Thursday, April 30, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: Black worker gets $60k settlement for employer's failure to give review and yearly increase

The Legal Brief gives everyone an idea of some of the types of cases that EEOC litigates, provides information on anti-discrimination legal proceedings/court rulings, and identifies some of the specific race-based issues that other Blacks have faced and challenged in the workplace. The Legal Brief also provides 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.

This legal brief is about a Black worker, with outstanding job performance, who was not given a performance review or a yearly salary increase. However, his White coworkers—even a poor performing White worker, who’d received customer complaints—were given reviews and salary increases.

This isn’t shocking. The performance review process and yearly increases are often where you’ll see race discrimination claims cropping up. Someone who can’t control their racial biases will have one heck of a time trying to administer a performance review and merit increase program in an impartial manner. At least this worker was able to get his case settled and to have some changes implemented in the workplace.



EEOC Said Trucking Dealership Denied Pay Increases to Black Diesel Technician

PHILADELPHIA – A Harrisburg, Pa.-based trucking dealership has agreed to pay $60,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency recently announced. The EEOC had charged that Transteck, Inc., doing business as Freightliner of Philadelphia, violated federal civil rights laws when it failed to give salary increases to a black diesel technician because of his race.

The EEOC charged in its lawsuit (Civil Action 08-2490, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania), that Transteck failed to give a pay increase to Winston Jones, because he is African American. Jones, a Philadelphia resident with over 20 years of experience as a diesel technician, began working for Transteck in 2003 at its Levittown facility. The EEOC contended that despite Jones’ stellar job performance, the company failed to give him a salary increase or performance evaluation in 2006. However, the company provided salary increases to several white diesel technicians, including an increase to a white technician who had received numerous write-ups for poor performance, poor work quality or customer complaints. The EEOC charged that Jones, who was consistently ranked among the top technicians at the facility, received no salary increase in 2006 because of his race.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate because of race. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The five-year consent decree settling the suit, which is pending judicial approval, also contains significant equitable relief, including prohibitions against unlawful discrimination and retaliation, annual anti-discrimination training for all employees, and posting of a notice regarding this settlement.

“The law and common sense require that salary increases should be awarded based on job performance, and not on race,” said EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “The agency is satisfied that the resolution of this lawsuit, including the equitable relief and training requirements, should prevent such discrimination from occurring there in the future.”

During Fiscal Year 2008, race discrimination charges soared to a record-high level of 33,937 -- an increase of 11 percent from the prior fiscal year.

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


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Refrain From Using Ebonics At Work

I've grown up in the poorest of neighborhoods, but that doesn't change the fact that you will not--under any circumstances--catch me speaking in so-called Ebonics at work!

I can't believe how often I hear people, including grown folks, speaking in improper English at work, including in corporate America. Sorry, it's just not acceptable. We all, regardless of race, should be speaking in standardized English. It's the only way to be taken seriously, as well as to excel.

While I don't recommend using Ebonics at work. I have also previously recommended that Black workers refrain from trying to impress White coworkers and managers with a false mastery of the English language, as a way to prove worthiness and equality. This is especially true for anyone who has a poor vocabulary. It is way too easy to become the laughingstock at your office because you misuse some words and can't pronounce others.

It’s all well and good to want to improve your language skills, but you don’t gain any cool points by butchering the English language. Your clients don’t want to hear you using proper diction as you mispronounce words like “specifically.” How many of us know someone who pronounces the word “pacifically”?

And, while some people mispronounce certain words, other people misuse words like “plethora” and “extrapolate."

You don’t have to sit down with a thesaurus every night, so you can drop $10 word bombs on your White coworkers the next day. Impress people with basic and properly used English. In many cases, it’s best to keep language simple to understand. This is even true for writing, depending on your audience.

I’ve overhead Whites in my office snickering behind the backs of Black folks who misused a word or two or mispronounced words in common usage. Don’t set yourself up to be a joke. Work what you have, while you work to improve all of your skills.

Monday, April 27, 2009


If you have been a target of racially-based discrimination, harassment or retaliation, I know what your life has been like:

People have tried to make you think you’re crazy. They have made you doubt yourself. They have tried to confuse you—challenging your memory of events. You have probably been sold a bill of goods that has convinced you that you’ve overreacted, that you’re sensitive, and that you’ve misunderstood the English language. You may now believe that you’ve jumped to conclusions. You may have been convinced that you are truly unaccountable for your actions and behavior.

