Race Discrimination in the Workplace
Discrimination is defined as the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment. Such as; "She chose the colors with great discrimination". However, in today's society 'discrimination' almost always defined as an act or instance of treatment or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination (Deitch, 1996). Discrimination has continuously been with us throughout our existence, from choosing our friends to picking out an outfit for a dinner party, however workforce discrimination is its own beast, especially Racial Discrimination. This paper will discuss the history and effects of racial discrimination, Title VII and other laws that deal specifically with this issue in today's labor force, and the possible future consequences of those regulations.
Headlining today's newspapers and creating havoc in social and political arenas' alike is one of the most heated areas of debate in the workplace, racial discrimination. On a daily basis, we hear supporters and opponents of the movement argue the pros and cons of issues relating to racial discrimination in the workforce such as, affirmative action and quotas. The supporters contend that policies and regulation are needed to prevent racial discrimination in the workplace; while opponents challenge such things as affirmative action induces a state of reverse discrimination that perpetually becomes a disadvantage for everyone at large.
Racial discrimination in the workplace extends far beyond just a black versus white issue. Overall trends in an eight year study from Harvard School of Business Law (2008) have determined that employment and wage earnings among minorities to effectively demonstrate the racial inequalities. The study indicated that the black unemployment rate in twice as high of unemployment among whites, that the average annual income for full time black males is roughly 30 percent less than for white males, and that the poverty rate for whites is one third of that for blacks equaling 11.6 versus 33.3 percent.
Even though many have argued that racial discrimination is not a problem in American society today, the reality is that statistics do not lie. Nearly 34,000 race discrimination claims were filed in 2008 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (Berger, 2008). This accounts for 35 % of all charges filed alleging basis of racial discrimination. The main federal law prohibiting race discrimination in employment is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Berger, 2008).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the bases of race and color, as well as national origin, sex, and religion (Chavez, 1992). For employers with 15 or more employees Title VII applies, including state and local governments (Chavez, 1992).
Title VII protects that equal employment opportunity of all persons. Title VII states that any person cannot be denied housing, education, employment, public accommodations, and the receipt of federal finds on the basis of his/her racial group, his/her race-linked characteristics, national origin, gender, religion and/ or because of his/her marriage to or connection with someone of a particular race or color (Hiers, 1999). Title VII also prevents employment decisions based on stereotypes, typecasting, labeling and speculation about ones abilities, traits, and/ or the performance of certain racial groups (McGinley, 2007).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was designed and implemented to prohibit any discrimination against any individual in regards to recruiting, hiring and promotion, transfer, work assignments, performance measurements, the work environment, job training, discipline. The following sections will discuss Title VII's protections today's workplace with case studies to help better understand each aspect of this act (Chavez, 1992):
Recruiting, Hiring, and Advancement
Job requirements must be homogenously uniform and consistently applied to persons of all races and colors. The requirements posted for a job must be important for job performance or business or this need may be found unlawful if it excludes persons of a certain racial group or color significantly more than others.
Mississippi U-Haul Company and the EEOC resolved a race discrimination and retaliation suit for $140,000 in July 2008 for accusations of discriminating on the basis of race. The U-Haul company hired the son of a selecting official rather than a veteran African American manager, to serve as the company's marketing company president. As written on the EEOC website, the Black manager had worked for U-Haul for ten years. Holding positions from a reservation manager, assistant manager, general manager, area field manager to a field relief manager. He had received his bachelor's degree in business management and received various awards for performance during his time at the company.
The company altered the job's requirements and hired the executive's son who lacked a college degree and no experience compared with the Black manager. The manager complained and the company disciplined and fired him. (EEOC v. U-Haul Co. of Mississippi, Civil Action No. 3:06cv516 (S.D. Miss. filed July 2008)
Harassment/Hostile Work Environment
"Title VII prohibits offensive conduct, such as racial or ethnic slurs, racial "jokes," derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual's race/color." (Deitch, 1996). The blow case is an example of this unwelcome and offensive, and has to be severe or pervasive conduct.
In July 2008, a fiberglass company was sued by the EEOC for permitting its Black employees to be subjected to a racially hostile work environment despite repeated complaints about the harassment. "The alleged harassment included name-calling such as "black Polack," "Buckwheat," and "boy;" White coworkers' frequent use of the N-word; and the discovery of a note in a Black employee's locker that said: "KKK plans could result in death, serious personal injury, Nigga Bernard." (EEOC v. Xerxes Corp., Civ. Action No. AMD 08CV1882 (D.Md. July 21, 2008).
Compensation and Other Employment Terms, Conditions, and Privileges
Race or color discrimination may not be the basis for differences in pay or benefits, work assignments, performance evaluations, training, discipline or discharge, or any other area of employment (McGinley, 2007). Discrimination in compensation, conditions, and privileges of employment is prohibited in Title VII.
A $60,000 settlement was reached by the EEOC in March 2007 in its Title VII lawsuit against Stock Building Supply. This case alleged that the defendant did not give a salary increase when he was promoted to a managerial position while White employees who were promoted were given salary increases. (EEOC v. Stock Building Supply f/k/a Carolina Holdings, Inc. d/b/a Stuart Lumber Co., Civil Action No. 2:05-CV-306-FTM-29 (M.D. Fla. March 26, 2007).
