Friday, August 29, 2008

"America, We Can Not Turn Back!"- Obama's Nomination Acceptance Speech

Yes, I know this blog is called the Black Factor and it deals with issues of race in the workplace. But, what is happening right now with Sen. Barack Obama becoming the first Black nominee of a major political party is too historic for me to ignore. I promise that I will get back to workplace issues on Monday. But, I will take a moment to remind you that the President we choose has a direct impact on issues facing us in the workplace. From judicial appointments to enacting laws that can destroy or reinforce the workplace rights of employees (anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation laws, etc.), the role of President has a direct impact on us—and our jobs—even if we do not vote.

With that said: cut and paste this link to see the video of Obama’s nomination acceptance speech:

Some of my favorite lines from the speech include:

-- [Speaking about MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech] The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred. But what the people heard instead – people of every creed and color, from every walk of life – is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one. “We cannot walk alone,” the preacher cried. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” America, we cannot turn back.

-- Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land – enough!…On November 4th, we must stand up and say: “Eight is enough.”

-- John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

--I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.

-- Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

-- …what I will not do is suggest that the Senator [McCain] takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

--The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain…I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

-- You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington…If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice – but it is not the change we need.

--We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe.

What stood out for you? Post a comment.

Full text of Sen. Obama’s Nomination Acceptance Speech

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest – a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia – I love you so much, and I’m so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story – of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That’s why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women – students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments – a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land – enough! This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: “Eight is enough.”

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives – on health care and education and the economy – Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors – the man who wrote his economic plan – was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.

Well it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job – an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great – a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves – protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

That’s the promise of America – the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.

That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.

Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime – by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less – because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility – that’s the essence of America’s promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America’s promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That’s not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice – but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans – have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose – our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what – it’s worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us – that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it – because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I’ve seen it. Because I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I’ve seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they’d pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I’ve seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead – people of every creed and color, from every walk of life – is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

“We cannot walk alone,” the preacher cried. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.


If you missed Michelle Obama speaking at the DNC Convention, check out her speech at:

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Free Obama/Biden Sticker

Do you want a free Obama/Biden sticker? MoveOn's giving them away totally free--even the shipping's free. I just got mine.

Cut and paste this link to get a free Obama/Biden sticker:

Spread the word

Watch Part of "The Dream" Tonight!

With the 45th anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech being marked today, there is only one thing on my mind and that is what this post is about...

Tonight, Sen. Barack Obama will formally accept the nomination for President of the United States. He will be speaking at Invesco Field in Denver, Colorado to a crowd of more than 70,000 attendees. Please watch his speech and call your friends to see if they are tuning in!

I know there may be some eye-rolling because there is a diverse span of opinions in the Black community regarding American politics. I know many Black people who've never voted and are proud of it and use America's racial past and still existent racism to justify their lack of participation in the political system.

I know some others feel that the American political system does nothing for Blacks and means nothing to Blacks (We probably would have had a better response to Hurricane Katrina under a Democrat!)

I know some feel the wrong candidate won the Democratic primary.

And, there are others who think Barack Obama just isn't Black enough and that "the dream" doesn't apply to him.

Well, I don't care if you're a former Hillary Clinton supporter or if you don't like Barack Obama for something he can't change (being half-white and/or being half-Kenyan) or if you have any other issues with him.


I don't know about you, but I'm not even 40 years old and I never thought I'd live to see this day. This Black man and his beautiful Black family are on the verge of becoming the First Family of this country. There's hard work to be done, but it is possible.

Tonight, do yourself a favor and don't let history pass you by!

If you hadn't planned on watching Sen. Obama's acceptance speech, please tune in. If you don't want to hear all of the day's speeches, then tune in for Obama at 10 pm EST.

If you have cable, the best way to watch the convention is on C-Span. There are no talking heads babbling over the speakers and you get to hear the case for Barack Obama and against John McCain and the GOP.

ELECTIONS MATTER! If you are like many other Americans, your life has probably gotten tougher over the last eight years. I'm a believer that we can change things, as corny as it sounds. You have to believe and then you have to do the work.

If you are not registered to vote, please register!! Even if you aren't sure you want to vote this year, please register. Give yourself the option on election day! Too much is at stake. War and peace are at stake! We can't sit on the sidelines.

I'm not telling you who to vote for, just vote. Do it for MLK. Do it for the ancestors. Do it for those who died for your right to vote. Don't let anyone talk you out of voting.

When election day is near...tell your friends to vote!

Send email. Send text messages. Get out the vote, follow some of the issues being debated, watch at least one debate. Make up your mind and then vote. I don't care if you write-in a name on your ballot. Make sure you are heard. Don't disenfranchise yourself.

Visit Barack Obama's website at

Make a donation, if you can. It's whatever you can spare!

And, dont' history being made tonight. If you're cynical about politics, you might be surprised at how emotionally you respond to what's happening!

Tomorrow, post your thoughts on Obama, the anniversary of MLK, and/or on Obama's speech.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Segregation of Work

According to the EEOC, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is violated where employees who belong to a protected group are segregated by physically isolating them from other employees or from customer contact. In addition, employers may not assign employees according to race or color.

For example, Title VII prohibits assigning primarily African-Americans to predominantly African-American establishments or geographic areas. It is also illegal to exclude members of one group from particular positions or to group or categorize employees or jobs so that certain jobs are generally held by members of a certain protected group.

Coding applications/resumes to designate an applicant's race, by either an employer or employment agency, constitutes evidence of discrimination where people of a certain race or color are excluded from employment or from certain positions.

