Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blogger on Vacation

I'm on vacation in Florida until Thursday, August 2nd. The Black Factor will have new posts at that time. Until then...keep up the struggle. Sorry for the delayed update!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Fighting Back Sometimes Means Walking Away

When I was dealing with and fighting back against race-based retaliation at work, and was starting to be hit with some scary health consequences (high blood pressure, etc.), I had to finally ask myself a tough question: Why am I staying at a job that’s killing me? When I thought about it, I realized there were many answers:

· I didn’t do anything wrong, so why should I be forced out?
· I don’t want to quit! I want to leave on my own terms!
· I don’t want them to win!
· I don’t want them to do this to someone else!
· I don’t want to be weak/break! That’s what they want—the ultimate prize!
· Why should I be the one to resign? Why don’t they fire the racists, the harassers, and the instigators?!

And, then I thought of a mega- reason not to leave my job. Damn it! I just don’t feel like going on interviews. What’s the point?! White people everywhere are all the same. It’s just going to be more of the same old bullsh*t. Or, it could be worse.

And, you know what? That last great thought of mine was a load of sh*t! No people are all the same. I know that. And, yes, I could end up at a job with more prevalent racism, but MAYBE NOT! Regardless of the prospects, THIS job was killing me and I knew I had no choice but to...


It wasn’t about winning or losing. It wasn’t about being weak or strong. I had to focus on myself and not on the racist, the harassers or the company. I realized that I didn’t have to stay at the company to fight for my rights. I could file a government complaint and then I could…MOVE ON!

Guess what? After a few months out of that job and forcing myself not to be consumed by hatred each day, my blood pressure began to drop and the threat of a lifetime on medicine was gone.

If you are experiencing health related problems at work, you need to stop and think about the lifelong consequences of subjecting yourself to that daily torment. Don’t worry…you can still file a complaint with the EEOC, the Office of Human Rights or with an attorney in order to vindicate your rights.

You don’t have to put yourself into the hornet's nest in order to bring your employer to justice. You can walk away, repair your health, and STILL fight to make a change. Don’t consider that weak. Consider that smart. If you were to die at your desk or at home from a heart attack or stroke, what good would you reporting to that harmful job each day have done to you or your loved ones?

If you want to pursue the many options available to fight back against race-based misconduct at work, you can do that outside of the job. You don’t have to stay at the company in order to prove wrongdoing. Sometimes you have to walk away in order to have the strength for the fight and to be in the fight for the long haul.

Before you go, if you decide to leave, be sure you have a copy of every important document that is relevant to your case and of every document that may be relevant to your case. Don’t leave without having everything you need to prove your case. And, always get contact information for the coworkers, who witnessed your abuse.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

LEGAL BRIEF: Michigan Company to Pay $500,000 in EEOC Race Bias Suit

I think it was comedian Chris Rock, who once joked, “A White person would rather hire their 52nd retarded cousin, than hire somebody Black.”

That joke seems to fit this update on legal news, considering that the company (described below) would rather hire less qualified Whites, than to bring Black staff into the company to contribute to their success.

Legal Update: A South Lyon, Mich., steel tubing company will pay one half million dollars and implement injunctive relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged that Michigan Seamless Tube, after purchasing the assets of its predecessor company, refused to hire a class of African American former employees of the predecessor.

According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 05-73719 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan), Michigan Seamless began hiring former employees of the predecessor in November 2002. During the company startup, 52 of the former employees were hired -- none of them black. Michigan Seamless continued to hire former employees through 2005, but no African American employees of the previous company were ever hired. Many white employees hired had significantly less experience than the black former employees represented by the EEOC, and in some cases had actually been trained by the same African American employees who were denied hire. The suit also included other black applicants who were denied hire in favor of less qualified white applicants.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Michigan Seamless will pay $500,000, to be distributed to the class members based on an individualized determination. Michigan Seamless is also required to recruit black applicants by a variety of methods, and will provide training on anti-discrimination laws to all its employees, managers and executive officers.

“This case shows that race discrimination is still a major problem in today’s workplace, more than 40 years after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act,” said Trina Mengesha, the EEOC attorney who litigated the case. “We trust that management at Michigan Seamless will change its practices and permanently stop discriminating against qualified black applicants.”


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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

You're Not Married to a Difficult Coworker - So, Sever the Ties!

Some people take no accountability for their words or actions. They specialize in telling on, lying about and/or blaming everyone around them. These are some of the most difficult types of people to work with. You can’t always resolve a situation with someone who refuses to take responsibility for their actions. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree or you may need someone to intervene, if the two of you can’t work things out amongst yourselves.

