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  Culture  
     
  How sensitive should we be to minorities' rights in U.S. companies?
 
  Europeans who start a business in the U.S. need to consider this subject. There are a lot of cultural differences in this area, even though our laws are quite similar. In the U.S., as in most European countries, it's forbidden to deny a position to someone because of his or her sex, age, ethnic origin, religion, sexual preferences, disability, etc. These laws are rigorously enforced in the U.S., and many organizations provide support and legal aid to minority members who suspect an employer of discrimination.
Our advice: Keep certain rules in mind, especially during the hiring process:
Never deny a position to someone by stating you were looking for someone younger, or for a man rather then a woman. Find a better reason!
During a job interview, do not ask the candidate if he or she is married, or has children, etc. This could be understood as a disguised way to inquire about the candidate's sexual preferences. However, it's perfectly acceptable to ask the candidates if they can travel 80% of the time—if they don't want to for family reasons, they'll usually say so.
When reprimanding an employee, or if a conflict occurs, always keep the discussion on factual grounds, and never let personal considerations take over. More of your coworkers will be glad to discuss their children or their latest weekend during the lunch break, but if they do not show interest in such a discussion, don't insist—respect of privacy is very important in the U.S.
Avoid making personal comments or practical jokes, even if you feel they are completely innocent—they can be poorly understood by some of your coworkers. Even if they don't say anything, one day you might receive a surprise letter from an attorney.
Don't ask your secretary to serve you coffee unless you're in a meeting with customers, as this request could be considered inappropriate or gender biased.
 
     
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