Friday, January 04, 2008

A Reader's Open Letter to the EEOC

A reader sent me a copy of this open letter to the EEOC. I found it to be very powerful. Considering that I am still waiting for the findings of an active investigation against my former employer, I can relate to what is written. What about you? Let us know what you’re feeling. Post a comment!

TO: OPEN LETTER TO THE US EEOC
FROM: A VICTIM OF RACIAL ANIMUS IN THE WORKPLACE
SUBJECT: DEHUMANIZING ASPECTS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

Dear Sirs and Mesdames:

I will try to be brief but please take the time to read this letter because I wish to convey the feelings that so many live with due to racial animus, profiling and discrimination in the working environment. I have not signed my name because I have an open complaint with your office and I don’t wish to create a bias for or against the outcome. Instead, this is just an honest view of the feelings of hopelessness I’ve experienced since being wrongly accused and targeted because of my race.

I have always been an exemplary employee, yet I have been lied on, falsely accused of improprieties, falsely accused of fighting in the workplace, of being rude and physically intimidating, and suddenly characterized by the stereotypes that are so often used in the media, etc. to depict Black women. The accusations made no sense on their face and the manager and the human resource representative only had to look past the nose on their respective faces to realize this. The new manager was aware of my prior protected activity and made comments to that effect. 30 days later my position was inexplicably terminated. The reasons given were “You roll your eyes at everyone, a sudden lack of work, behavior issues, and performance issues that occurred several and many years ago.”

As stated previously, I have always been an exemplary employee; I never received a negative performance evaluation, I was always lauded as being a great communicator with the ability to foster teamwork and maintain a team-oriented environment. Yet, less than one week into the tenure of a new department manager, I received a negative performance evaluation of “Poor,” was informed that I was confused about who I was, labeled as having communication problems, being antagonistic, hostile, offensive, angry, rude, unprofessional and told that I physically harass and intimidate everyone. I was accused by a coworker and judged guilty without investigation or explanation. The fact that two white women confirmed the false accusations sealed my fate. A defamatory memo was placed in my personnel file to prevent me from transferring out of the department and shortly thereafter I was terminated. This manager allowed coworkers to read the defamatory memo that was placed in my personnel file in case they wanted anything added. So much for reprimanding an employee in a confidential manner.

Coworkers accused me of being rude and hating my job because I refused to “look the other way” each time they attempted to ignore the Federal Travel Regulations, specifically those related to hotel and meal per diem rates, and receipts for taxi services. One employee would request a travel advance in excess of $500, utilize her personal and inexpensive time share type package for company-related business, and then argue about having to reimburse the contract for the additional monies she received for hotel expenses. According to her this was free money, everybody did it, and since I was Black I should know all about cheating the government. I explained this to the new manager and was told that if I wanted to stay employed I was to ignore the Federal Travel Regulations and never question anything that an employee submitted regarding reimbursement of travel costs. I was to submit each employee’s expense report for reimbursement without question, I was not to verify or confirm the expenses.

I am angry, frustrated, hurt, offended, humiliated, and confused. I have bouts of shame yet I have done absolutely nothing wrong. Although normally I am very calm, lately I have mood swings and can’t seem to muster the energy to leave the house. I’m sad, anxious and depressed. I know right now I would benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. But due to the loss of employment, I no longer have health insurance. Besides the loss of income that is associated with job loss, health insurance benefits, sick and vacation leave, pension plan and other company benefits are lost. And, the time and years spent earning an exemplary employment record are also lost.

Employment discrimination continues to exist because employers have become wise in how to effectively discriminate without appearing to do so. This can be accomplished via job classification, i.e., inexplicably a large number of minorities are categorized as administrative support. Using stereotypes, character assassination, personality attacks and lies doesn’t require a lot of written documentation, instead these things travel by word of mouth. Accusing someone of being a poor communicator or having communication issues or being unprofessional can be just as detrimental to an employee’s career, serves the same purpose in denying him/her employment opportunities and on its face, is not illegal.

This is exactly what occurred in my case and I would bet in numerous cases across the country. Employers have learned how to discriminate without admitting to doing so because the employer controls the work environment: institutes the policies and procedures, manages the recordkeeping and the personnel files. Although I believe I write clearly, at times when I speak about my ill treatment my emotions are raw, unmanaged and in the forefront. That’s when I worry about my ability to communicate just how much this has impacted my life in such a negative and wrongful manner. And, I am always concerned about other victims of discrimination who may not be articulate or composed enough to convey the harassing work environment that was suddenly or gradually thrust upon them.