Sometimes people simply have a tough time figuring out a way to communicate that works for both of the people involved. This problem is especially difficult, if one of the people involved is a racist. Nevertheless, when it comes to work, we’re all required to try to “get along,” as Rodney King so eloquently put it.

Despite Mr. King’s call for unity, coworkers can be like oil and water. Sometimes coworkers will never get along no matter what they try to do to create a peaceful work environment. If you’ve tried different approaches in communicating with a difficult coworker, sought guidance on working with them, and you still can’t foster a positive work relationship, it may be time to request that you not be assigned to work on the same projects as this individual.

Yes, I understand, we’re talking about work. You can’t always and aren’t always in a position to dictate who you work with. But, if a person is causing you low morale, makes you nauseous or gives you a headache when you have to work with them, is causing you to feel anxious or angry, or makes you consider seeking other employment—and management isn’t doing anything that has resolved the tense relationship—you have a right to request a workplace free of this type of stress.

I’ve had to make an “I won’t work with [x]” request to a Site Director at a previous job. Of course, she tried to push me to work with this person, who was blaming me for every problem on her project and was continually reporting me to my supervisor (her lunch buddy) and my managing director (another lunch buddy). But, I was steadfast in my commitment not to work with this individual again.

I presented direct quotes of negative and offensive comments this person made to me and to others about me, I provided specific examples of problems I was blamed for that were due to her mismanagement of a project, I explained that this person never gave me an ounce of criticism, but always showed up at my supervisor’s door to complain about me, and I drilled home the point that any conversations with this woman ended up with her blaming things on miscommunication or a misunderstanding—as if I would pick and choose when I could understand the English language.

By the time this individual showed up for a meeting to discuss my request (she arrived late) the Site Director announced to her that we would not be working together again and that a consultant would be brought in—if needed—to complete the work. This coworker tried to defend herself by stating that I misunderstood her. A moment later she repeated that the problem was simple miscommunication. When she used the “mis” words, the Site Director looked at me and knew I was telling the truth about my work environment. I was off the project immediately.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there truly is just a simple misunderstanding. Or, perhaps, there may be some cultural differences. But, other times, there is actual malicious intent, racism, elitism, etc. that may be at the core of what has taken place.

You can’t cure the world. You are only responsible for yourself and your actions. Don’t let things build up. It’s up to you to clarify what you will and won’t tolerate—even if that means seeking assistance from Human Resources or senior management within your company.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Readers Want You To Check Out...

Black Factor readers have provided 3 links in response to posts about “Hot Ghetto Mess” and the NAACP burial of the n-word. Here are the links that readers wanted to share:

("Basic Needs & the "N" Word) at

Leave and Workplace Harassment

If you are filing a grievance against your employer (and just as a general rule of thumb) you should always maintain copies of your timesheets. Even if you record your hours on an electronic timesheet, you should print your timesheets and place them in a file folder for safe keeping. If you have filed a grievance, you definitely want to keep a copy of your timesheets for the period of time covered in your complaint.

I’ve worked for an employer that falsified and manufactured timesheets to try to disprove a case against them that was being investigated by a state government agency. The reason this employer was unsuccessful in getting away with their submission of falsified documents was because the employee maintained a copy of all of her timesheets for that period and could show that new timesheets had suddenly “appeared” in her file (with completely different hours recorded). It would have been beyond her capacity to doctor an exact copy of the corporate timesheets, but much easier for her employers to do so. Keep this example in mind, when it comes to your own timesheets.

Keeping your timesheets will prove the amount of leave you used, if any, as a result of stress-related ailments due to harassment, discrimination or other illegal activities committed by your employer. You can use these timesheets to request a restoration of your sick leave used while you were being harassed and tormented at work. Timesheets will also show your general sick and vacation leave used, in case there is some later dispute about your attendance at work.

Keep in mind, when employers are being investigated or questioned, they want to show negative past behavior on your part. Leave is one area for employer’s to attack and is often one of the first targets they will hit. If you are being targeted at work, the torment is designed to cause you to lose your focus, make errors, force you to resign, and to cause any other side effects that will play into your employer's hands. Your employer wants to drive you to drinking and to the verge of a nervous breakdown, but will question your sick leave during these attacks. Your employer will also attack legitimate reasons for being out of the office.

In my case, on the first day of an attack by my supervisor, my supervisor falsely stated that everyone questioned my hours in and out of the office and everyone wondered where I was. She told me, “We want you to come to work.” And, she said it as if I had been out of the office on a routine basis. The only absences I had from the office were pre-approved and involved work-related travel (out of state) and client meetings that took place off site. Yet, my supervisor was declaring that no one knew where I was, what I was working on, and wondered when I got anything done—because I was supposedly chronically out the office.

