Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Blogger Out for Training-One Week

Sorry, I haven't had any posts in the past few days. As mentioned last week, I am starting a new job and will have intense training over the course of the next week. I have been bogged down reading 3 manuals (one is 5 lbs!), taking online tests, and with completing all sorts of forms and paperwork. As a result, there was no time to post anything.

Anyway, today I am running all sorts of last minute errands and won't have time to write a post.

I am traveling tomorrow, March 27th and will return on Friday, April 4th. My next post will be on Monday, April 7th.

Thanks for your patience. As always, check the archives and resources for posts and information.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Employers Can Stop and Correct Harassment

If you are the victim of racially-based or other harassment at work, your employer’s hands are not tied regarding effectively handling the situation in a manner that is likely to prevent your mistreatment from occurring again. Your employer has many options available to deter and stop harassment, regardless of the impression that those in authority (supervisors, Human Resources staff, etc.) may provide you.

When it comes to claims of racially-based harassment, companies often do not like to respond even though providing an adequate response to illegal behavior is in their best interest. Instead of squashing the careers of those who would harass a coworker or subordinate, many companies go into denial mode, which they believe offers some form of protection. In other words, if they didn’t know or “believe” that harassment was taking place, companies fool themselves into believing they are not legally liable for any damage that may have occurred to an employee’s career. But, deniability doesn’t automatically hold up under the law.

A company is legally responsible for preventing and stopping harassment from occurring. If you believe you are the victim of harassment (including retaliation and experiencing a hostile work environment), you should document everything that is occurring. You must show proof as to why your company must take action.

What can your employer do (or should be doing) to your harasser? Here are some options offered by EEOC regarding harassment in the workplace:

-- oral or writing warnings/reprimands
-- transfer or reassignment
-- demotion
-- salary cut
-- suspension
-- termination
-- training or counseling of harasser
-- monitoring the harasser to ensure that harassment stops

As you can see there are light and hard-hitting remedies available. It’s your job to know that these options are available to deal with harassment and to suggest some stringent form of punishment is doled out to your abuser. But, you have to prove your case or your company will sleepwalk through your entire ordeal. Document mistreatment, provide the names of witnesses who can verify your accounts and save harassing email and voicemail as proof that your abuser has gone overboard. Then, demand action is taken.

NOTE: Your employer cannot force you to transfer to another department to avoid your harasser. But, you can volunteer to move to another department if it is in the best interest of your career and/or mental health.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Blogger Away At Training March 27th through April 4th

I'm starting a new job and will be going out of town for intense training. I will be away from March 27th until April 4th. I'll be doing 8 hours of training and evening lab classes. Therefore, I will have absolutely no time to write or post on the blog during that time.

The Black Factor will be on temporary break from 3/27 - 4/4. Just a heads up.

A new post is listed below.

Pretexts to Disguise Racism

There are certain topics that I like to repeat on this blog because they are so important to the discussion about fighting back against workplace racism. One of those topics is the strategy of many companies to develop pretexts (cover stories) that are used to hide racially based motivations for employment actions, such as demotions, suspensions, firings, etc.

When you are dealing with racists, in today’s society, very rarely will a manager be dumb enough to tell you that you aren’t being promoted because he/she refuses to put a Black person into a certain level job.

As a result, a racist manager will come up with other ways to justify denying a promotion to a Black worker. So, the manager will make up a laundry list of false and disingenuous reasons for the denial. These reasons are pretexts to hide the real cause of the action. Pretexts might include:

--blaming the Black worker for problems caused by other staff in the department;

--accusing the Black worker of having a bad attitude or of being insubordinate;

--stating the Black worker is not a team player; or

--belittling the accomplishments of the Black worker in a way that justifies denying a promotion, etc.

The point is that some supervisors, manager, directors, and executives will make up some other complaint that hides what their real motivation is--racism! That’s just how it often is at work. Although you should always do everything in your power to avoid giving White workers and managers ammunition to use against you, remember that any incident or discussion can be twisted and manipulated to fulfill someone’s agenda.

So, regardless of the issue that is being presented as legitimate, it’s up to you to show that the arguments being used by your employer or manager are nothing more than a pretext to hide their true motives, which are racist, discriminatory and/or retaliatory in nature. You have to build a clichéd house of cards comprised of verifiable testimony (from coworkers or others that have witnessed your mistreatment) and physical evidence (email or other documentation) that can’t be refuted by your employer.

You should learn as much as you can about your company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies by referring to your company’s personnel manual. In addition to learning about those areas, you should read the policies on performance review guidelines, promotion criteria, procedures for addressing performance management issues, and requesting an internal investigation.

