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Research into handling discrimination complaints at Amsterdam organizations

Employment discrimination is the area in which the MDRA receives the most reports each year. In 2021, the Meldpunt Discriminatie Regio Amsterdam (MDRA) conducted research on how Amsterdam organizations handle internal complaints of discrimination. The MDRA examined all reporting files from 2018, 2019 and 2020 in which the reporting party raised the incident internally within their company (with, for example, a supervisor, confidential advisor, director, manager or the HR department). A total of 125 files were analyzed.

70% Amsterdam organizations do not respond adequately to discrimination complaints
The majority of organizations surveyed (70%) did not handle discrimination complaints adequately. Organizations took a trivializing attitude, dismissed a discriminatory remark as "a joke," or denied the discrimination aspect. In 20% of the organizations that did not react adequately, the complaint was eventually taken seriously. This turnaround followed, for example, after mediation by the MDRA or because another employee in the organization became involved in the complaint who did handle it adequately (think, for example, of a confidential advisor).

Jerrol Marten, director at MDRA:

"Our research sends a clear message that employees often cannot safely report discrimination at work and that discrimination complaints are often not handled properly. It also shows that with the right support, organizations can develop. To combat labor market discrimination, it is important that organizations are supported and held accountable for their approach against discrimination."

Additional interventions are needed

A well-known initiative to combat employment discrimination is the Charter Diversity[1]. Organizations join this to work with a network of like-minded people to create inclusive and diverse organizations. This makes the Diversity Charter a valuable tool. However, accountability for anti-discrimination policies is not part of the Charter. Twelve of the surveyed organizations were members of the Charter Diversity and only one of these 12 organizations responded adequately to the discrimination complaint under investigation. Two organizations did not initially respond adequately, but eventually handled the complaint properly. While the Charter is a valuable tool, additional interventions are important to effectively combat labor market discrimination.

Leo Euser, senior policy officer SER Diversity in Business:

"MDRA's research shows the need to stay alert and that there is still much work to be done. SER Diversity in Bedrijf takes the recommendations to heart and will bring them to the attention of Charter signatories with the advice to put and keep tackling discrimination and undesirable behavior in the workplace high on the agenda."

Launching Fyjas Discrimination and Racism Hallmark
Marjorie Esajas, founder of the Fyjas Discrimination er Racisme Keurmerk, advocates for a renewed and structured approach to discrimination also in the Netherlands through the use of a label:

"Employees must have blind faith that their workplace is a safe environment where discrimination is actively addressed. Often within companies, there is no one monitoring whether discrimination policies and/or a Diversity Charter are being followed. The Fyjas seal of approval audits all processes of an organization to structurally embed and monitor discrimination standards. After the audit and implementation of tools, organizations can be awarded the Fyjas Discrimination and Racism Seal of Approval, a visible recognition that an organization adheres to equitable discrimination policies that are actively accountable."

On June 28, 2022, the label will be officially presented to stakeholders in Amsterdam.

Download the report here.

[1] https://www.ser.nl/nl/thema/diversiteitinbedrijf/charter-diversiteit

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