39(2), 319-343.

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