This will help you have a clear understanding of the practices and policies that should dictate your employer’s actions with regard to the everyday conditions of your employment. Having a well-rounded familiarity with this information will put you in a stronger position to defend your employee rights, to track and report misconduct and mistreatment, as well as to position yourself for and negotiate your next promotion or other advancement opportunities.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Under the Weather - No post today!

Sorry, I'm not feeling well. There won't be a post today. Please check back tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blacks and Apologies

I’ve written about apologies before, but watching Sen. Barack Obama being forced to apologize for, to renounce, and to denounce Rev. Jeremiah Wright just reminds me of all the times I’ve been at work and have watched Black coworkers be forced to apologize for something in order to appease Whites.

Yes, Rev. Wright’s comments were outrageous. But, I’ve heard far more prominent White men of God make equally outrageous and offensive comments about the cause of Sept. 11th. For instance, that it was God’s punishment of America for “tolerating” homosexuals. But, there wasn’t this amount of palpable outrage and so-called umbrage being declared by members of the media.

We all know there are double standards. In politics, when it comes to being White or Black, it’s amazing how far things have to go for Whites to be pressured into apologizing for their actions or remarks. With Blacks, there’s a lower standard that provokes an apology.

In the workplace, there is often an even wider gap in the types of actions and remarks that would provoke a forced apology from a Black worker vs. a White worker. There is often a very low level of angst required in order to force Black workers into apologizing to a White coworker. An apology can be allegedly due to a White worker because a Black worker supposedly made the person cry or because the Black worker was allegedly extremely rude or very negative or had a very bad attitude, etc. Any stupid reason will often suffice.

Conversely, a White worker can call a Black person the n-word, can use racial epithets, can stereotype, and can violate Federal statutes--all without having to say they are sorry for their actions. No one often asks or contemplates forcing them to say they are remorseful and apologetic.

God forbid the Black worker says they won’t apologize! Tactics involving threats to their job security, general intimidation, and humiliation might be used to coerce the Black worker into appeasing the wish that they apologize.

This Sen. Obama thing just reminds us all that there is still this element of control that White society wishes to wield against Blacks. It goes back to the days of not looking them in their eyes, stepping off the sidewalks, when they pass, not so-called “talking back,” etc. White society has long kept Blacks in invisible cages…also known as assimilation. We were trained (seasoned) to be desperate to fit in with Whites, to take on their viewpoints, to seek their validation and approval, to have the same opinions, to know our so-called places, etc.

Rev. Wright stands out for Whites because he’s Nat Turner. He’s the Black man that will burn down the town and attack Whites. Rev. Wright is the boogeyman. Nothing is scarier to Whites than a so-called out of control n*gger.

Whites often prefer the Black workers, who smile, when they are supposed to. They often prefer the Black workers, who smile, when nothing is funny. They often prefer the Black worker, who won’t question them. They often prefer the Black worker, who seeks their approval.

In the workplace, so-called outspoken Black workers are often labeled as troublemakers. Black workers, who won’t allow fear to dictate their actions, are called the same. And, in the workplace, that type of Black person (the stereotype) is not allowed to survive or to thrive.

This whole so-called scandal with Rev. Wright is the perfect example of how out of control and hypersensitive Whites get, when they are subjected to witnessing or enduring behavior (from a Black person) that is similar to their own. John McCain has support from religious leaders (fundraising for him, etc.), who have called Islam a “demon religion” and have made derogatory statements about Catholicism. No one is asking him to reject this support, he has stated he won’t reject the support, and the issue died.

This scandal is about who said what and less about what was said. When you are viewed as not being a real citizen and you are treated like a 2nd or 3rd class citizen, you will be beaten back if you dare criticize this county. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. The fact is that Blacks have historically had to deal with the issue of whether or not we were and are “real Americans.” Our patriotism has long been in question. Ask the Tuskegee Airman or the Black Panthers of the 761st Tank Battalion or any senior Black man, who served this country, how they were often treated during their service and upon their return to this country.

We weren’t treated equally then and, far too often, we aren’t treated equally now, except when it comes to making apologies. That seems to be the area, where Blacks have superior rights! Oh, we can make an apology. And, that’s okay with most White folks! In fact, they encourage it.

Just don’t expect one in return!