I’ve previously written about one job I had, where Black workers were routinely excluded from direct client contact. White managers, mid-level staff, and junior staff would normally attend the meetings with our government clients. After all of the strategy sessions were done, Black employees would be invited to participate—on conference calls.

It got so bad, that one government contracting officer asked the President and CEO of our company where the Black employees were. She said that she and other contracting officers noticed they were only meeting White employees. She said that the government was using taxpayer funds and she expected diversity. She also said that she wanted to make sure that Black and minority workers were being assigned to work on assignments where we were targeting African Americans, as well as on so-called mainstream assignments targeted to the general population or specifically to Whites. The contracting officer declared an expectation that minorities not just perform administrative work, but ACTUAL PROJECT WORK.

So, my employer literally held one of her “dog and pony shows.” Except, this time, she was showing off the Black and minority workers. The CEO took these government clients around our office building—only stopping at the offices of Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian employees. This was the first time many of us were introduced to our clients. We'd never seen any of these people and our contracts had been going on for years!

Another example of segregation is that some Black employees are segregated to only work on Black projects. I had a coworker, a researcher, who was only assigned to conduct research, when the interviewees were Black. This was the tactic used by a director and a mid-level manager in another department. They refused to assign her to interview Whites, Hispanics, etc.

Another issue, at some companies, is that Black workers end up in the lowest level administrative staff positions and with the lowest salaries. This can represent a segregation and classification issue because it is not inherently plausible that only Blacks are capable of working in the lowest level jobs at a company.

What can you do?

Take a look at the positions at your job. Who is working on what? What are the titles, job levels, and classifications?

If you suspect a segregation and classification issue, begin to compile documentation that can support your position. If your company distributes employees lists and other demographic charts, mark them up to reflect the issue you see. Talk to other employees to see if they also notice the issue and view it as a problem. If a group of employees want to address the issue, do so as a group. Speak to someone in HR about the issue. It’s best to go in mass regarding issues like this. But, if you have to fly solo, make sure you have all the facts and can prove your point.

Build a circumstantial case that is sound and easy to understand. Gather organizational charts and anything else that will demonstrate a need for investigation and change.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Protection Against Retaliation

If you file an internal complaint at your company alleging that you are the victim of harassment or retaliation, your employer is supposed to inform staff that it will not accept you being subjected to any mistreatment, while your complaint is being investigated.

In addition, any employment decisions that are made, after you file a complaint, should be reviewed by your employer in order to ensure that the decisions are not a disguise for continued punishment. For instance, if you complain about harassment from your supervisor and your supervisor transfers you to an office that is isolated (a long and out-of-the-way commute, etc.), your employer should analyze the transfer and should reverse the supervisor’s decision, if it is determined that you were transferred based on your supervisor’s need for revenge.

The EEOC specifically says:

An employer should make clear that it will not tolerate adverse treatment of employees because they report harassment or provide information related to such complaints. An anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure will not be effective without such an assurance.

Management should undertake whatever measures are necessary to ensure that retaliation does not occur. For example, when management investigates a complaint of harassment, the official who interview s the parties and witnesses should remind these individuals about the prohibition against retaliation. Management also should scrutinize employment decisions affecting the complainant and witnesses during and after the investigation to ensure that such decisions are not based on retaliatory motives.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Be Your Own Detective

If you are dealing with a race-based issue at work, it is best to be your own detective. You should be doing everything possible to prove your case—especially if you know you are building a case based on circumstantial evidence.

Part of being a detective (or private eye) is learning how to be a good snoop. Part of snooping involves eavesdropping. I will be the first to admit that I have put a glass to a wall and listened to conversations in the office next door. I would stand in corridors and listen to conversations until I heard someone approaching. If I thought any conversation could be useful to me, I would do my best to listen in.

Eavesdropping may be one of your best ways to get inside information. Don’t feel guilty about invading someone’s privacy because they could have found a more secure place to speak, if they didn’t want anyone to hear what they had to say.

Quietly loiter near open office doors and listen in on private conversations and phone calls that may seem to shed some insight on your situation or the perpetrator in your case. People are bold. You’d be surprised what they will talk about with an open door, when they are standing at the printer, are in the bathroom or if they are standing in a cubicle where anyone can hear what they have to say.

If you hear any juicy tidbits, write them down and file them away. Later on, determine how you can use the information to your advantage.

Remember, if you are having problems with someone, sometimes there are other people that are also having issues. If you are being harassed by an unpopular coworker or manager, listen in for conversations where other workers are talking about their personal ordeals with this person. This information can help you establish a pattern of negative behavior and can show an out-of-control coworker or manager.

You never know how eavesdropping can help provide you with a lead that can develop into a wealth of information that you can use against a coworker, manager or the company, as a whole.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Black Folks Change Laws

I’ve often heard people say, “Black folks change laws.” This expression means that if a practice, procedure, law, etc. seems to benefit an African American or can be used as a “shelter” by an African American (e.g., protection against workplace, housing, and other forms of discrimination), White folks will simply change the rules in order to destroy or negate the effects of that benefit.

I’ve learned just how true that expression is by getting caught in The Black Factor cross-hairs at previous jobs. For instance, I’ve had a prior employer change the “law” by making revisions and additions to the personnel manual that were meant to negate my complaints against the company.