I have a copy of all my timesheets to prove that this statement was an obvious and intentional lie. But, it didn’t change the fact that my employer gave it the good old fashioned college try in order to justify their unjustified attacks against me. That’s why I am passing this warning on to you. Don’t let your employer have the only copy of your timesheets. It could come back to haunt you.

Finally, you may want to maintain a copy of your previous year’s timesheets as added insurance against manipulation by your employer. If your employer feels the need to create long-term problems with your employment, they may go well into the past to show so-called performance/attendance issues on your part.

Remember, even your legitimate use of sick leave and vacation leave may come under attack from your employer. When requesting advance leave, make sure your time off is approved, forms are signed by the proper authority, coworkers are notified of your schedule, your assignments are covered during your time out of the office, and that you have a copy of your signed and approved leave form in your personal file.

Final thought: If you’re under attack at work, always get a note from your doctor, if you’re out sick.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Hot Ghetto Mess" is About to Become Water Cooler Chatter!

Coming soon, the water cooler conversation on your job might be about the show “Hot Ghetto Mess,” which will air on BET. Hot Ghetto Mess is a show hosted by comedian Charlie Murphy and is based on a web site of the same name, which displays photos and web videos of Black people in all manner of portraying “real” stereotypes. Images of pimps, people dressed like pimps (and hos), children with liquor, “ghetto” fashion, “ghetto” weddings, “ghetto” beach wear, etc. are all on heavy display.

The BET show will air the photos and clips from the web site. Supposedly the point of the web site and the show is to spark dialogue and debate in the Black community and to encourage Blacks to stop behaving in a “ghetto” fashion.


The point of the site and the show is to exploit Blacks for monetary gain, to perpetuate stereotypical images of Blacks to the global community, and to poke fun at those perceived by many to be on the lower echelon of the American totem pole.

I don’t care if the web site was created by someone Black. I don’t care if there’s a Black host. You can find a Black person who’s willing to exploiting coonish behavior just as quickly as you can find someone White seeking to exploit it! Point blank! But, Viacom, owner of BET, thinks it’s okay to air the show because they have a Black web site creator and a Black host involved. I don’t think so!

Home Depot and Statefarm Insurance have already pulled their ads from the show, after hearing of the controversy and reviewing a copy of the as-yet-to-air program.

There’s an online petition to stop “Hot Ghetto Mess” before it airs on BET. The link is included at the end of this post. I encourage you to sign the petition and to contact BET.

It is 2007, people. We need to stop disseminating such negative, offensive, and disgusting images of Blacks, the so-called universal Black lifestyle, and Black culture. We are all painted with the same brush as those in the photos and videos. It’s not a laughing matter. Are you a cartoon or a person? Do you mind that Viacom is putting out this show? Do you see how shows like this create problems for all Blacks?

Don’t wait for one of your White coworkers to see this show and ask you an offensive question about something they saw before you decide the show needs to be taken off the air.

If you would like to sign the online petition, you can go to the following link to sign and post a comment.

Please pass the link on to your friends and family. What do you think about the web site and the show, “Hot Ghetto Mess”? Post a comment!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Racial Discrimination Linked to Breast Cancer in Black Women

Active racism is all about waging mental and psychological warfare on the targets of the intended discrimination and harassment. Sure, a racist may want to deny a Black worker a promotion or prevent a Black person from being hired into a certain job, but the racist also often wants and needs to present a wider and more negative image of the Black person throughout a department, office, etc. A racist will often seek to create a pretext for their words and actions against a Black worker.

Time after time, when we listen to Blacks that have been the target of racism at work, we don’t just hear that they were passed over for promotions—for example. We also hear stories about false accusations (insubordination, untrue performance deficiencies, false claims of personality or communication issues, etc.) that were used to justify any actions or claims made by coworkers, supervisors or managers. Targets of discrimination go through all sorts of stress and emotional turmoil—on top of the professional turmoil and upheaval caused by the actions of a racist at work.

No one would choose to be a part of such chaos. For anyone wrongly perceiving the victims of racism as nothing more than “race baiters,” “cry babies,” and “complainers,” here’s a research study that points to the physiological impact of racial discrimination on victims or those who perceive themselves to be the victioms of racial discrimination.

A research study, lead by Dr. Teletia Taylor, found that Black women who’ve felt like the victims of racial discrimination are more likely than their peers to develop breast cancer.