It’s not just politics. It’s also in the workplace!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Transcript of Obama's "Race and Religion" Speech

Because of the fallout from comments made by his former Pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama delivered a major address on race and religion. The speech was held today in Philadelphia. MSNBC has a link to the full transcript of his speech, which was powerful. The link is:


Start and Maintain an Employment Action Log

As soon as you feel you are the victim of a tangible employment action (e.g., malicious suspension, malicious demotion, baseless denial of a promotion, forced transfer to a menial job or hard to reach location, a pay cut under false pretenses, etc.), you should create and maintain an employment action log. An employment action log can help you keep track of every negative employment action that your employer executes against you and can help show that your employer is suddenly focusing a lot of negative energy on you.

An employment action log should contain detailed information about:

--The date of the employment action;

--The specific kind of employment action taken (e.g., details about a suspension);

--Your employer’s stated reason for the employment action;

--The name of the person who informed you of the action and anyone in attendance at the meeting;

--Why the action is unjustified or how it violates company policy;

--Your official response, if any, to the employment action (e.g., a memo against the action); and

--The next steps you need to take to deal with the action (e.g., contacting HR, filing an internal complaint, etc.).

An employment action log can be helpful in proving harassment and retaliation by showing that employment actions taken against you were unjust and meant to negatively impact your position and career, to intentionally cause you emotional distress by creating a hostile and offensive work environment, were designed to set you up for future employment actions (including termination), and/or were a method of punishing you for complaining of mistreatment, misconduct, etc.

An employment action log can also demonstrate that your employer is violating its own written policies and procedures. For instance, if you are placed on probation based on false allegations, you can go to your company’s personnel manual to see how your employer is supposed to handle management or personnel issues.

If the personnel manual says that an employee should be given 1) an oral warning; 2) a written warning; and 3) be placed on probation, your employer would have to answer why they jumped to step #3 of their own process to implement the employment action of placing you on probation, with termination potentially warranted at the end of a specified number of days/months. They have to justify why your behavior was allegedly so egregious that they violated their own policies.

Remember to faithfully update your log as events happen, so that you are documenting incidences that are fresh in your mind.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Examples of Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation

When it comes to being targeted at work, there are many different ways to define what is happening in the office. Some people may argue that they are being subjected to a problem related to systemic discrimination on the job (e.g., Blacks have been historically denied promotions, almost without exception), some people may argue harassment (e.g., a hostile and offensive environment due to racial prejudice), and some people may argue retaliation (e.g., they made some sort of informal or formal complaint, which resulted in the complaining employee being targeted at work).

Each situation is different because people and workplaces are different. One racist coworker or a company promoting racism is going to be different from the next, even though there may be some similarities in the excuses used to deny or to marginalize or to justify the incidents in the workplace.

When it comes to explaining to someone the severity of what has happened, think of how you can categorize the incidences into discriminatory and/or harassing and/or retaliatory behavior. Based on the particulars in your workplace, you may argue one or all of these things. Here are some examples that can help you tweak the points you are making about your workplace environment: (This is somewhat subjective. Depending on your circumstances, these examples may be more appropriate falling into another category. For instance, harassing behavior on this list may be more appropriately referred to, in your circumstance, as retaliatory behavior if the behavior was only experienced following a complaint. Or, you may to decide to refer to it as harassing and retaliatory behavior, when describing the hostile work environment that resulted from complaining.)

Examples of situations that may indicate discrimination are:

· a company that doesn’t post job openings and routinely fills positions with Whites from both inside and outside the company--without African Americans and other minorities having first cracks at the job as an internal hire;

· unequal pay for African Americans performing the same work as Whites (with similar education and work experience);

· segregating African American employees to only work on African American projects and contracts;

· isolating and segregating African Americans by assigning them to work only in specific locations;

· reclassifying jobs at a lower level and assigning African Americans to perform the work;

· routinely denying African Americans promotions;

· laying off African American employees, while White counterparts maintain their jobs; and

· asking potential employees to identify their race on an employment application, which might indicate that race may be a factor in hiring decisions.

Examples of harassment/a hostile work environment might include:

· personal attacks based on stereotypes and racist assumptions;

· a supervisor that regularly screams directly into the face of subordinate, in private or in front of coworkers;

· physical threats of violence or actual physical abuse (e.g., shoving or bumping);

· verbal abuse/put-downs, name calling or the use of racial epithets or slang;

· job threats/intimidation;

· intentionally malicious and false gossip;

· stare down contests; or

· intentional humiliation.

Examples of retaliation (for complaining about race-based discrimination or misconduct or for participating in an investigation into discriminatory behavior, etc.) might include:

· stripping an employee of their staff;

· salary cuts;

· the denial of standard employee benefits (e.g., use of leave, etc.);

· a demotion;

· a transfer to a hard-to-reach office;

· stripping an employee of their workload/assignments; or

· an intentionally negative and malicious performance evaluation; or

· the denial of an anticipated promotion.