But, when companies change laws for Black folks, it doesn’t have to be as drastic as changing the personnel manual. Here are a few ways I’ve seen procedures changed to “unaccommodate” African American employees, while utilizing The Black Factor as a mechanism for disparate treatment:

• Adding undocumented requirements to promotion or hiring criteria, such as stating there is a “preference” for something or other that was not or has not been required of White staff. For instance, an African American with a B.A. may be told they can’t be a certain level or classification because they do not have a Ph.D. However, a White new hire with a B.A. is brought in at the strictly Ph.D. level/classification--without any basis for the disparity;

• Changing procedures to add a layer of work to a job, particularly administrative work, when an African American takes over a job for White staff;

• Taking a “wait and see” attitude with nearly every request made by African Americans. Depending on where you work, every request may be “too premature” for discussion. For instance, an African American may be told that it is too premature to discuss better or more advanced assignments, but they are not told that there are things they need to work on before these opportunities are made available; and

• How about the lunch game? You know, where they suddenly change the lunch and/or work schedules for no other reason than to prevent a group of African Americans from being available to go to lunch together. No credible work-related reasoning can account for the change in schedules.

If you find yourself dealing with new rules, here are some things you can do:

--When you notice laws being changed or policies being violated to create double-standards, document them! Your documentation may help demonstrate disparate treatment in your workplace. I suggest that you:

--Keep hard copies of important memos, emails, and written guidelines!

--Maintain a log containing examples of unequal treatment!

--Keep hard copies of the sections in the personnel manual that govern areas where you have a complaint! With technological advances, some companies are only maintaining the personnel manual online through an employee-only intranet site. However your personnel manual is available, you should be sure to print or copy anything that may be relevant to your area of grievance. If there have been updates or revisions to policies that are germane to any issues or complaints you have at work, be sure to print the addendums and revised text--while maintaining the original copy of the policy. You want to be able to compare the original and revised/added versions of the corporate policy. This is especially helpful if you request an internal or external investigation.

--When you feel you have enough examples and evidence to demonstrate unequal treatment in your workplace, address the situation with your supervisor or with Human Resources. There truly is strength in numbers, so if more than one person is willing to put their name on the grievance, your case will be stronger and your issue will be taken more seriously.

REMEMBER: Although it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for filing a good faith complaint about discrimination, any on-the-job complaint/grievance could result in retaliation or harassment. Only you can decide if you are ready to take on the disparities at your job.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tips for Responding to Nasty and/or Offensive Emails

Here are some general suggestions to follow, when you are responding to nasty and offensive emails , including emails where you are being blamed for something you did not do or where an incident is being misrepresented (e.g., a meeting with a client). When, writing correspondence:

--Don’t just click “reply” to respond to a negative email. You should prepare your response in another software format, like Microsoft Word. When you receive an email that angers you, you may accidentally send the message before you are ready to do so. There may be plenty of language that you would have edited out in a second go at your correspondence. If you know you’re pissed off, compose your response in another program (like Word) and cut and paste your reply into the email when you are ready to send it.

--Always assume someone else may be blind-copied on an email. This is why you should develop the habit of clicking on the “Rely to All,” when responding to email. This is also why you should always retain the highest level of professionalism--at all times! Don’t lash out and don’t respond with the first feelings that come to mind. Take your time thinking about what you want to say, what information you need to include, and what tone is appropriate for your response.

--Highlight the areas of question or concern. When you’re mad, you may tend to respond from emotion. Try to avoid this behavior. Instead:

--Be very specific about the issue.

--Identify exact quotes or language to support your claims.

--Address how this impacts your work or reputation, if you are being falsely accused of performance deficiencies.

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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.


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Monday, August 18, 2008

IN THE NEWS: "The Obama Nation" - The Abomination (Get It?)

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hit back Thursday with a 40-page rebuttal to the best-selling book "The Obama Nation," arguing the author is a fringe bigot peddling rehashed lies.

Regarding the play on words (Obama Nation for Abomination) – There are many web sites now claiming that Obama is the Anti-Christ!

I would like to note that the book is a best–seller because of large bulk sales to conservative organizations and churches. The New York Times Best-Sellers List has a dart next to the book sales figures specifically because the sales figures are called into question due to these very large bulk sales.

Thanks to Jill for sending me the links to check out regarding “The Obama Nation”(cut and paste the links):

Fight the Smears website:

.PDF file link:



I’m heading off for a vacation this week, so I am scheduling automatic posts to update each day. I’ll start the week off slowly, by posting a news bit that caught my attention regarding Barack Obama. As I’ve said in many posts, the attacks being leveled against Sen. Obama are similar to some of the attacks that some Black workers face in the workplace. Character assassination is a useful tool for some in any venue. Anyway, see the post below.

Friday, August 15, 2008

People Often Reveal More Than They Want To Or Ought To

This is the final post about the importance of reading everything that crosses your desk.

It’s important that you really read everything that comes across your desk, when you are working in a hostile environment. Not only may there be subtle accusations being made about your character, work ethic or job performance, but there may also be information included that can help PROVE your case.

When people are on the attack, they may tip their hand or reveal a bit more than they should have. They are trying so hard to get you in a nasty email or memo that they may slip up and make a confession or even a semi-confession. They may accidentally corroborate something you’ve said about one thing by lying about something else.

For instance, my employer denied engaging in any employment actions against me, when I filed an external complaint. But, when asked to respond in writing they claimed that every employment action they took against me was due to my poor performance and/or negative behavior. Which one was it? Did they or didn’t they take employment actions against me?

Well, in writing, they confessed to taking actions with regard to my employment. Now, they had to answer as to what exact actions they took and they had to justify why they took them. They would have been better off sticking to deniability and saying they had no idea what I was complaining about. They should have stuck to the story of not doing anything to me and forced me to prove that they did.

