Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Glass Ceilings

I think many Black workers have felt, at some point, that there was nothing we could do to break into the next grade level, salary level or job category at our jobs. We’ve found that our education may be deemed insufficient for a promotion, even if we have years of hands on experience and are experts in our jobs. We may have been told that we need additional training, but were denied training opportunities at work (or we may be told we can go to job-related training, but we have to foot the costs ourselves because there’s no money in the company budget). We may have been told we need to be in our current job for a few more years to show that we’ve grasped everything we could, even as we may watch a White worker with less experience and less time on the job get that very same promotion.

Far too often, promotions provide employers with the greatest opportunity to engage in disparate/unequal treatment of employees. Black workers may need x, y, and z, while White workers may not need any of those requirements in order to be promoted. White workers can ask for and get approved for training, while a Black worker may be told training is premature or not job-related.

According to courts, denying someone the building blocks for a promotion is just as bad as denying them the promotion itself. And, denying someone the opportunity to advance based on racial biases and stereotypes is just plain illegal.

At my previous job, Blacks couldn't get to a level 5 job classification--out of 7 possible levels. It was nearly impossible to reach a level 4 classification because that was the unwritten high-point for Black staff. As a result, level 3 employees (Black) that were due for a promotion would conveniently begin to hear about "performance deficiencies."

Some employers have unwritten, yet specific standards/requirements FOR BLACK EMPLOYEES that are unattainable or nearly unattainable. Employers may creates hurdle for Blacks workers that can impede their progress in moving up within the company.

My former employer used manufactured performance deficiencies as justification for denying promotions. But, another way to achieve the goal of not allowing Blacks to work at higher levels was to intentionally marginalize the work and contributions of Black staff and junior level managers in order to state—unequivocally—that they were unqualified for more challenging work, supervisory roles or other top level assignments/roles.

If most, if not all, of the Black workers at your job are in entry level or junior level jobs (with a few Blacks in the mid-level job categories), your employer may be engaging in discriminatory practices. You should take a serious look at the demographics at your company by examining the jobs and levels/classifications of Black staff.

Ask around. If other Blacks feel that minorities are being denied job opportunities, etc. simply because of race, start tracking unequal conditions, promotion requirements, etc. and speak to your Human Resources staff. Doing this as a group would be best because there is power in numbers.

Below is a post regarding an EEOC race discrimination settlement concerning the failure to promote Blacks to managerial positions. The settlement was reached yesterday.



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