Try to be as specific as possible, when describing your situation. Write a narrative about your situation that could be understood by a child. Don't assume people will easily get your points. Spell out what you are trying to say by being very clear. Always write about the impact of actions taken against you--personally and professionally. And, always maintain a list of witnesses, who can support the allegations you are making. Write what they saw, when they saw it, and if they had any role in what was happening.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Race, Politics, and the Workplace

This week, former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro made controversial comments, which caused an uproar in the race for the White House. In an interview, Ferraro, a Hillary Clinton supporter, said that Sen. Barack Obama was “fortunate” to be Black because his race was the reason for his success in the presidential race. Ferraro said that if Obama was a White man, “he wouldn’t be in this position” and if he were a woman (of any color), “he wouldn’t be in this position.”

Members of the media, pundits, and some Obama supporters immediately denounced the comments and the suggestion that race and not merit was the sole reason behind Obama’s success. Ferraro responded to the criticism by saying that she didn’t say Obama’s success was “only” due to race. However, Ferraro explicitly left out mention of any other factors that she contributed to his success up to this point in the campaign. By default, her comments suggested that race was either “only” or “primarily” responsible for his success. She said, point blank, that he was fortunate to be Black and that the country was swept up in the concept.

In what concept?

The concept of a Black president?

Well, weren’t women swept up in the concept of her being the first female vice president? Aren’t women swept up in the concept of Sen. Clinton possibly being the first female president?

So, what’s the problem?

Why is she hating on Sen. Obama for the same “concept” (being the first) that has given her candidate many advantages? Sen. Clinton has gotten a majority of the female vote in many states. Sen. Clinton has mentioned, many times, that she looks forward to being the first female president. She is using her gender as a selling point, when we don’t see Sen. Obama using his race as a selling point.

Obama, when asked to respond to Ferraro’s comments said that he felt the comments were “divisive” and represented old-school politics.

This led to a response from Ferraro that is typical of responses that many Black workers hear in the workplace, when they inform a White coworker, supervisor, manager, etc. that something said was racially insensitive or offensive. Ferraro said, “I am not a racist.”

So, I ask…

Who called Geraldine Ferraro a racist?

Her comments were characterized as “ridiculous,” “absurd,” “divisive,” etc. But, at no point did anyone say she was a racist.

This is reminiscent of what happened in my former workplace, when a Black manager approached a White manager to discuss comments the White manager made that offended EVERY Black person in a departmental meeting. The Black manager said that she came to discuss the White manager’s comments at the meeting and the White manager immediately blurted out, “I am not a racist.”

The Black manager responded by telling her that she didn’t say she was a racist and wasn’t coming to do so. She just wanted to remind her that we all live in a diverse society and that we have to be mindful of the impact of what we say. Well, the White manager ended up in tears and used her friendship with the director of the department and the director of HR to make the Black manager’s life a living hell. The Black manager ended up resigning based on constructive termination (being forced out).

So, the second I heard Geraldine Ferraro go right to “I am not a racist,” I was immediately transported back to that time period in my career.

Why couldn’t Geraldine Ferraro simply restate what she intended to say, if she meant something different from what she actually said? Would that have been too difficult? No! It wouldn’t have been difficult. Instead, Ferraro upped the ante, as is done in the workplace, and said that Obama was playing the so-called “race-card,” that he had a pattern of playing the race card, that no one could criticize him without being called a racist (he and his campaign are sensitive), and that she was being attacked because “I’m White.” The next day, Ferraro said that she was “absolutely not sorry” for her comments.

Ferraro seems to have gone through the workplace checklist for Whites who want to spin a situation to make themselves the victim, when they are the ones who’ve offended someone.

When Black workers make a complaint of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, racial insensitivity, etc., all of a sudden we hear that we are playing the “race card.” This label is attached to us even when we’ve worked at a company for years and have never injected race into any dispute with a White coworker or if we’ve never made an informal or formal complaint of racism in the workplace. Even when we have no history of “playing race,” we are accused of being race-baiters!

Then we are often accused of being sensitive and/or defensive. We may be told something along the lines that people (White) feel like they have to walk on egg shells, when they work with us. In other words, they can’t say anything to us without us getting a so-called attitude or accusing them of targeting us based on race.

We are also often accused of misunderstanding what was said, such as the excuse used by Ferraro. Whenever a race incident jumps off, we suddenly can’t understand common English.