Instead, my employer acknowledged—in writing—that they did act with regard to my employment. They were so busy trying to blame me for their actions, in order to justify those actions, that they didn’t think about how they were contradicting earlier statements that they didn't do anything to me. It may not seem like a big deal, but credibility is being assessed by investigators. Every little lie exposed to an investigator or lawyer makes an employer look like they would lie about the really big things!

It is important that you become an avid reader at work. You may develop all sorts of defenses to counter your employer’s false claims, just by thoroughly reading the information you have in your possession. So, read the boring stuff (like the personnel manual) and carefully read the explosive stuff (like offensive emails).

Don’t get so caught up in being pissed by an email or memo that you don’t go back and sift through the document word-for-word to see what you can use to your advantage. Prevailing in the workplace often involves using your opponent’s words and actions against them.

Get everything in writing.

And, carefully read everything you receive.

Never allow your frustration with the job prevent you from taking advantage of opportunities to exploit your employer.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Read Between The Lines

This follows yesterday’s post about the importance of reading and documenting everything. Yesterday, I mentioned that some of the documents we should read carefully are emails, memos, instructions on performing work, job descriptions, and the personnel manual.

If you are under attack, those are the documents that are going to be critical in helping to build your case and explain what your issues are at work. That’s why you should get in the habit of dissecting everything someone has sent you in writing.

You don’t want to engage in psychoanalysis of every email or memo, however, you really need to look at the overall message someone is including in a email or memo to you or about you. People can be really sneaky, especially when it comes to composing email and memos. As with any type of writing, there’s much that can be communicated without being expressly written.

You need to develop the habit of really reading emails and memos, not just skimming them. For instance, if someone is writing about a missed deadline, take a good look as to how any information about your work on the project is characterized, if this person has chosen to write about you in the same email. Supervisors, managers, and coworkers come up with lots of sneaky ways to blame other people--particularly those junior to them.

Don’t be complicit in any false perceptions about your job performance, work ethic, punctuality, thoroughness, behaviors, etc.

If you notice something, even not something explicitly stated, address it. But, address it professionally and without calling the person out directly. Just send a clarifying email response that serves the purpose of being helpful, not defensive. When you’re working with The Black Factor, “You’re too defensive” and “You’re unable to take criticism” are words that will flow like water.

Finally, read for the contradictions. Liars always make one move to many and will often massage a story to the point of actually revealing some truth, when they are attempting to conceal it. Liars normally can’t keep all their lies straight. This includes liars with Master’s degrees and Ph.D.s. When they go off the rails, it’s not usually any prettier than when an ordinary pathological liar decides to start fabricating stories.

Always look for opportunities to show how your employer is saying something—in writing—that contradicts what they’ve previously said and/or (even better) contradicts their own written policies, such as the personnel manual.

The art to trapping your employer is to read what they’ve given you and sitting with the documents side-by-side to see where the inconsistencies are. It’s very rare to have direct evidence, such as being called the n-word, so you have to be your first detective and build a circumstantial case that proves your position.

No one will see any merit to your case unless you have gathered documentation that does more than force them to rely on he said/she said with you and an employer. Reading is an important part of getting some resolution at work or in obtaining assistance from an external investigator or lawyer. You have to be able to explain what happened and to prove it/show evidence.

Lawyers want a case to fall into their laps with most of the leg work complete. They don't want to spend time hiring other investigators, etc. You have to make it as easy as possible for someone to see why they should represent you. You can't go to a lawyer making claims you can't prove and then expect they will work for free trying to prove your allegations because you can't provide any documentation or testimonial evidence to support your complaint.

Be a detective and dig out proof of the truth. Much of this will be found in written evidence.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If You Want To Hide Something From a Black Person...

What’s that old expression? “If you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.” (or some say, "write it down")

There’s long been a stereotype that Black people don’t like to read. The thinking is that Black folks prefer to rely on oral communication to document history and to communicate, in general. We supposedly don’t like to write and we don’t like to read.

The harsh reality is that proving racial discrimination, harassment or retaliation at work requires a worker to become a voracious reader, as well as a person who consistently documents everything happening around them.

What are some of the things you should document?

--every race-based incident of discrimination, harassment or retaliation;

--a list of everyone who witnessed your mistreatment or was present for words or actions that demonstrate discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation in the workplace;

--every false allegation of performance deficiencies;

--every false allegation that you have personality deficiencies (e.g., falsely accused of being extremely rude or negative);

--a hostile work environment (e.g., heightened scrutiny and observation, physical or verbal abuse, nasty and offensive emails).

What are some of the documents you should be sure to carefully read?

--emails or memos making false allegations about poor work performance;

--emails making any type of negative claims about your personality;

--instructions for performing work/completing assignments, especially assignments from a difficult/racist coworker or supervisor;

--your job description (you may be accused of failing to do things that aren’t a part of your job or you may be exceeding the requirements of your job by performing work that is at the next level in your career path); and

--your personnel manual (explains your employee rights, contains specifics on discrimination, harassment and retaliation, dictates how your employer should evaluate employees, explains how supervisors should handle workplace disputes, should provide details on internal investigations, etc.).

These are just examples, but they are very important pieces of information to document or to carefully read. When you are in the midst of issues at work, you have to face up to what you are being accused of and you have to immerse yourself in it. You can't ignore what's being written about you because these documents ARE going into your employee file and will likely come back to haunt you before or during your next performance evaluation.

I'll admit that it's hard to read lies about yourself. However, that's what you must do in order to have any chance of prevailing against your employer. You have to know every lie they're telling about you like the back of your hand. And, you have to be able to manipulate that lie into reality--into the truth.