In fact, you now may believe that…


Facing race issues at work is often a battle that minority employees end up fighting alone. And, while it is possible to rely on your personal strength to see yourself through trying times, it is very difficult to do so. It is emotionally, mentally, and physically draining.

That’s why it is so important to establish a true network of friends and family who are willing to assist you or lend you their ear, while you are fighting race-related obstacles at work.

The harsh reality is that most of your "friends" don't want to hear you engaging in repeated conversations about racism at work. The first story you tell may titillate them to some degree. But, after that--for some of your friends--it will feel more like "here we go again!"

For your personal well-being, it’s vital that you have someone who is willing to listen to you and who can provide you with objective perspective on what’s taking place on your job. For instance, they may be able to tell you that you’re tripping—that you’ve gone too far with your conspiracy theories and have jumped into a deep abyss of paranoia. Or, they may tell you that your problem is greater than you perceive and that you may have a problem with your company (as a whole) rather than just with a coworker or supervisor.

Battling racism causes a wide range of ever-changing emotions. You can't deal with it alone without taking some serious shots to your psyche, health, etc. You have to find a way to vent.

Finding people who are willing to keep you sane and to help you stay strong can be hard. Like I said earlier, people are initially engrossed in your horror stories of workplace racism, but that wears off when you are calling them on the phone each night or if that’s all you speak about over dinner.

But, you will have some true supporters, who don’t care how focused you may become about workplace racism. They want to be there for you. So, it’s up to you to find champions, who will support you as you fight your cause at work.

Just ONE true friend can make all the difference in lifting your spirits, coming up with strategies, and staying sane.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prepare for the Grind

One of the biggest mistakes anyone fighting workplace racism can make is to ASSUME they are dealing with reasonable individuals. Even if all evidence seems to point to the fact that most of your coworkers and managers are honest, fair, objective, etc., you just never know which way people are going to go when stuff jumps off at the job.

This is not to sell people short. You might be blessed with staff and/or managers who will rise to the occassion and speak truth to power about what has been going on at work. Even so, that doesn't mean that they will be successful in changing the dynamics going on at work.

In the end, everyone that is touched by a race-based scandal at work has to decide if they are going to stand on the side of justice, if they will straddle the fence or if they will seek to go into workplace protectionist mode and be the ever loyal employee or manager.

You can't be responsible for how people will respond to you and your fight against workplace abuses. Some may avoid you and look the other way for fear of being dragged into a mess, some may isolate you in order to create a hostile environment and with the hopes that isolation will cause you to resign, some may participate in actions against you in order to set you up for termination, some may sign false statements out of fear of losing their jobs, some may act against you in hopes of getting a bonus or promotion, etc.

And, yes, some may tell the truth.

It's not up to you. They will do what they will.

All I know for sure that is that if you are battling racism anywhere in this world, you need to prepare yourself for an emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical grind. You must prepare to be the target of psychological warfare. You must prepare to have your good name possibly run through all sorts of mud. You must prepare to be left to fend for yourself and to be abandoned by workplace "friends." You must prepare to fight for information and to encounter delays and excuses. You must prepare for possible set backs and defeats, up to and including termination. And, you must prepare to hear claims that you failed to prove your case to an internal and/or external investigator or in a court of law.

Yes, hope for the best.

But, prepare yourself for the worst outcome.

Doing otherwise could literally break you. Don't make any assumptions. Don't be overly optimistic about promises to investigate your claims fairly and impartially. You never know which way the wind will blow.

All you can do is prepare for the grind. In the end, if you have nothing else, you want to have your sanity and your health!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reporting Harassment (or not)

When you’re being harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment, part of what happens is that you often feel isolated and you have fears (rational and irrational) that no one will believe the severity of the harm that you’re being subjected to at work. You feel like you have a bulls-eye on your back and you may feel like there’s nothing you can do to stop being a target. In fact, you may feel that reporting the harassment will do more harm that good.

Let’s face it. Many people, regardless of race, are afraid to report sensitive issues to a supervisor, manager, director or a member of Human Resources. People are afraid to look like a whiner, a troublemaker or, when it comes to race, a race-baiter.