Many of us may also be falsely accused of having a problem working with Whites, even when we’ve been employed for years with no incidents involving race. We may be told that we have communication issues with Whites, even when we’ve worked with Whites without incident throughout our careers. In other words, we are being accused of making a complaint out of racial malice and with intentional disregard of Federal statutes! We are allegedly making complaints, not in good faith, but solely because the person in question is White.

After everything has exploded into a racially charged mess, we are often told by management that no one is going to apologize for the incident, including the person who made the offensive comments or engaged in potentially illegal activity.

It’s amazing, but Geraldine Ferraro hit all the points. To summarize, she went right to the workplace blueprint. She:

1. stated she wasn’t a racist, as if someone Black (Obama and/or his representatives) accused her of being one;
2. accused the person she intentionally marginalized and offended of using the “race card” against her;
3. stressed that the racial sensitivities of the person she targeted with her comments were the issue, not her remarks;
4. said that she was either misunderstood or that her comments were intentionally misconstrued;
5. made herself into the victim of reverse racism; and
6. refused to accept responsibility for the chain of events she set off.

I should add that Sen. Clinton, who insisted that Sen. Obama reject and denounce Rev. Louis Farrakhan for saying that Obama was good for the country, initially wouldn’t reject and denounce Geraldine Ferraro. She thought it was sufficient to simply “disagree” with comments. Again, this was after she tried to score political points against Obama based on the words of someone in favor of his candidacy.

Again, this is reflective of issues that Blacks face in the workplace. There is often a double-standard, in which Blacks are expected to follow one set of rules, when Whites aren’t expected to follow the same rules. Blacks are often asked to or are forced to apologize to White coworkers for any manner of often petty offenses, such as a White person simply declaring that they thought a Black coworker was rude to them. Yet, White workers often don’t have to apologize for serious/egregious offenses, which may violate Federal statutes.

Sen. Obama’s candidacy is definitely giving the world a front-row view of issues that all Blacks face on a daily basis. If someone makes a racially-loaded remark, it becomes his fault for criticizing the remark and he’s characterized as being unable to take criticism. It doesn’t matter if the criticism is false because it is based on distortions or outright lies. Sen. Obama is treated as though he has no right to clarify what he feels are misrepresentations and lies. That makes him sensitive!

I think we will see many more similarities between political tactics and workplace tactics during the remainder of this campaign. Sen. Clinton and her surrogates are desperate. Since so many of Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton’s policies are very similar, Sen. Clinton has nothing but racial polarization to fall back on in order to divide the vote in her favor. It is not an accident that we keep coming back to race (and gender) in this election. And, it's no accident that Sen. Clinton's campaign staff are upset that they can't use outright racially charged language, racially coded language, etc. against her rival.

Stay tuned!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

No Post Today

One of my pets will be put to sleep today. I've been dealing with this all day and will not be adding a post today. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Types of Damages

Let’s take a very quick look at two types of damages:

1. Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages refer to damages that are recovered in payment for injury or economic loss.

2. Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are damages that are added due to malicious or grossly negligent action. Punitive damages may be awarded in a lawsuit as a punishment and example to others for malicious, evil or particularly fraudulent acts.

In a disparate treatment case, the statute (Title VII) allows the following remedies (as applicable): injunctive relief*, reinstatement, front pay (until or in lieu of reinstatement), back pay, attorney’s fees and costs, compensatory damages for any past or future out-of-pocket losses and any emotional harm, and punitive damages if the employer acted with malice or with reckless indifference to the individual’s federally protected rights. Punitive damages are unavailable against a federal, state, or local government employer.

The law places caps on the sum of compensatory and punitive damages for which an employer may be liable. The caps are based on the size of the employer’s workforce:

Employers with 15 - 100 employees: up to $50,000
Employers with 101 - 200 employees: up to $100,000
Employers with 201 - 500 employees: up to $200,000
Employers with 501 or more employees: up to $300,000

The caps apply to the sum of: punitive damages, and compensatory damages for emotional harm and future pecuniary losses (financial losses). The caps do not apply to back pay and interest on back pay, front pay, or past pecuniary losses.

Section 1981A(a)(1) and 706(g) of Title VII.5 allow for compensatory and punitive damages to be recovered.


* Injunctive relief refers to a court-ordered act or prohibition against an act or condition which has been requested, and sometimes granted, in a petition to the court for an injunction. Injunctive relief is not a judgment for money. It is sometimes part of a lawsuit for damages and/or contract performance. (Source:

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

5 More Considerations for Calculating Damages

Sorry for the late posting. I was visiting a newborn cousin today.