In my case, the former employer instituted a lay-off that disproportionately penalized members of a protected class and claimed extenuating circumstances in order to avoid culpability. Performance problems were fabricated in order to show documentation of performance issues, company policies were ignored and although the company had a policy established for progressive discipline and corrective actions, I received severe discipline and the only corrective action came in the form of the company terminating me.

I would like to know why any person in a managerial position feels they have the right to deny me a promotion, advancement opportunities, mentoring, a salary upgrade, etc. merely because I am Black? Yet, the rogue managers in my situation have done exactly that and have bragged about doing so. One manager informed me that she ran the department and did not give a damn about rules, regulations or the EEOC. With this type of authoritative figure what hope does the average employee have? Because I am trying to maintain professionalism in this letter, I will refer to the managers in my case as people, but other, more euphemistic terms certainly come to mind.

This manager conveyed her shock that I was “so articulate,” but in the next breath said “look at me and look at you, who’s going to believe you? She also informed me that I was not a good employee and would be terminated because she did not want to offend the sensibilities of the organization because I was the “typical Black girl . . . you know you uh roll eyes and suck your teeth uh, oh and you smack your lips and chew gum loudly, you know like other Black girls.”Aside from the fact that I am a grown woman, mother and grandmother and therefore not a “girl,” I don’t chew gum, loudly or otherwise. Nor do I smack my lips, roll my eyes or suck my teeth in everyday conversation, so why pray tell would I behave this way in the workplace? Yet these offenses were put in writing and placed in my personnel file.

I once read an excerpt called “Cages,” which seemed to serve as a metaphor for racial discrimination. For me, the confines of the bird cage sum up the confines of a workplace that is fraught with racial hostility. Who or where do you turn when you are treated unfairly because you are a member of a protected group? Because of an employee’s divergent culture, he/she is subjected to ridicule, harassment, retaliation, humiliation, isolation. Management resents you raising the issue and suddenly your significance and plausibility is in question. Coworkers who are aware of your mistreatment close their eyes and their ears, not realizing that what negatively impacts me today, may negatively impact them tomorrow. Far too often managers bring their biases and prejudices to work, the siblings of racial discrimination into the office. Employment discrimination is offensive, it is insulting, it is meant to categorize, to separate, to exclude. Discrimination makes it too easy for others to take symbolisms, words, and/or beliefs and make them conform to the biases of those in positions of power to discriminate. It is designed to make us all uncomfortable with each other.

There are far too many victims of employment discrimination and far, far too many stories that need to be told. In spite of my trials and tribulations, and the tears that never seem to stop falling, I have never and will never ask “Why me?” or “Why did this happen to me?”

The prevailing question for me has always and will always be “Why anyone?”

Selah,

A VICTIM OF RACIAL ANIMUS IN THE WORKPLACE

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10 Comments:

Blogger Thomas Jackson said...

Selah,

"Why anyone" is correct and not limited to just blacks. We see the system failing for all "people" regardless of color. How do we fix this, move past it, simply move on? Based on your letter alone, you're clearly articulate and a very gifted writer. Stay in the fight, don't give up and stay informed.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Wilma said...

You are right Thomas it isn't limited to just blacks. I think this blog and the reader's letter pinpoints blacks because Title VII was enacted to right so many of the wrongs that blacks faced. Based on this blog and the reader's letter the fight continues.

6:27 PM  
Blogger S. Mary Wills said...

Anything you find on this blog would relate to many others. You could switch Black for Hispanic, Asian, Female, Disabled, Homosexual, Senior, etc. Violations take place against many protected classes of people.

I am a Black women writing about my experiences as a Black woman and about the experience of other Blacks I speak with. I share stories from the past, as well as present days incidents in the workplace.

I can't speak for Hispanics, even though there would be many similarities in discriminatory mistreatment.

The issues I write about should not happen to anyone. This is not something that should have to be stated. No one condones anyone of any color abusing their authority in order to target someone because they are so-called different or inferior or whatever the abuser thinks. I don't condone coworkers targeting another coworker based on race, age, sexual orientation, etc.

But, this is the Black Factor. I speak directly to Black workers. But, a Hispanic/Latino, South Asian, etc. could still use this blog as a resource. The statutes that cover anti-discrimination don't just cover Blacks--they are protections for all of us!

