6 Ways To Prevent Workplace Discrimination On Your Construction Sites

prevent workplace discrimination construction sites sexual diversity racial equality

Hiring construction workers in New York? You don’t need a law to tell you how important it is to treat them equally. Every employee has the right to work without discrimination or harassment, and when you do your part to uphold that right, you ensure a safer and more productive environment for everyone. However, the alternative isn’t just unwise or unethical; it’s also illegal. Whether you want to boost morale or avoid lawsuits and fines, you should know exactly how to reduce the risk of workplace discrimination in construction sites. 

Discrimination is possible during every stage of the employment process, from recruitment and hiring to employment and firing. Here are six of the most helpful ways to respect your employees’ rights every step of the way: 

1. Get To Know New York Employment Discrimination Laws 

More than one New York employment law protects workers from discrimination, and some local and federal laws apply too. However, perhaps the most prominent is the New York State Human Rights Law, a state law that applies to any employer with more than three employees. If you don’t know this law backward and forwards, it’s time to learn it. 

For starters, the Human Rights Law prohibits the following forms of discrimination: 

• Firing 
• Refusing to hire 
• Compensating less fairly 
• Limiting access to training programs and opportunities 
• Changing the terms or conditions of employment 

You cannot take any of these actions against an employee or job applicant simply because they belong to a protected class. But what counts as a protected class? 

Basically, New York employers can’t make hiring, firing, or compensatory decisions based on any of the following characteristics: 

• Age 
• Religion 
• Skin Color 
• Race 
• Sex 
• Disability 
• Sexual orientation 
• Nationality 
• Marital status 
• Military status 
• Experience as a domestic violence victim 
• Prior criminal record 
• Experience as a complainant in a previous discrimination case 

Some exceptions apply, of course, such as jobs that have specific physical demands. However, it’s never okay to limit or deny opportunities because of anything that has no bearing on the job responsibilities. 

2. Double Check Your Job Listings And Interview Questions 

Sometimes, discrimination is so subtle that you don’t even know you’re doing it. For example, employment law also applies to your recruitment process, so you have to pay attention to the words you use in job listings and the questions you ask during interviews. None of them should have any link to gender, race, religion, or any other protected characteristic. 

Are you looking for a “handyman”? That language discriminates against female applicants. Do you ask interviewees where they grew up, or when they graduated? Their answers may reveal their national origin, age, or other characteristics that cannot play a role in your decision. Even if you never actually discriminate against specific people, candidates who don’t get the job could point a finger at your potentially damning screening process. 

3. Don’t Hold Irrelevant Arrests Against Job Applicants 

You can ask job applicants and employees if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime. However, you cannot use this information against them, except under certain circumstances. For example, if a criminal conviction is related to the job requirements, it’s lawful to pass over the candidate rather than expose people or property to undue risks. 

Of course, if candidates were never convicted or their records were sealed, any previous criminal activity is none of your business at all. Don’t ask about it, and don’t use it against them if you find out. 

4. Consider A Name-Blind Screening Policy For Job Applications 

No matter who is responsible for screening new candidates, there’s always a risk that some applications will be judged unfairly. Implicit biases could make it impossible to truly evaluate each candidate on their merits alone. That’s where name-blind applications come in. 

Because names have such strong links to different cultures, classes, and age groups, they can color our judgments and give clues about candidates’ backgrounds. You only need to know about their job qualifications, so a “blind” selection process makes it easier to focus on that. 

5. Show Zero Tolerance For Discrimination, Harassment, Or Retaliation 

No industry is immune to sexism, but because women are especially underrepresented on construction sites, it’s especially important to make sure their workplaces don’t get hostile. Other than insisting on comprehensive training, how do you make sure your male employees don’t harass or discriminate against their female colleagues? 

Start by creating a climate and Code of Ethics that leaves no room for sexism – or racism, ableism, or any other form of discrimination, for that matter. Make it clear that you will take all harassment complaints seriously, including claims of sexual harassment, and outline the steps you’ll take to discipline anyone who engages in it. 

Most importantly, welcome your employees to come forward by making it easy to file complaints. Make it clear that victims and whistleblowers won’t face retaliation (the most common type of discrimination), and support anyone who comes forward, starting with a prompt investigation. 

6. Train Every Employee To Take Workplace Policies Seriously 

Of course, no Code of Ethics or New York employment law will stop untrained, uninformed employees from making poor judgment calls. Each employee must fully understand the policies in place, the risks of violating them, and why it’s so important to treat their colleagues with respect regardless of the rules. 

Regular training is one way to ensure that. It’s also a good way to reduce your own liability if employees act out anyway. Make sure your training sessions include quizzes to confirm their knowledge and contracts to document their participation and don’t tolerate any behavior that diminishes the seriousness of these sessions.


I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the major ways to prevent workplace discrimination on construction sites.

Interested in more articles about work equality and construction?

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