The law has a role in safekeeping diversity
The First Amendent and several Acts address protect and support diversity
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By Nancy J. Brent
Is a whistleblower always legally protected?
Diversity is important in so many ways, and the law has ensured, insofar as possible, that diversity is present in everyday life and in the workplace.
For example, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
This amendment, adopted in 1791, protects diversity in your everyday life. It protects you in your workplace as well, especially if you work in a governmental facility.
Not only does it generally support diversity, it protects you from being silenced (both orally and in writing) when you speak out about short staffing, protects your religious beliefs about patient care and patient care issues, allows you to group with your fellow staff members over an issue that arises in your workplace or elsewhere and maintains an open door to the judicial system if you believe your rights have been restrained in some way.
In the workplace, diversity also is supported by many other federal (and state) laws. They include:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing or other discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin. It also prohibits any other employment decision, including pay and benefits, based on these classes.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years and older for all employment-related decisions based solely on age.
Americans With Disabilities Act, which
prohibits discrimination
on the basis of a disability if individual is qualified to perform the essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation.
Diversity is protected in postsecondary public nursing educational programs as well. One example is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. In essence, this clause prohibits state governments from making unreasonable classifications in their laws. The federal government is prohibited from doing so in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
In essence, these clauses prohibit a person or persons from being denied the protections of the law granted to other persons in the same or similar circumstances. As an example, an educational program must enforce its adopted cheating policy in the same manner against any student who is alleged to have cheated as defined in its policy.

Thus, a white nursing student cannot be given better treatment than a black nursing student when both have the same or similar allegations of cheating against them. Diversity is maintained because all are treated the same. Imagine if this protection were not present and a particular ethnic group or gender were regularly dismissed from a program due to cheating while other ethnic groups or a particular gender remained. Diversity would be hard to maintain in such a situation.
Become culturally competent by learning about different religions and cultures and asking your fellow nursing staff members about their respective customs and practices."
— Nancy J. Brent, RN
You may truly believe that diversity in the workplace and generally in life is important, but counter with the argument that you have little control over obtaining or maintaining diversity, especially in the workplace.
Robin Pedrelli
, co-founder of VisionSpring, Inc., a women-owned and operated inclusion and diversity consulting firm, has offered ways in which employees can support diversity. Some of her tips include:
Know you
r facility’s diversity goals and how diversity affects your role
Participate in employee engagement surveys, responding openly and honestly
Actively participate in the facility’s diversity efforts, including volunteering as a mentor to new staff nurses
Become culturally competent by learning about different religions and cultures and asking your fellow nursing staff members about their respective customs and practices
Treat others as you would want to be treated
Speak out in support of diversity, even if the issues you voice are not issues for you
Support fellow staff members
These pointers also can be applied to life outside the workplace. Become involved with a community organization that welcomes new families into the neighborhood. Support state and federal officials that believe in diversity and vote those out who do not. Become active in the nursing organization of your choice and its committees that strive to maintain diversity.

As Pedrelli and the very definition of diversity point out, without inclusion, diversity isn’t sustainable. Inclusion and diversity must walk hand in hand in order for the mix to be successful.
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Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN,'s legal information columnist, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist.
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