The study included nearly 60,000 Black women, who were followed for a six year period. The study found that Black women that reported more incidences of racial discrimination and bias had a higher risk of breast cancer than those that did not. This was found most strongly in Black women under the age of 50. FYI: Breast cancer is more common in young Black women than young White women.

The full results of the research study are published in the American Journal of Epidemiology--and should be taken very seriously. Racism hurts...just like it's supposed to!! There is a mental and physical price to be paid, when dealing with chronic and regular racial discrimination at work or anywhere else.


Monday, July 09, 2007

The NAACP Funeral for the N-Word

The NAACP is symbolically holding a funeral for the n-word today. According to Julian Bond, the Chairman of the NAACP, the initiative is being spearheaded by “seven young people” on the board of directors and is not an action being prompted by older members of the organization.

The symbolic burial will be part of the 98th annual NAACP convention, which kicked off yesterday in Detroit. During the “burial” supporters will march from the Detroit convention center to a downtown plaza. At that time, they’ll read a eulogy for the n-word.

In addition to burying the n-word, the NAACP has been in discussions with rappers and other entertainers to discuss removing the word from their music.

To read more about the n-word funeral, click on the following link:

Where do you stand on the issue of the n-word? Do you use it? Are you offended by it? Is it ever okay to use the word? Under what specific circumstances? Let us know what you think! Post a comment.

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The N-Word and the Workplace

Every Black person has to decide whether or not—and how—they will incorporate the n-word into their life. Ignore it as much as possible? Embrace it as a term of endearment? Attack those that would dare utter the word? What to do? That’s a decision we each make in our personal lives.

But, I’ll tell you… I can’t stand to hear Black workers throwing around the n-word in the WORKPLACE. Why? It bothers me because there is no reason to utter that word on your job. Even if you say the n-word in private situations, there isn’t a single excuse for using it at work. Period! Only an absolutely ignorant and self-loathing Black person would toss around such a word in front of their White coworkers and members of management.

Unfortunately, nearly every time I’ve heard a Black person LOUDLY using the n-word in the workplace or referring to someone LOUDLY as their “ni**a,” the person was always under 30 years of age. And, every time the word was uttered it was clearly for show. It’s a very unfortunate way to try to get attention.

Yet, after a Black person says that word, you can just see how they are hoping to recieve a positive reaction from their coworkers. It’s almost as if flinging around the n-word makes them believe they will be seen as so-called keeping it real, being down-to-earth or being so-called “cool.”

When I’ve watched how Blacks respond to another Black person using the n-word, the reaction seems to be split between shock and eye-rolling at the person’s ignorance or maniacal laughing that the person was bold enough to say such a thing at work, especially in the presence of Whites—if that was the case.

When I’ve watched how Whites respond to a Black person using the n-word at work, the reaction has been split between seeing the person become visibly uncomfortable, changing the subject or pretending they didn’t hear the comment at all or maniacally laughing at the Black person making the comment. I state laughing “at” the Black person because a White person cannot laugh “with” a Black person, when the n-word is involved.

For those of us using the n-word at work, how do you think this behavior makes you appear to your White and other non-Black coworkers? Do you think it increases the level of respect they have for you and other members of your race? Do you think they will want to invite you to work on their projects because you uttered the word? Do you think you’ll be next in line for a promotion or pay raise? Do you care what others think about you flagrantly throwing around a word that is loaded with such historical venom as to be one of the most powerfully hurtful words in existence?

I MUST KNOW…what in God’s name do you think can be gained by using such an offensive word among your White coworkers? If someone is willing to admit to this behavior, please post a comment and let us all know why you choose to use the n-word at your place of employment?

Anyone with general thoughts on using the n-word at work, please post a comment.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Decisions to Promote

Managers and supervisors have a whole slew of factors they consider when deciding things, such as promotions. When all things are equal (in regards to reviewing the qualifications of staff being considered for advancement) managers will often pick the person who:

· deserves the opportunity to advance;
· will be accepted;
· will make the manager feel more comfortable and secure in their decision;
· will make the manager look good.
· will make subordinates feel more comfortable; and
· who the company will be proud of.

Let’s say a manager has to either promote a White worker or a Black worker and all things are equal regarding their skills, education, etc. Who do you think the White manager will promote about 9 out of 10 (some would say 10 out of 10) times?

Again, we’re not talking about qualifications because all things are equal.

Well, despite all things being equal, many managers will often pick the person to advance that they believe will “fit” the expectations of all staff and members of management. The person that is perceived as best fitting in at the company and with coworkers is often the White worker.

