Committing to Compliance and an Ethical Work Culture

Your small business’s stance on compliance can have an impact on your company’s culture and values.


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Are you committed to an ethical company culture? If so, here’s how to exemplify it through compliance

Being compliant can be more than just checking boxes. A small business owner’s stance on compliance has the potential to shape the culture and values of a company, and be an effective strategy to recruit and retain employees.

It’s more than complying though — it’s about ethics and attitude. Being sensitive to compliance issues about discrimination says your business is a harassment-free environment. It shows you take accusations and issues seriously and are committed to a diverse workforce.

Smart small business owners are making a commitment to be compliant while also sharing the values, attitudes, beliefs, language, and ethical behavior of their company culture. Good ethics drive good business, and this starts on a foundation of compliance.

Discrimination in the workplace is governed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Here’s what we have to say about various types of illegal discrimination, and our tips for going beyond “just” complying.

A small business owner’s stance on compliance has the potential to shape the culture and values of a company, and be an effective strategy to recruit and retain employees.

5 ways to exemplify ethical culture through compliance

Title VII

Passed in 1964, Title VII bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Sexual harassment falls under Title VII as it’s discrimination based on sex. Use compliance with Title VII as a baseline to build an ethical culture with a clear stance against all types of discrimination.

While only 6 states mandate anti-harassment training by both public and private employers (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York), SBOs can illustrate their position on discrimination and harassment by requiring training for all employees. Also, make resources known and available. Have a clear, no-tolerance policy in place for discrimination but still provide procedures for complaints and support.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act and FMLA

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bars discrimination based on pregnancy while the Family Medical Leave Act guarantees job-protected leave and continuation of healthcare. Small business owners can go above these compliance requirements to shape an inclusive workplace and culture in a few ways:

  • Help pregnant women feel more comfortable in the workplace by explicitly supporting accommodations like time off for doctor’s appointments
  • Make sure you have a plan in place pre- and post-maternity leave
  • Provide a comfortable lactation space where new mothers can relax while pumping. Companies are required to provide lactation spaces but offering amenities to create a tranquil place beyond what’s required by law is an easy way to support mothers

Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA stipulates that employers are responsible for making reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities. But employers can foster inclusive workspaces for all by taking small steps such as making their job application process accessible, including for blind or low-vision individuals, and using inclusive communication tools, like intraoffice messengers with accessibility settings.

Age Discrimination Employment Act

Be proactive in combating age discrimination by reviewing your application process and digital presence. Watch out for words like “digital natives” or dropdown menus for birth dates on online applications which don’t go beyond 1980.

Check out your website and social media accounts. Do you only display younger workers? Ageism is, yes, illegal but also can be a missed business opportunity. Mid-career individuals are loyal, have decades of experience, and usually want to share their knowledge and expertise.

Organize a mentorship program between the various generations at your small and medium-sized business to engage workers and foster collaboration between the various age groups.

Occupational Safety Hazards Act

OSHA says that workers have the right to a safe workplace, free from known dangers and serious hazards. The specific requirements vary by industry, but SBOs can support a positive workplace by being clear about dangers, having documented security procedures in place, and requiring safety training.

For office workers, SBOs might consider subsidizing ergonomic modifications that employees request. Computer work is hard on the body, and providing standing desks, specialized chairs, and trackball mice are ways to help combat repeated strain injuries.


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