If you seek assistance from an outside investigator or lawyer, how will they be able to tell what is true and what is a lie? They don't work with you. They don't know your character, work ethic, etc. You will have to lead them to the truth and present a compelling version of events that would encourage an investigator to launch a full-scale investigation or a lawyer to accept your case as having merit.

So, you must read every email, memo, etc. And, you must show the lies and half-truths by presenting evidence, testimony, instructions, written policies, org charts, job descriptions, etc. that show you have a basis for your complaint.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue with the importance of really reading documentation you receive because there isn’t a single targeted employee who can afford to go around skimming emails and memos.

The documentation we receive at work may contain lots of places to exploit an employer’s words and actions based on what they’ve written and what they've said in the past.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lessons from a Reader's Ordeal

This response was submitted on my post on supervisor harassment.

“…I have several (5 in total) charges pending with EEOC and its been well over 2 years at this point I’m just amazed...after filing my initial complaint of discrimination, all forms of retaliation was a result (threats, denial of promotion, termination and ineligibility to rehire) I think what really pisses me off although I never trusted her was that the black HR director (she's no longer in her role) went along w/the program....HR was useless the companies internal EEO process was utterly useless...when you file a internal EEO complaint, the complaint is redirected to Human Resources. Fortunately, their case is unraveling, their written responses are not adding up to the documentation I submitted. I documented everything and interesting enough this same HR director told me no amount of documentation will win over a manager. Of course all of this was reported to EEOC.”

There are some things I’d like to point out about this post:

1) Don’t assume you can trust Black employees.

More importantly, don’t assume you can always trust Black members of management or HR to prevent or end race-based problems at work. We are no different than any other race of people. Each person has their own perceptions, beliefs, motives/personal agendas, etc. It’s disheartening for Black members of management or HR to sit by silently or to work with Whites against an innocent African American employee, but that type of collusion does happen. I’ve seen it happen to a Black coworker and I’ve had it done to me.

2) “HR was useless...”

Yes, HR will often protect the harasser because protecting that person usually helps the company—as a whole. Instead of getting rid of dead weight and those placing a company in legal jeopardy, HR will sometimes take the road to denial. They will often insist nothing happened and dare you to try to prove it. Or, they will say they’ve provided a remedy and sometimes they won’t tell you what the remedy is. I was told, about a harassing supervisor, “Trust me. She got what was coming to her. I can’t tell you what happened. But, she won’t be doing that again.” Apparently, no one told my supervisor because she was doing it again. And, again…

3) “Their written responses are not adding up to the documentation I submitted.”

That is why I am always writing posts recommending people DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!! An employer can lie, but if you have instructions, memos, emails, organizational charts, promotion lists, copies of the personnel manual, etc. that contradict what they are saying, they are usually going to be toast! You have to prove your case. A big part of proving your case is proving your employer is a liar. Documentation can and DOES win the day, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Documentation can show that your employer’s legitimate and non-racially based reasons for actions taken against you are lies. Documentation can prove how things transpired at work and can clarify the chain of command. Documentation can prove that you reported abuse and mistreatment. The benefits of documentation can go on and on.

Thanks to the reader for sharing. I’d love for other readers to share what’s going on with them and any lessons for the rest of us!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Bernie and Isaac

I want to start out by remembering Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes. My prayers go out to their families and friends.

Rest in peace!

My Job Was Slowly Killing Me

A friend visited me for my birthday and got a chance to tell me about the hostile work environment being created for many employees in his department by their shared supervisor.

He told me he was glad to get away for a brief vacation because he’d been so stressed out at work. He even said that his office mate, a quiet and mild-mannered woman, was pushed to the point where she screamed at the supervisor before walking out on the job—never to return. The woman had already quit once. But, the company offered her a raise to come back to the job. They promised things would get better. They did. For a few weeks. Then, the hostile work environment was right back. And, that led to the woman telling off her supervisor and walking off the job.

My friend and this woman had been enduring the stress of working for this person together. With her gone, that allowed by my friend to be subjected to more negative behavior from his supervisor.

In fact, things got so bad that my friend said that he’d been getting tension headaches. Like clockwork, the headaches came every day on his way to work. He had knots in his shoulders from being tense all day. And, he was absolutely stressed out because his harasser was making his presence known all day. He barely got any relief from the behavior.

This immediately took me back to my ordeal in the workplace. I remember tension headaches well. I also remember the sleepless nights, hair falling out, and my diagnosis with stage-1 hypertension.

What’s strange about it is that it took me a while to really register how bad I was feeling. When you are being subjected to discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation, you are so caught up in every incident at work, in avoiding your harasser(s), and in surviving each work day without being set up for failure or set up for blame that you don’t really absorb what your body is going through.

I think it was weeks before I realized that I was frequently getting headaches on the way to work. I had problems concentrating. I went from not eating to overeating. There was one thing after another going on and none of it was really registering for me until everything pretty much registered all at once. The onset of hypertension was the biggest shock.

My doctor gave me a week to see if my blood pressure would decrease before starting me on a lifetime regimen of medication to keep my pressure down. I spent that week doing yoga and taking walks outside, when I felt stressed at work. When I went home, I made myself talk to my family about something other than work. I watched movies and forced myself to be distracted.

It worked. My pressure went down, but it was still elevated. That’s when I knew I had to make some really important decisions about whether or not to remain at that job and what to do with my future.

The point of this post is to remind anyone whose going through issues at work to remember their health.