You see, when it comes to race in the workplace, rarely are all things truly equal. Any Black worker can tell you because we’ve all heard the rationalizations being provided, when White coworkers received promotions, special out-of-cycle pay raises, etc. There’s always this so-called x-factor that shifts the entire scenario into a White worker’s favor.

It reminds me of a Black coworker I worked with a few years ago. She resigned, in part, because she was assigned to report to a White manager whose credentials and education were nearly identical to hers. How did their backgrounds differ? The Black worker had an additional degree that her new supervisor didn’t possess. So, the reality was these two individuals were not only “not equals,” but the White manager should have been reporting to the person that the company made her subordinate. And, this is exactly the type of incident that repeats itself over and over all across corporate America.

Let’s be real. Those who hold most of the power in this country are White. Who do you think they will favor, when it comes to promotions? What would research studies tell us about human nature? Many of these White managers, on an unconscious level or conscious level, will often give the promotion to a White worker.

People don’t seem to get it. Most Black workers aren’t looking for a handout. All we want is what we’ve earned. We’re tired of having delayed justice. In other words, we’re tired of having to wait twice as long as White workers to get the same promotion. We’re tired of finally getting the promotion, only to report to the same White person that was on an equal level, when we both started at the company. The pace for advancing through many companies is inequitable and that is by design.

We talk about a living in an equal and fair society, but we often don’t live up to our words, our pledges, and our promises—as a country. Out of one side of our mouths, we brag about the concept of America. But, out the other side of our mouths, we discriminate, harass, and mistreatment people simply based on racial, cultural, physical, etc. differences.

Far too many people don’t have a problem negatively impacting someone’s livelihood and career to simply further their own biases. They will pass over employees for promotions and not give it a second thought. I’ve lived with this for years. Many of you have probably done the same. It’s disheartening, demoralizing, and ridiculous. When you think about some of these people, who would intentionally stifle some of their most talented employees by putting racial biases ahead of business success, it reminds you of just how stupid and ignorant a person of this ilk really is.

Following this July 4th holiday, I just wanted to remind everyone that we must be vigilant in pursuing our rights, fighting for what we have earned, and speaking out against injustices in the workplace.

Keep up the struggle!

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Adverse Impact and the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedure

When people refer to an adverse impact in the workplace, they are referring to decisions that are related to hiring, promotion, transfer, retention, demotion, dismissal and referral that have had an unfavorable impact on a particular group of people (race, gender, etc.)

Adverse impact can occur when identical standards or procedures are applied to everyone, despite the fact that they lead to a substantial difference in employment outcomes for the members of a particular group and they are unrelated to success on a job.

There are several methods of measuring adverse impact. One method is the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, 29 C.F.R. §1607 et seq. (“Uniform Guidelines”).

The uniform guidelines state that a selection rate for any protected class of people (based on race, sex, or ethnic group) which is less than four-fifths (4/5) (or eighty percent) of the rate for the group with the highest rate will generally be regarded by the Federal enforcement agencies as evidence of adverse impact.

Let’s say that 50% of white applicants receive a passing score on a test, but only 30% of Black applicants pass the same test. That would be a ratio of 30/50, or 60 percent, which would violate the 80 percent (four-fifths) rule.

Selection rates of greater than four-fifths will generally not be regarded by Federal enforcement agencies as evidence of adverse impact. However, smaller differences in selection rate may demonstrate an adverse impact on a protected class, especially if an employer’s actions have discouraged applicants disproportionately on grounds of race, sex, or ethnic group.

The Department of Justice, Department of Labor OFCCP, Office of Personnel Management and the EEOC all use the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures [] to determine how organizations should deal with hiring, promotion, transfer, retention, demotion, dismissal and referral.

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Genarlow Wilson Ineligible for Bond Release

Looks like Genarlow Wilson will be staying in jail for a few more months. A judge recently declared that Genarlow Wilson is ineligible to be released on bond pending the appeal of his case.

For anyone new to this blog or unaware of the Genarlow Wilson case, Genarlow Wilson was 17 years old, when he had consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail. After his case gained media attention, the Georgia State Legislature changed the law so that no one would ever receive such a sentence based on similar circumstances. However, Genarlow Wilson was not grandfathered into the new version of the law and his 10 year jail sentence was intact.

A judge has since ordered that Genarlow Wilson be released from prison. However, the State Attorney General for Georgia (a Black man) says he is uncomfortable with the precedent because there might be pedophiles or rapists that will try to have their sentences reduced based on Genarlow Wilson’s release. He asked that Genarlow Wilson remain in prison and the judge agreed with his position that Genarlow was ineligible for bond. This means that Genarlow Wilson will stay in jail pending a court decision in the State’s appeal of his case/release.
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