Segregation and Classification of Employees
According to Employment Law for Business by Bennett-Alexander and Hartman, Title VII is violated where employees who belong to a protected group are segregated by physically isolating them from other employees or from customer contact. In addition, employers may not assign employees according to race or color. For example, Title VII prohibits assigning primarily African-Americans to predominantly African-American establishments or geographic areas. It is also illegal to exclude members of one group from particular positions or to group or categorize employees or jobs so that certain jobs are generally held by members of a certain protected group. Coding applications/resumes to designate an applicant's race, by either an employer or employment agency, constitutes evidence of discrimination where people of a certain race or color are excluded from employment or from certain positions.
In November 2006 a nationwide meat processing company discriminated against Black maintenance department employees at its chicken processing plant in Ashland, Alabama, by subjecting them to a racially hostile work environment, which included a "Whites Only" sign on a bathroom in the maintenance department and a padlock on the bathroom door to which only White employees were given keys. The complaint also alleged that the two Charging Parties were retaliated against when they were suspended for minor issues within a few months of complaining about racial conditions at the plant. (EEOC v. Tyson Foods, Inc., cv-05-BE-1704-E (N.D. Ala. Nov. 7, 2006)
As described on the EECO website, employees have a right to be free from retaliation for their disagreement to discrimination or their partaking in an EEOC proceeding by filing a charge, give evidence, testifying, or assisting. In July 2006 a Springfield, Missouri grocery chain was charged with retaliation because a Black assistant manager was subjected to racially derogatory comments and was permanently suspended in retaliation for complaining about his store manager's racial harassment. (EEOC v. Roswil, Inc. d/b/a Price Cutters Supermarket, No. 06-3287-CV-S-WAK (W.D. Mo. July 27, 2006)
Future Implications from Title VII (especially Affirmative Action)
Title VII is designed and executed to protect, what use to be, the unprotected. Laws and Acts have been passed, quotas have been enforced, however, everything that has been done to avoid race discrimination has begun to promote discriminate itself. These new laws and quotas have begun to discriminate against a new group of people, un-protected people such as the middle aged qualified white male.
In today's society, with unemployment up and job security down it's said that everyone is supposed to be equal and have equal rights, but in employment, there is more racial discrimination than ever. Our very own Title VII discrimination laws such as Affirmative Action have limited future job opportunities to be not on merit but on skin color, ethnicity. There is nothing wrong with hiring a diverse workforce, but when regulation steps in with quotas, equal opportunity will forever go out the window.
Affirmative action means giving preferential or favored treatment to minorities in employment. It is intended to end discrimination and unfair treatment of employees based on color, but it in effect does the opposite. I believe that affirmative action and Title VII as a whole will lead to more reverse discrimination.
Qualified candidates for any employment opportunity should not be paced up to fill certain objectives of diversity. Divergent to many stereotypes, many minorities are middle or upper class, and many whites live in poverty. One prominent example in the educational setting is a case argued in the Supreme Court concerning admissions to the University of Michigan. University of Michigan had a point system policy in place for rating applicants for admissions. Being a minority student earned you more than twice as many points as achieving a perfect SAT score. Three white students sued citing that minority students received twice as many points on race than one would get for achieving a perfect S.A.T. score. School officials said that diversity is desirable and affirmative action is the only way to achieve true diversity. Several other cases involving affirmative action have followed similar arguments.
So with this prominent Supreme Court Case, I feel that the future of affirmative action will transfer into "reverse discrimination".
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June 2009 in the Ricci case favored white firefighters who sued the City of New Haven, Connecticut, for reverse race discrimination. This case is a prime example of many cases to come in workplace discrimination and diversity issues alike. Some thorniest say that even though the case involved public employers this case will most likely also affect private employers as well.
The Theory of Third
"Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they've hit a triple" a quote by Barry Switzer, sums up the future of racial discrimination and the existence of reverse- discrimination.
It clearly illustrates that some individuals are given a head start while others have to do twice as much to get to the same place. The basis of affirmative action is simple. It was not intended to bench white player. It was designed to prohibit taking the advantage of starting on third base and to create an even leveled playing field
There was a time in our history where not only were blacks not allowed to compete in MLB (Major League Baseball) but they witnessed whites on third base when they stepped up to the plate.
Today, there are many minorities who deserve a chance to reveal their extraordinary skills, talents, and expertise. I believe affirmative action was a short term solution and did provide opportunity for people of all backgrounds to be given the chance to compete.
At some point we will hit that even level playing field; every batter at the batting box. However it will immediately toggle to the opposing side.
Discrimination is discrimination not matter which team is playing on home turf. Racism in America still affects our workforce, how we hire, how we fire. One day, though, minorities will become majorities and reverse- discrimination will be the new racial discrimination perpetually swirling out of control.
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Berger Parker, K. (2008, 2008 Special Issue). AMBIENT HARASSMENT UNDER TITLE VII: RECONSIDERING THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT. Northwestern University Law Review, pp. 945,986. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
McGinley, A. (2007, 2007 Annual Meeting). Using Masculinities Theory to Interpret Behavior Occurring Because of Sex Under Title VII. Conference Papers -- Law & Society, Retrieved July 13, 2009, from SocINDEX with Full Text database.
Hiers, R. (1999). Sexual harassment: Title VII and Title IX protections and prohibitions--the current state of the law. Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics, 19, 391-406. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials database.
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