This will sound harsh, but the people violating Federal statutes at work (or dancing on the line of violating the law) won’t miss one night’s sleep if you die from a heart attack. They’ll help collect money to send flowers to your family for your funeral and they will go right on attacking the next person.

In the midst of race-related issues at work, you should make appointments to visit your doctor because elevated blood pressure is no joke. When I realized I was having headaches, I never connected it to hypertension. I just thought it was a simple stress headache. But, it was more. Visit your doctor. And, if you need to really speak to someone about your issues, visit a psychotherapist or psychiatrist to discuss your issues.

I know Black folks like to go to church and not mental health professionals, but sometimes you have to go there if you are having serious issues coping with the realities of your job. It’s not always enough to speak to friends and family about your issues. I will be the first to admit that, for a short time, I needed anti-anxiety medication to sleep and deal with the stress. Things had gotten that bad over the YEARS of issues taking place at my job.

I want everyone going through issues at work to come out of it with their health, if nothing else. Whether or not you file a complaint against your employer or you find a lawyer to assist you is secondary compared to living to see another day.

Look after your physical and mental health, before all else. That’s easy to forget in the midst of racial drama at work.

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Friday, August 08, 2008


The Legal Brief gives everyone an idea of some of the types of cases that EEOC litigates, as well as an idea about the specific race-based issues that other Blacks have faced and challenged in the workplace. Readers may also gain insight into the arguments presented by EEOC and the defenses offered by employers. This information may be helpful to workers, who may be considering filing a complaint or seeking legal counsel, as well as to employees who feel they are becoming embroiled in race-related issues at work.

In this case, the employer used intimidation tactics against coworkers in an attempt to silence them and hired private investiators in an attempt to get information to discredit the complaining employees. These employer tactics are not uncommon.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Home electronics retailer Video Only will pay $630,000 and implement preventative measures to settle two discrimination lawsuits, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on Monday. Judge Garr M. King of the U.S. District Court in Portland signed the Consent Decree approving the settlement.

According to the EEOC's suit (Civil Case No. 06-1362-KI in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon), two employees of Video Only’s Jantzen Beach store in Portland -- Michael Gonzales, a Hispanic, and Jayson Lewis, an African American whose fiancée and two young children are Jewish -- faced repeated slurs and jokes about their race, national origin, and religion. The abuse included use of the “N–word” by management; the telling of racially offensive “jokes”; use of the epithet “beaner”; and a doll with its hair and face painted black that was hog-tied and hung by a nail in the break room.

The EEOC also alleged that the company retaliated against Gonzales and Lewis after they reported the harass­ment by, among other things, hiring a private investigator to gather information in an effort to discredit their harassment claims. Company officials also confronted co-workers who supported the complain­ants by telling them they were hurting the company and trying to get them to quit, the EEOC charged.

The EEOC and the employees took the unusual step of filing pretrial papers seeking a ruling against the company and, on June 11, 2008, Judge King ruled that Video Only had indeed unlawfully retaliated against Lewis and Gonzales. In finding for the EEOC and the discrimina­tion victims, the court said the company had called for a private investigation because of Gonzales’s and Lewis’s complaints and “for no other reason.” The court also knocked down a cornerstone of Video Only’s defense, finding as a matter of law that Video Only failed to exercise reasonable care to promptly correct the harassment.

All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Gonzales and Lewis will be awarded $500,000 of the total $630,000 settlement. The remaining $130,000 resolved a related suit to which EEOC was not a party. The related suit alleged retaliation against Travis Herron and Dave Guralnick, two other Jantzen Beach employees who spoke out on behalf of Gonzales and Lewis.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Video Only agreed to implement anti-discrimin­ation policies and procedures in its work force. The company will provide anti-discrimination training to all management and non-management employees in Oregon and at its headquarters store in Seattle-Southcenter. The company will also provide periodic reports to EEOC on its compliance with the terms of the consent decree. The Oregon court will have jurisdiction to enforce the EEOC’s settlement for the next three years.

“Our investigation discovered harassment that engaged in the worst stereotypes and slurs about Blacks, Latinos and Jews, and that upper management actively participated in this behavior,” said EEOC Acting District Director Mike Baldonado. “This is a major victory for Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Lewis, the employees who testified on their behalf and future employees at Video Only. The settlement should send a strong message that harassment based on race, national origin and religion has no place in the workplace, and that those who speak out against discrimination are protected by law from retaliation.”

EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo added, “The kind of heavy-handed intimi­dation Video Only employed led us to seek a pre-trial ruling. The court’s June 11 finding affirms EEOC’s position that retaliation designed to frighten employees from reporting or testifying about discrimination violates the law. These employees should be recognized for their courage in stepping forward,”

Video Only, Inc. sells home entertainment video and audio equipment. The corporation has 18 stores located in Washington, California, and Oregon and has its headquarters in Seattle.

On Feb. 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp launched the Commission's E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at



Thursday, August 07, 2008

Circumstantial Evidence

According to the EEOC, the most common method of proving that retaliation was the reason for an adverse action is through circumstantial evidence. A violation is established if there is circumstantial evidence:

1) raising an inference of retaliation - Because you don't have direct evidence you have to show the implications of your evidence by building a thorough case against your employer and its arguments/positions;

2) if your employer fails to produce evidence of a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the challenged action (firing, demotions, suspension, transfer to a hard to reach location, being stripped of assignments, harassment, retaliation, etc.) - Are your employer's reasons for its actions against you plausible/believable? You have to focus on exposing their lies and destroying their cover story; or

3) if the reason advanced by the employer is a pretext to hide the retaliatory motive - You can show pretext by demonstrating that your employer treated you differently than similarly situated employees (similar jobs/titles, location/job site, job levels/classification, etc.).

