Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unequal Pay/Stifled Career Paths

When it comes to race-based discrimination in the workplace, it is not uncommon to find that unequal pay is a concern among Black workers. Far too many workplaces have filled their ranks with Black workers who’ve been relegated to the lower paying jobs and job classifications. It’s not uncommon to find Black workers making up a large chunk of an administrative pool or performing other work that can result in stifled salaries.

If the discrimination extends to unequal evaluation, promotion opportunities may be non-existent for some Black workers. Some of us will work at jobs where the topic of promotions may never be brought up.

In fact, it reminds me of something a former employer’s so-called outside investigator said to a coworker that was complaining about discrimination at work. The investigator told my coworker that part of the reason she was having problems at work was because she was pushing for her staff (all Black and administrative) to move up within their career paths and that she just didn’t seem to understand that some people are perfectly happy to remain the same job (and salary) for 20 years. She was told she had no right to encourage her staff to think about or to seek promotions. She was supposedly forcing her will upon them by encouraging them to move up in the company.

That’s just how it is in some places. It is considered the norm for Black workers to be in lower paying jobs and to get the same piss-poor salary increase every year—regardless of how well they’ve been doing their jobs.

Black workers may find their salaries stifled, while they watch their White coworkers get higher yearly pay raises, title changes, and even promotions. It often doesn’t matter if the workers have essentially the same background or if the Black worker has superior education and/or on the job-experience/expertise in the field. Black workers may still find that they can’t seem to keep up with the pay level of White counterparts.

My former boss, Black, worked as the compensation manager in HR at a bank. He had more than 10 years of experience in this job. He had advanced degrees. You name it. At the time I left the company, he was making about $75,000 per year.

I spoke to him, months after I resigned, and he told me, “You know they brought in this little White boy to take over my position. The kid just got out of college, got his B.A. and then his Masters and they’re starting him at $95,000 to do my job.” He complained that this White guy was going to be getting 20 grand more than him with no experience and with degrees that didn’t have anything to do with banking/finance, etc. Everything in the kids resume was non-job-related to our field and to the position.

At this same job, we also had a White, young receptionist that was working with us in what was only her first or second job. She was making about $25,000 per year. When the White office manager resigned, she was moved into that job and started making $55,000 per year. She worked with us for less than a year and never did any of the work that the office manager was responsible for. Yet, she saw a $30,000 per year increase to her salary.

I worked at another job where a White, young, female senior staffer seemed to receive a promotion every 6-8 months. In the blink of an eye, she was running the entire department. She was about 26-28 years old at the time she became the Director of Conference Services. She’d never had managerial experience over a large staff and was working in a job that you’d normally find people with 15 years or more of experience.

Pay inequity based on race and racial preference (race discrimination) is not uncommon. Some jobs run an entitlement program for White workers, while they stifle the Black portion of the workforce.

As we look for ways to combat discrimination in the workplace, we should look at all applicable statutes and resources, such as, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit compensation discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. The Equal Pay Act prohibits compensation discrimination based on gender.

Unlike the Equal Pay Act (EPA), there is no requirement under Title VII, the ADEA, or the ADA that the claimant's job be substantially equal to that of a higher paid person outside the claimant's protected class, nor do these statutes require the claimant to work in the same establishment as a comparator.

Compensation discrimination under Title VII, the ADEA, or the ADA can occur in a variety of forms. For example:

--A discriminatory compensation system has been discontinued but still has lingering discriminatory effects on present salaries. For example, if an employer has a compensation policy or practice that pays Blacks lower salaries than other employees, the employer must not only adopt a new non-discriminatory compensation policy, it also must affirmatively eradicate salary disparities that began prior to the adoption of the new policy and make the victims whole.

--An employer sets the compensation for jobs predominately held by, for example, women or African-Americans below that suggested by the employer's job evaluation study, while the pay for jobs predominately held by men or whites is consistent with the level suggested by the job evaluation study.

Pay differentials are permitted when they are based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or a factor other than sex or race. These are known as "affirmative defenses" and it is the employer's burden to prove that they apply.

In correcting a pay differential, no employee's pay may be reduced. Instead, the pay of the lower paid employee(s) must be increased.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on compensation or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII, ADEA, ADA or the Equal Pay Act.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/types/epa.html

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