As promised, here are 5 more factors to consider, when calculating damages against an employer. This is not an exhaustive list. However, these 10 factors will certainly give you a good starting point for evaluating the amount of damages you and/or an attorney may seek in a civil suit. Even if you are represented by an attorney, you should still have an understanding of some of the factors that are weighed in regard to calculating damages.

So, here are factors 6-10:

6. The employer's actions after it was informed of discrimination should be considered. An employer who has notice of discriminatory conduct and fails to take action could incur
punitive damages.

For instance, after an employee complained of discrimination (harassment and/or retaliation), if the employer failed to do anything to prevent or stop continued discrimination, that would be compelling evidence of a tolerance or an encouragement of behavior that violates Federal statutes and could warrant damages. f

7. Proof of threats or deliberate retaliatory action against complaining parties for complaints to management or filing a charge normally will constitute malice.

For instance, if you have evidence that you were threatened financially by a supervisor based on suspicion that you might file or had filed a complaint. This would be compelling evidence, which should be considered for determining damages.

8. Relevant background facts.

Specific employment decisions and issues should not be looked at in isolation. Other information that can shed light on whether the employer’s adverse employment decision was motivated by race includes the employer’s treatment of other employees (or customers, etc.), race-related attitudes, the work environment generally, and the context of the challenged employment decision.

For example, background evidence that an employer has discriminated against African Americans in hiring, pay, or promotions would support an African American employee’s claim that a pattern of mistreatment – e.g., her supervisor undermining her work, ostracizing her, and making snide comments – is actually a pattern of race-based harassment.

The point is that background evidence can help determine the employer’s state of mind and otherwise provide important context. Also, as suggested by the above example, the inquiry into background evidence can reveal other potential violations of the statute.

9. Relevant personnel policies.

An employer’s deviation from an applicable personnel policy, or a past practice, can support an inference of a discriminatory motive.

It would be quite compelling for you to show that your employer ignored or strayed from their personnel policies in regard to you. Or, that your employer deviated from some past practice or standard operating procedure in your case. The question would be raised, what was the motive for the employer taking actions, which contradict there standard practices or actual personnel policies?

10. Comparative treatment evidence.

This is evidence as to whether you were treated the same as, or differently than, similarly situated persons of a different race.

For instance, how were White employees of a similar title, level, pay grade, etc. treated compared to you? Can you show that different and/or lax standards were used to evaluate the skills, education, years of service, etc. in a manner which clearly was set up to benefit White staff. Were White staff promoted despite the fact that they failed to meet the established standards set by the company? Were you denied a promotion based on not meeting standards that didn’t apply to White staff? It’s important to show how you were treated differently.

There will be more information tomorrow on damages.


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Monday, March 10, 2008

Considerations to Make When Calculating Damages

After looking at various EEOC recommendations and guidelines, there are about 10 factors I’d recommend you consider when it comes to calculating damages to seek against an employer. Today, I will list the first 5 factors:

1. The degree of egregiousness and nature of your employer’s (coworker’s, supervisor’s, etc.) conduct should be considered.

When you think of egregious behavior, think of what the EEOC refers to as behavior that is “shocking” or “offensive to the conscience.” Egregious behavior is outlandish/extreme and unconscionable.

For instance, a coworker throwing a make-shift noose around a Black employee’s neck and HR dismissing this as “horseplay.”

Or, a Black worker being told, per the EEOC example, that only a certain number of Black workers could work in a store because when too many Black people get together “they get arrogant.”

Egregious behavior should be considered, when evaluating damages.

2. The nature, extent, and severity of the harm you suffered should be considered.

For instance, if you were discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment from a wide range of higher-ups in management. During that time you were demoted, stripped of your assignments, forced to take a pay cut, humiliated in front of coworkers and clients, etc.

The nature of the harm suffered, the seriousness of the harm, and the level/scope of the harm are key factors.

3. The duration of the discriminatory conduct should be considered.

The longer you were subjected to discriminatory behavior, the more liability may be relevant to your case.

4. The existence and frequency of similar past discriminatory conduct by your employer should be considered.

Are you aware of past or current employees, who were subjected to similar discriminatory behavior? If so, make a list and speak to these individuals to find out details that will show a potentially systemic problem at your company (discriminatory behavior at your place of employment may be an official policy). Document everything you can find out. Ask around discreetly. Try to find out if there were past complaints or lawsuits filed with attorneys or investigations conducted by an external investigatory agency. People talk! Someone will likely know about such cases and may be all too willing to tell you about them.