Also consider that an initial inference of retaliation arises where there is proof that the protected activity and the adverse action were related. Typically, the link is demonstrated by evidence that:

-- the adverse action occurred shortly after the protected activity; and

-- the person who undertook the adverse action was aware of the complainant's protected activity (opposing discrimination, participating in an investigation, etc.) before taking the action.

So, if you file a complaint against your employer, internally or externally, alleging discriminatory practices, retaliation, etc. and you suddenly become targeted with adverse actions like increased surveillance and heightened scrutiny, unjustified negative performance evaluations, denial of a promotion, etc., you should link the timing of filing your complaint with the timing of a quick response by your employer that included adverse actions. Point out that those engaged in executing the performance action knew of your complaint/oppostion to discriminatory practices.

Even if your employer waits to execute adverse actions, you can still prove retaliation, etc. through other circumstantial evidence.

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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.



The Legal Brief gives everyone an idea of some of the types of cases that EEOC litigates, as well as an idea about the specific race-based issues that other Blacks have faced and challenged in the workplace. Readers may also gain insight into the arguments presented by EEOC and the defenses offered by employers. This information may be helpful to workers, who may be considering filing a complaint or are seeking legal counsel, as well as to employees who feel they are becoming embroiled in race-related issues at work.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that Tobacco Superstores, Inc. (TSS) will pay $425,000 and provide significant remedial relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit on behalf of qualified black workers who were denied promotion to management.

The EEOC’s lawsuit (Case No. 3:05 CV 00218) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jonesboro Division, was filed on behalf of Theresa Sharkey and a class of African Americans in Arkansas and Mississippi. In addition to rejecting the class of workers for promotion because of their race, the suit also alleged that Sharkey was forced to resign because of the company’s failure to promote her. Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to the monetary relief for the class of aggrieved individuals, the three-year consent decree settling the case also enjoins TSS from denying promotions to African American employees because of their race and from engaging in retaliation. The decree also requires TSS – which operates retail stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi – to:

• Provide training to all managers and supervisors on preventing race discrimination and retaliation;
• Create job descriptions for manager and assistant manager positions that outline the qualifications for each position;
• Develop a written promotion policy that will include the procedures by which employees will be notified of promotional opportunities;
• Report assistant manager and manager vacancies, the name and race of all applicants for the position, and the name of the successful candidate;
• Report the names of all African Americans who are either hired or promoted to manager or assistant manager positions; and
• Report any complaints of race discrimination and describe its investigation in response to the complaint.

“On July 2, we observed the 44th anniversary of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, yet race discrimination still remains a persistent problem in today’s contemporary workplace,” said Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and Northern Mississippi. “The EEOC urges employers to be vigilant in guarding against race discrimination in all aspects of employment.”

Celia Liner, the EEOC attorney who led the federal government’s litigation effort, added, “All employees should have the freedom to compete for promotions on a fair and level playing field, without regard to race. We are pleased that there are now effective procedures in place at this company to ensure that promotional opportunities are based on qualifications, not race.”

On Feb. 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp launched the Commission's E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at

In Fiscal Year 2007, the EEOC received 30,510 charge filings alleging race-based discrimination, an increase of 12% from the prior year and the highest level in more than a decade. Historically, race discrimination has accounted for the most frequent type of charge filing with EEOC offices nationwide.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at



Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Attack Your Employer's Credibility

One of the tactics you can use to defeat the lies and false accusations of an employer is to attack their credibility—the same as your employer will attack yours!

There are four basic components for looking into who is or isn’t credible: inherent plausibility, corroboration, motive to falsify, and past history. These are the same components that your employer will try to use to show that you—and not they—lack the credibility to be taken seriously.

Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself regarding the four basic components. These components are also helpful in shaping your overall arguments and positions regarding your complaint and any actions taken by your employer.

Inherent plausibility

--Are your employer’s arguments and positions believable at face value? Why or why not?

--Do their statements and evidence (real or fabricated) make sense? Why or why not?

--Are the actions of your employer justified/appropriate based on allegations or has your employer overreached or overreacted? Explain your position in detail.

--Do the actions of your employer adhere with written policies and procedures or are there violations? For instance, does written policy state/suggest that you should have first been placed on oral warning, but your employer jumped 3 phases and suspended you? Or, was your complaint automatically supposed to be internally investigated (based on your complaint), but your employer did not look into the facts/blatantly ignored your complaint? Provide specifics, provide copies of written policies and procedures, and explain how policies and procedures were violated.

When it comes to inherent plausibility, your goal is to shoot holes in every one of your employer’s arguments and positions. You should be thinking of cross examinations at a trial, when the defense is trying to shut down and destroy prosecution witnesses. Attack! Attack! Attack!

Motive to Falsify

--Does your employer have a reason to lie?

If so, show how your employer's cover story is simply designed as a pretext to hide their real motive--discrimination, harassment, etc. Use your employer's arguments against them to expose contradictions, violations of policy, etc. Use circumstantial or direct evidence to show the false case that was built by your employer.

--Do your employer's witnesses have a reason to lie?

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, ‘If you think they’re out to get you, they probably are?”

Well, I’m aware of a case of race-based retaliation, where an employer tried to cover up activities against a Black manager by essentially bribing the Black staff in her department to make statements against her or to pretend they did not know what was going on within the department.

