Workplace discrimination allowed in nearly one in four countries - study

by Matthew Lavietes | @mattlavietes | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 9 July 2020 16:00 GMT

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Workers lack legal protection if an employer retaliates for reports of discrimination in more than half of countries, found the study

By Matthew Lavietes

NEW YORK, July 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Workers in nearly one in four member states of the United Nations are not legally protected from discrimination based on race and ethnicity, researchers said on Thursday, as global protests roar for racial justice.

In more than half of countries, workers have no legal protection if an employer retaliates for reporting discriminatory treatment, said the study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

"Discrimination at work persists across countries, but there is powerful evidence that anti-discrimination laws can make a difference," said Jody Heymann, a co-author of the study and professor at UCLA, in a statement.

The research looked at legal protections against discrimination of workers based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and migrant status in the 193 U.N. member states in force as of August 2016.

"Laws also help set norms," the study said. "When discrimination against a group is illegal, it sends a clear message that all should be treated equally."

Release of the findings come amid global protests for racial justice, sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black American who died in Minneapolis policy custody after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

"It is the same spirit and beliefs that animated the research as have animated much of what we've heard recently, which is everybody has an equal right to respect, health and to be able to contribute fully," Heymann told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Also, more than half of U.N. member states do not guarantee equal pay for women, more than two-thirds do not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and 90% have no discrimination protections for transgender people.

The United States, the world's largest economy, ruled last month that a longstanding federal law barring workplace discrimination applies to gay and transgender employees.

Achieving gender equality and reducing disparities among other social groups by 2030 were two of the global goals adopted by the U.N. in 2015.

Rich and poor countries offered similar levels of protection in most cases. However, wealthier countries were more likely to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation - 58% compared with 6% of poor nations.

(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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