5. Evidence that your employer planned and/or attempted to conceal or cover-up the discriminatory practices or conduct is relevant.

Did your employer try to come up with pretexts (racially neutral motives) to cover up the racism in your workplace and any actions taken against you?

For instance, did your employer get staff to lie about you and make false statements about your work or attitude? Did you employer give you a malicious and false performance evaluation to justify negative employments actions that you were already subjected to? Did your employer give you a malicious and fraudulent performance evaluation in order to justify denying you a promotion that you were due for? Did your employer create new policies or procedures to cover up their actions? Did items turn up missing from your personnel file or was your personnel file destroyed?

Look for evidence that shows intentional malice (planning) and actions that show concealment or a cover-up.

Tomorrow, there will be 5 more factors to consider.

In the meantime, you can also check out this link: p://

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Working on My Complaint Today--No New Post

I received a phone call from the person investigating my complaint against a former employer. I have some questions to answer and some research to do, so I won't be uploading a post today.

As always, check the links and archives for resources and previous posts.

Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Proof Your Work...Don't Make Your Life Harder!

I can’t tell you how shocked I’ve been by some of the emails and memos I’ve received from some of my Black coworkers. Throughout my career, I’ve received emails written entirely in lowercase or uppercase, without any punctuation, and containing many spelling errors. These emails weren’t always simply sent to me. Most times, there were many recipients on the email distribution list. And, it wasn’t just email. Memos and other documents were sometimes disseminated before they were ready for primetime.

I’ve always tried to caution Black workers about sending out anything that makes it appear that they are barely literate, unprofessional, don’t care about details, don’t know their job, don’t value their reputation, and/or don’t value the reputation of their employer or clients.

Always proof your work before passing it along to other staff! Here are some tips:

--Make sure you've used lowercase and uppercase letters, as appropriate. Don't write totally in lowercase or uppercase, which amounts to yelling.

--Make sure you've used punctuation.

--Spell check and grammar check your work. Use the spell check/grammar feature in your word processing package.

--Read your document from the end to the beginning. Reading out of order is a great way to catch errors like “their” for “there,” etc.

--If you receive work from other staff, do a quick edit/proof before you make your own changes to a file. Save the original version of the file you received and save your version, with your changes, in another file. That way you can always recreate what you received and what condition it was in, when you got it.

--Don’t assume the work you receive from other staff is correct or completely fulfills the requirements of the assignment. Do not assume that, because work was handed over to you by someone White, the work is accurate! Do a thorough review of any work you receive before passing it along to your superiors or other members of your team. You could be blamed for someone else's errors!

--If someone is lingering around your desk, while you are still proofing an assignment, either ask them to have a seat (and they can watch you check the work) or tell them you are reviewing it before handing it over and will let them know of any revisions or additions that they may need to make. Tell them you will get back to them. Do not rush, which will cause errors!

--This is important. If the work requires substantial changes and you’re dealing with a problem employee, don’t make the changes yourself unless you’ve been asked to do so. You should kick the assignment back to the individual who is responsible for getting it done. Simply include your recommended changes and/or questions and kick it back to them.

If you make changes to someone else’s work without talking to them about it, it can be seen as a sign of disrespect and a lack of faith in the person’s ability to perform their job. This can lead to all sorts of issues. Some people don’t want anyone to contribute to or change their work, particularly writing assignments.

Final thought, mark your changes with a pencil, not a red pen, which many people find offensive.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Coping with a Poisonous Work Environment

When you are being discriminated against, harassed or are the victim of retaliation, it is a very emotional and stressful time. I actually suffered hair loss, insomnia, high blood pressure, headaches, neck pain, and other problems, when I was targeted at work over a sustained period of time.

Even friends and family become victims. They have to watch you suffer and they also have to listen to the endless stories you tell about what is happening at work. It’s stressful for everyone in your inner circle.

Regardless of what is going on at work, you have to remember to keep yourself as healthy and sane as possible. Think about it…workplace abuse often involves psychological warfare. Usually, there are many people against one targeted employee. You have to understand that it is normal to feel mentally and physically ravaged by events at work.

There are some things you can do to help your situation:

TIP #1: You have to be proactive in coming up with strategies for how to cope with your problems at work, including deciding when it may be time to end your employment. Remember, you can always continue your fight to clear your name, when you have severed employment with a company.

TIP #2: If you should decide to leave employment, carefully examine the job market, your finances, and your options. If you are forced to resign your position, always try to leave a job on your own terms.

