Back in 1943, millions of women entered the work force to help the WWII effort. That meant a major adjustment for the male-dominated ranks … and anti-discrimination laws were still decades away.
As a result, some of the management theories that seemed like a good idea at that time turned out to be of dubious value. Exhibit A: Consider this little gem from the July 1943 issue of Transportation magazine (see full article below). Among the tips offered for hiring and managing female employees:
- Hire married women; they’re more responsible and are less likely to flirt.
- Older women who haven’t worked are cantankerous and fussy. They must be instructed in courtesy.
- “Husky” girls are even-tempered.
- Give women a detailed schedule; they “lack initiative in finding work themselves.”
- Give women a special physical exam before beginning work to check for “weaknesses that would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.”
- Women need frequent rest periods because they perform better if given a chance to tidy their hair and apply fresh lipstick several times a day.
After you've had a good laugh, think about what kind of stereotypes your managers may be applying to today’s employees. How many managers in your organization harbor their own outdated—if less outlandish—beliefs about employees’ gender, age, race or disability status?
Do managers believe, for example, that only men should do certain "tough" jobs? Or that disabled employees should be singled out for medical exams? Or that recent immigrants will need special etiquette lessons before dealing with the public? If so, they may be managing like it’s still 1943. The big difference: Today’s managers can easily trip over any number of federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
Bottom line: It's vital for every manager to know at least the basics of how to comply with employment laws. Our HR Specialist white paper, The 10 Employment Laws Every Manager Should Know, gives a brief description of each law, the actions managers should take to stay in compliance and a web site that provides more detailed advice on the law.
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- Base light-duty policy on business necessity; enforce it consistently