When it comes to harassment in the workplace, it would be great if you would report the harassment to your supervisor. However, if you supervisor is the problem, you do not have to stay within your chain of command in order to deal with the problem. You have the right to speak to anyone in authority within your company.

So, if you are more comfortable with another supervisor or manager, you can report harassment to that person. According to Federal decisions, these individuals are then required to do something with that information. They can’t just sit on your report of harassment. If they do, this will increase your employer’s liability regarding any mistreatment you suffer. Therefore, these individuals are expected to report allegations of harassment (or discrimination or retaliation) to the proper authorities within the company, who can deal with the situation.

It’s also important to know that Federal decisions have declared that employers are liable for harassing behavior that may not have been reported, but was so pervasive that many people within the company knew what was happening. Employers, in this situation, cannot claim that a victim’s failure to report the harassment justified the company not putting a stop to the abuse. If knowledge of the abusive behavior permeated the workplace, employers can't pretend they didn't have an opportunity to stop it.

Employers can argue that an employee should have complained about mistreatment. However, if you had a reason to fear using preventive or corrective measures, such as you saw a previous employee attempt to report harassment, but the harassment or other illegal behavior only worsened, you won’t be held responsible for avoiding the use of those preventive and corrective measures.

The law recognizes, in some part, that a rational person would take the lesson of corporate abuse of authority and would avoid making themselves a target of attack.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: Nordstrom to Pay Nearly $300k to Settle Race-based Harassment Lawsuit

Hispanic, Black Employees Subjected to Racial and Ethnic Slurs, EEOC Charged

MIAMI – National department store Nordstrom, Inc. will pay $292,500 to 10 former employees and furnish other remedial measures to settle a harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on April 16th. EEOC had charged that the department store manager harassed Hispanic and black employees based on their national origin, race, and color, and retaliated against those who complained about the harassment.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an alterations department manager complained that she “hate[d] Hispanics,” and that Hispanics were “lazy” and “ignorant.” Hispanic tailors were chastised by the alterations manager for speaking to each other in Spanish. The same manager made other derogatory remarks such as “I don’t like blacks” and “you’re black, you stink.” The alterations manager harassed the alterations staff at Nordstrom stores in Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington, Fla.

The employees complained to Nordstrom about the harassment, but the harassment did not stop. The alteration’s manager retaliated against those who complained by continuing the racially offensive comments, unfairly berating employees and citing them for alleged performance problems.

Acting Chairman of the EEOC, Stuart J. Ishimaru, stated, “It does not matter whether someone is employed on the sales floor or, as in this case, working behind the scenes, the EEOC will pursue instances of harassment in violation of federal employment discrimination laws.”

Under the terms of a consent decree, Nordstrom will pay $292,500 in damages. The decree also requires the company to distribute its policy addressing unlawful harassment to all employees in the Wellington and Palm Beach stores; provide harassment training, post a notice on the resolution of the lawsuit, and submit a semi-annual report to EEOC on all harassment complaints received during the next two years.

“Employers must act swiftly to correct harassment and prevent abusive conduct,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Nora E. Curtin. “Instead of dealing with the despicable racial and ethnic comments, Nordstrom management allowed the harasser to retaliate against the employees for complaining.”

EEOC District Director Jacqueline H. McNair added, “We are pleased that Nordstrom and the EEOC reached a satisfactory resolution of this lawsuit. The resolution includes significant equitable relief that will benefit all Nordstrom employees. We trust that additional training and the proposed policy will improve the work environment, and emphasize a commitment to preventing further discrimination.”

Harassment based on national origin, race, and color violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit on Sept. 27, 2007, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Palm Beach Division (Case No. 07-80894-CIV-RYSKAMP/VITUNAC), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation, voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

Beware of the Set Up!

If employers engage in sabotage, it will usually be connected to any false or exaggerated allegations already being made by a supervisor, manager, etc. For instance, a supervisor, who is falsely accusing a complaining employee of missing deadlines, may overwhelm the employee with assignments and may make a lot of changes to the work instructions in order to make it nearly impossible for the complaining employee to complete work in a timely fashion. Or, a supervisor, who is falsely accusing an employee of not being a team player, may ask the employee to do things which are unethical (knowing they will refuse) or may ask the employee to do the work of someone very junior to the targeted employee as a means of demeaning the targeted employee with menial work. Any refusal may be cast in the light of the targeted employee not supporting the team/coworkers.