TIP #3: If you stay at your job, do everything in your power to create a positive and peaceful environment. Bring your favorite CDs to work. Bring in artwork or photos that provide a visual getaway. Take a 5-10 minute walk outside of the building, whenever you need it. But, try to be discreet, when you leave. If you have to, pretend you’re going on a smoking break, which many companies allow. If you’re a non-smoker, say that you’ve suddenly taken it up! If you have to stand there with a loosey in your hand, so be it! Stand outside for a few minutes to purge the negative energy you’ve built up from the office.

Tip #4: Make a quick phone call to a friend or meet a friend for lunch and talk about something other than your problems at work.

Tip #5: Take your lunch break off the premises, if possible. Don’t go to the company cafeteria. Get off of the company grounds!

TIP #6: Focus on doing your job correctly. Don’t give your employer ammunition to use against you that will “justify” your continued mistreatment.

Tip #7: Document everything! Knowing that you are making the best case possible and protecting your interests will give you some peace of mind.

Tip #8: Don’t forget that exercise helps to relieve stress and tension.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

"Talking Back" vs. Protecting Your Interests

In the workplace, silence can kill you. Suffering in silence, while someone is bullying you, harassing you, retaliating against you or discriminating against you is a form of active participation in your mistreatment. Silence signals your explicit agreement. By not complaining, you’ve spoken. You’ve said that everything is okay.

Only you can decide if you prefer to remain quiet, rather than speak out against abuse. Just keep in mind that silence won’t change anything. A person, who is capable of violating Federal statutes (read: breaking the laws) prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace, is probably not going to wake up one morning and decide that they’re wrong and should cease this behavior.

In fact, it’s more likely that they will escalate their behavior. If they’ve been getting away with potentially illegal behavior and their target hasn’t spoken out, they will have the impression that they can get away with anything. If this person has authority over you, it’s not that hard to imagine your illegal mistreatment continuing or escalating. So, instead of “just” never putting you up for a promotion, this person may decide to accuse you of fake performance deficiencies, demote you, suspend you, place you on probation, etc.

There is a huge risk in remaining silent!

Part of the issue is that many Blacks are afraid to speak up at work. Part of that is connected to our history in this country. After emancipation, Blacks still had no rights. We could be lynched for being in the wrong area, looking at a White person the wrong way, not stepping aside, when a White person was walking by, etc. We began to train ourselves to be deferential to White people because we could pay with our lives, if we were deemed to have offended a White person (truly or falsely). As a result, there are many Blacks who are still intimidated by Whites and who are afraid to be perceived as being contrary or difficult because they may become a target.

On top of that, Blacks have many stereotypes related to our so-called negative attitude. For instance, we are supposed to be angry, defensive, hostile, rude, unprofessional/ghetto, loud, and to have large chips on our shoulders. We’re never supposed to be able to take constructive criticism because someone with a bad attitude is incapable of having any kind of reasonable discussion.

All of this feeds into a fear of being perceived as talking back to White folks, if the need arises to make a complaint or challenge/confront any issue at work. Many of us feel that if we say anything, we are going to be bombarded with many of the criticisms I just mentioned. If you “talk back,” you will be called defensive and/or hostile. If you “talk back,” you will be called angry and/or rude. If you “talk back,” then you just can’t take constructive criticism.

For many Blacks, it seems easier to remain silent…to just suck things up. But, despite consistent pressure on Blacks to remain silent (even from other Blacks who consider speaking out against abuse to be tantamount to “troublemaking”), we have a right to be heard!

Instead of thinking of speaking up as “talking back,” start thinking about it as protecting your interests. For instance:

--Not allowing someone to falsely accuse you of missing deadlines or making costly errors on an assignments protects your interests because it makes it hard or impossible for false claims to appear in your performance evaluation, can prevent you from being written up or placed on probation, can prevent your termination, etc.

--Documenting and reporting harassment, including a hostile work environment, can protect your interests by providing the evidence you may later need to prove that you have been subjected to potentially illegal mistreatment at work;

--Documenting your verbal and written communications about being passed over for a promotion, while less qualified staff were promoted protects your interests because the documentation shows that there is a potential issue with equitable evaluation of skills, education, and tenure and that you voiced your concerns to management; and

--Documenting solutions you’ve offered to stop abuse and/or to rectify harm caused by abuse protects your interests because it shows that you aren’t simply a “whiner” or “cry baby” and that you offered a way to resolve problems in-house.

Remember, you are your first line of defense. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns about issues. You have a right to protect your interests. As long as you are expressing concerns in a professional manner and you are making complaints in good faith, there shouldn’t be an issue.

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