Friday, June 20, 2008

EEOC: Race-Biased Decision-making Not Always Conscious, But...

According to the EEOC, racially biased decision-making and treatment may not always conscious. As a result, Title VII (Civil Rights Act) covers not only decisions driven by racial animosity, but also decisions infected by stereotyped thinking or other forms of less conscious bias.

For example, although a “personality conflict” can be a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for an employment decision, the personality conflict must not be rooted in any employer racial bias toward the employee.

Using a defense such as a personality conflict isn’t out of the ordinary for an employer. In my case, my employer referred to a personality conflict as a “social/personal issue between coworkers.” They tried to say that the outright racist motivations of my supervisor and director amounted to a problem between women because we were all female. They attempted to sell the issue as a dispute between women with strong personalities. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? But, it was a lie and a pretext, which was meant to give a race-neutral answer to a race-based problem in the workplace.

It was my job to show that this pretext was a lie and a misrepresentation of the facts by pointing out why the root of the problem had nothing to do with personalities at all. I did this by showing the amount of planning that went into my employer’s actions, pointing out how my supervisor and director couldn’t have engaged in certain actions without the support of management, showing how other coworkers were treated with similar situations, and by providing documentation of conversations and emails from management regarding my situation. My employer had violated its own policies, when dealing with my situation and handled my issues in a manner that showed an excessive amount of negative attention was being paid to me and that there was substantial overreaction by those involved. The intent of the actions was clear and it had nothing to do with a personality clash.

Do not let your employer off the hook by allowing them to say that they or one of their agents or a coworkers didn’t intend to use racial biases against you or that they didn’t know better because they are new to management, etc. We, as employees, are expected to be accountable for our actions. Our employers are held to a higher burden by Federal statutes.



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