Tuesday, November 27, 2007

“Your Unconscious, Unexamined Bias”

The article, ”Can Employers Discriminate Unconsciously?” sheds light on the emerging issue of so-called unconscious bias. The discrimination issue was brought to public attention when colored workers of Wal-Mart and Walgreen filed a discrimination class suit against their employers.
Unconscious or implicit bias is a discriminatory offense, which stems from the assumptions and opinions some people make on others. According to a lawyer at the Center for Work, life Law in California, when these assumptions are unconscious and discriminatory, then it becomes a legal problem.
However, some people argued that there is no such thing as discriminatory bias. At the least, how can one be accused of being discriminatory of something he is unconscious of?
In my opinion, the issue of unconscious bias will generate a big debate on many other issues such as gender and race questions in the workplace. It is perfectly right when employees of WalMart complained that the hiring process of the management is flawed. Workers said managers often prefer white male trainees over the black applicants.
In Walgreen, when managers assigned colored workers to poor stores or stores in black neighborhoods, majority of the employees cried foul. The workers’ protest turned into the multi-million dollar discrimination class suit against Walgreen.
On the other hand, lawyers representing the employers said the accusation could turn into reverse discrimination as their complaints are all biased and based on assumptions.
How can management take an objective look at things?
Experts and lawyers said employers should train employees on how to spot and overcome their biases. In this way, one can determine and control each other’s bias.