Suddenly, there was a market review conducted of salaries within the department and all of these underpaid Black employees received increases. Additionally, Black employees that were willing to sign false statements against the manager were also given a separate salary increase. There was suddenly a performance award given out with a $1,000 bonus. Coincidentally, a Black person in the manager’s department won the award. The award was touted as being a new annual award, but the award was NEVER given out again!

In my case, my two main witnesses received harassing treatment and were calling me to tell me about sudden performance issues they were being alleged to have. They both felt that they were being told to shut up about what they witnessed and heard being said to me.

These are the things you should try to expose because they show people’s motive to lie on you. Some people do not need money to lie. They will lie simply to win favor with your employer and they will HOPE that lying provides them a benefit somewhere along the line. These types of people may feel lying just amounts to office politics and smartly playing the corporate game, so they will take down anyone that may present them with a problem and they will do whatever it takes to show they are a team player.

Some people have a motivation to lie in order to protect someone in the workplace that is highly valued, that they have a close relationship with, etc. You can help prove motivation by showing the links between staff, managers, important business deals, etc.


--Is there witness testimony?

--Is there physical evidence?

You need to create and maintain a list of witnesses that can back up your story of workplace events. If employees resign, that have witnessed your mistreatment, get their contact information or—at the very least—snoop around and find out what company they’ve gone to work for. You can always look them up later.

If possible, get your witnesses to write statements about what they’ve seen. Ask them to get the statements notarized. Someone close to you may be willing to do this! If you think someone would be hesitant to provide you a statement or even to write down what happened in an email, trap them. Yes, I hate to go there, but sometimes you have to trick people into telling the truth. Just see if you can get the person to engage in an email conversation with you about the incident. You can be like, “Can you believe she called me a ------ ?” And, keep the conversation going as long as possible to show that you were called an offensive name, as per this example, and that someone else heard the slur.

As far as physical evidence, document everything, save all hard copies of important and relevant paperwork (e.g., administrative forms, timesheets, etc.), forward important email, memos, etc. to your personal internet account, and if there has been physical violence—take pictures. If there has been physical violence, you should also call the police and make a report. You can also secretly tape record conversations and meetings. Even if it’s not admissible in court, you can use it to convince an investigator, lawyer, etc. to understand that your case is with merit and should be investigated.

Past Record

--Does your employer have a history of similar behavior and allegations?

You saw how they did Michael Jackson at his trial. Right or wrong, when there is an accusation, there is also an attempt to show a pattern of bad behavior. If you are under attack by your employer, you already know what I am talking about. In my case, one false allegation led to another and another. Before you knew it, my employer was trolling through my previous performance evaluations from years before and they were taking a sentence or two from the section about improving performance. They added this information to my current review and then wrote, in my latest review, that I was habitually and continually having these problems. This was a lie, but they were smart. They needed to make me a problem employee. They could only do that by pretending that I was consistently engaged in negative behavior. They twisted feedback on minor improvements that any employee could make and made them into a federal case that allegedly warranted me being targeted for HR attention.

This is what employers do, when they’ve committed to a course of action against an employee (e.g., setting a person up for termination, demotion, etc.).

You have to take the same tactic and show how your employer has a past history of engaging in mistreatment, misconduct, not investigating allegations of race-based abuses, or how they’ve previously engaged in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, etc. Ask questions and snoop around. One of your coworkers may have information you can use. Or, you may already know about how someone was dogged out by your employer, but you were uninvolved in the incident. Write down everything you know about that case and any others that are similar or show the same corporate dysfunctions you believe to be a problem in your case. Show the patterns!

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Supervisor Harassment - Part 2 (Effective Complaint Procedures)

Yesterday’s post started the discussion about what to do about harassment by a supervisor. Today, we’ll look at what the EEOC has to say about reporting harassment committed by a supervisor. It falls under the category of an employer having an effective complaint procedure.

In a nutshell, the EEOC says that if your supervisor is the harasser, you are entitled to report the harassment to someone other than this supervisor. Otherwise, the complaint process is worthless.

Therefore, if you are being told that you should not have gone over your supervisor’s head with complaints, you shouldn’t buy into that lie. There may be a preference that you don’t go over your supervisor’s head. But, that doesn’t make it a legally defensible request.

It makes no sense to report your supervisor to your supervisor. As I joked with a friend, how’s that investigation going to work? Will they put themselves on suspension or go for a demotion? Maybe a written warning? Of course not! In some cases an employee has no choice, but to circumvent the direct authority of a supervisor. Supervisor harassment is one of those times! This is from the EEOC:

Effective Complaint Procedures

An employer's harassment complaint procedure should be designed to encourage victims to come forward. To that end, it should clearly explain the process and ensure that there are no unreasonable obstacles to complaints. A complaint procedure should not be rigid, since that could defeat the goal of preventing and correcting harassment. When an employee complains to management about alleged harassment, the employer is obligated to investigate the allegation regardless of whether it conforms to a particular format or is made in writing.

The complaint procedure should provide accessible points of contact for the initial complaint. A complaint process is not effective if employees are always required to complain first to their supervisors about alleged harassment, since the supervisor may be a harasser. Moreover, reasonable care in preventing and correcting harassment requires an employer to instruct all supervisors to report complaints of harassment to appropriate officials.

It is advisable for an employer to designate at least one official outside an employee's chain of command to take complaints of harassment. For example, if the employer has an office of human resources, one or more officials in that office could be authorized to take complaints. Allowing an employee to bypass his or her chain of command provides additional assurance that the complaint will be handled in an impartial manner, since an employee who reports harassment by his or her supervisor may feel that officials within the chain of command will more readily believe the supervisor's version of events.


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