We can't move past it until people realize they have ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT to make workplace decisions where race, age, weight, sexual identity, etc. plays ANY FACTOR in their decisions or in their treatment of others. There should be an equitable playing field. You can't prop up some at the expense of others. You can't reward some based on skin color and not skills and experience.

The reason the Federal government had to create the statutes is because people have not shown they can be trusted to be fair and impartial.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Mary,

Thanks for creating this blog. I, like so many other people find sanity in numbers with the experiences posted here.

I would like to suggest somthing completely incoherent to white people even though I don't suggest anyone actually do this-

When a black person experiences the disparate and stereotyping in the workplace, perhaps they should do as being done for instance:

When a white person lies about your job performance (i.e. something you did or didn't do as the case generally is), you get them alone and once you do, start screaming, "How dare you call me a n--gger!" Or, "Don't ever put your hands on me!"

You see, they are willing to lie and destroy our livlihoods without a care as they continue down their roads. But what if we began to do the same. How many white women in the workplace would you see crawl with their tails between their legs, accused of battery or assault in the furtherance of a discrimination claim!

Similarly, how about screaming and I mean literally, screaming, they called you the offensive names instead of having to prove our cases through so much inference because they are craftier at getting rid of us.

I don't readily suggest anyone do this, but it's certainly occurred to me in my trials with work discrimination. It seems to me that considering all the mental hardship they put us through to just make a living, perhaps they should fight for their own simple liberties!

1:33 PM  
Anonymous rab said...

I have experienced something similar to the EEOC letter writer. I went through 2 1/2 years of a living hell because my supervisor and his boss did not want me in the position I held. I filed EEOC charge and my employer position was the "personality conflic". I have walked in the writer's shoes and I continue to fight to this day.

5:52 PM  
Blogger S. Mary Wills said...

Jennifer, a Black coworker of mine had a manager do this to her. This was at a retail job. The Black worker was on the floor and the manager chased after her. The Black worker didn't even see that she was being chased until the manager was right on top of her yelling, "Didn't you hear me calling you?" The Black worker was like, "I didn't hear anyone calling my name."

The manager then began flailing her arms and said, "Don't attack me! What did you say?" The Black worker hadn't said anything.

The manager tried to get the worker fired. You know what saved her? Sales associates at the cash register were watching the whole thing! They said the manager NEVER CALLED HER NAME and that they could see the Black worker's face and she never said anything to the manager except that she didn't hear her name called! Busted!

But, the manager still works there. The same manager falsely accused a Black worker of throwing a cup of ice at her, getting the worker suspended for 2 days!

I've had a friend say the next time something happens, she's going to accuse the person of calling her a ni**er because she can't take the person's harassment and no one is taking her seriously regarding her complaints!

No one should be driven to this point, but I definitely understand the sentiment!

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I very well understand your despair. I have just been told that the EEOC found no evidence in removing me and two other female co-workers less than a month after complaining of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and blatant gender discrimination. We were terminated for summer but the regular school year contracts were already voted on and signed before the complaints. We have undergone being ostracized due to fear of others losing their jobs-stated by administration under oath, intimidate by vehicles passing excessively close (one of us was actually bumped), and constant defamation.

It’s is sad to say that we had hard evidence of this treatment and proof of the different lies being stated and proof of the new lies to cover what the old lies didn’t account for. EEOC tends to side for the interests of the company/employer. Since there was NO evidence found, our case worker wants our employer to pay us a settlement. WHAT and yes. You don’t make a settlement if there is been nothing done wrong or no evidence found.

These types of things will continue to take place as long as evil is allowed to run ramped. Bad things happen ‘cause good men do NOTHING!!! Stand your ground even if it is fading fast. I will keep this in pray for God to be your strength and your strong hold.

-White women under siege, too

5:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this blog researching information about my EEOC case. It is so sad to live in a world with evil, nasty, people that bully and treat others that are trying to work hard bad. There is just no sense in it.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree discrimination knows no race. The reality is a system that is broken and permits the mentality that these owner are above the law.

I am a black female going through the complaint process with the EEOC. But since I resigned my position, my employer has continued to try and blacklist me.

Many employers are out of control, and " at will laws" continue to make them feel invincible.

The process and stress of it all makes me understand why people just accept what is handed down to them verses fighting.



4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank u. this is refreshing encouragement to me. only the light runs darkness and decite out of it threshold.


GA. BOY

6:37 AM  

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