Equal Employment Opportunity in the Surf Industry

Given the casual lifestyle attributed to the surfing industry, coupled with the fact that surfing is still very much dominated by men, it’s often branded a ‘boys-club’ where anything-goes. But when it comes to equal employment opportunity, a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude just doesn’t cut it.

So what is equal employment opportunity and why is it so important?

Equal Employment Opportunity, or EEO, is about ensuring the workplace is supportive, safe and fair and that decisions at work are always based on individual performance and ability. To ensure this, it is necessary for employers and employees to identify, discourage and prevent any occurrence of EEO from occurring within the work environment.

EEO includes discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation and applies to all aspects of employment, including the recruitment process, access to jobs and promotions, selection for training and development opportunities, transfers, secondments, terminations, performance reviews and remuneration.

In the context of EEO, there are three types of potential liability - personal liability, liability for encouraging or assisting another person to do something unlawful and vicarious liability. If you or your employees are found liable then there can be consequences under your existing employment policies but more seriously, under the respective legislation.

While this may sound like a lot of legal jargon don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only relevant to human resources or the employee relations team. When it comes to EEO, ignorance is definitely not bliss. Often those with the best of intentions can sometimes find themselves in hot water, particularly with regards to discrimination, where motive is irrelevant and acts of discrimination can be unintended.

In the United States, Abercrombie & Fitch had to front the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being charged for discrimination against an employee who was criticised for wearing a hijab in store. Social media in the workplace is also coming under increased scrutiny particularly with regards to anti-discrimination and equal-opportunity laws. Again in the United States, the commission is considering whether to develop broader guidance in dealing with social media when it comes to the workplace.

Everyone has a right to be treated fairly at work and regardless of the environment or industry, everyone has a role to play in actively identifying and discouraging any behaviour, which may embarrass others, make them feel uncomfortable, or unfairly treated, or put their mental or physical health at risk.

Good employers understand the value in creating and maintaining an enjoyable and respectful workplace in which everyone values diversity. So leave the ‘easy as’ approach on the beach and ensure you’re well informed and aware of your role in abiding by EEO principles. 

Posted by: Jaclyn Knight, on March 28, 2014
Categories: Articles