Sometimes sabotage isn’t connected to preexisting false allegations, but only serves to create new problems for a complaining employee who has performed at an exemplary level. A supervisor or an employer may decide they need to create the justification to target this complaining employee. Since there is no history of problems for a high performer, problems must be created from scratch. Negative patterns of behavior must be established. Outright lies, committed to writing, are often joined with acts of sabotage. Every effort will often be made to make new allegations of problems appear to be historic in nature.

Dealing with sabotage isn’t easy because acts of sabotage may be part of a wider conspiracy. I worked with a manager, who was sabotaged and isolated by supervisors, managers, and directors working across our job site. The level of collusion against this manager was hard to believe, but was real enough. Agents of an employer will often do whatever is commanded.

So, to fight back against sabotage, you need to:

1) Stay on point with your work. Don’t give anyone ammunition to use against you;

2) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. I can’t write this enough;

3) Maintain copies of all written instructions, so that if you are set up for failure, you can pull out the guidelines you were given to perform your work;

4) Get verbal instructions in writing. If someone asks you to do x, y, and z, drop that into an email to confirm these are the instructions. If you are not given clarification or changes to your understanding of the instructions (the email), then you have been given a green light to proceed with the work as you understand it;

5) Keep copies of all emails and memos, no matter how routine they seem. You never know when one line in an email or memo may be what you need to support a point you need to make later;

6) Keep logs and/or thorough notes regarding your assignments and meetings, so that you can recall the information at a later time (including who said what and when);

7) Keep logs and thorough notes about the coworkers, managers, etc. whom you believe are acting in concert against you;

8) Make sure you are not blamed for mistakes caused by other staff. It is not uncommon for a targeted employee to be blamed for the mistakes of others, such as typos in a document, items not getting to a client, etc.

9) Respond to false allegations about your work performance, attitude, etc.; and

10) Look out for the traps that may be set for you. If you know certain people are shady or out to get you, dissect every email and every word they say. Be on the lookout for signs you are being documented, such as a supervisor writing in an email the false allegation that you’ve “repeatedly” made some mistake or that numerous people have noticed something negative about your behavior.

Do not assume that the people you work with (even those you’ve grown to like) are above setting you up for failure via acts of sabotage. People are strange creatures. Most people look out for their best interest and not anyone else’s.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You Must Document Your Employer's Attempts to Strip You of Assignments!

Often, when a supervisor or a company, as a whole, want to rid themselves of a nuisance employee they will find legitimate means to accomplish the task. The legitimate reason must come across as not having any connection to race or retaliation (e.g., for complaining of mistreatment or inequities in the workplace). They need a pretext without racial overtones.

One of the best excuses, which would appear to be a legitimate issue, is for an employer to accuse a worker of not having enough work to support their position. This lack of work can be the justification for getting rid of the worker through outright firing of the worker, calling the action a “lay-off,” or calling the action a “reduction in force (RIF).”

The other benefit of targeting an employee with a hostile environment, such as stripping them of their assignments, is that the employee could feel completely defeated, find another job or resign without having a job lined up.

So, here are some tips for anyone who finds they are suddenly being stripped of their assignments at work:

1) Document your sudden lack of work! Send your supervisor and the director of your department regular emails documenting that you are looking for work. Yes, your employer could use the email to support their false contention that you had nothing to do and they were forced to get rid of you. But, for your sake, and for evidence to provide to an outside agency (e.g., EEOC, OHR, etc.) or a lawyer, you will need documentation that shows that you suddenly had a lack of work and that you notified your management about the issue.

2) Document your previous workload! Collect your timesheets, staff work schedules, etc. that will show that you had a steady work load prior to being targeted or filing a complaint. This will present evidence supporting your argument that after being targeted, you were punished/retaliated against by having your assignments taken away. Collect timesheets for the past couple of years, if you can. You want to show a long-term history of having work to do.

3)Document the work load of other staff! This includes documenting the work load of your supervisor’s other subordinates and documenting the work load of other staff throughout the company, who are in the same or similar jobs to the position you hold. Ask around. See if anyone else is out of work. If everyone else is working and you aren’t, it supports your case that you are being isolated and targeted for abuse.

4) Take extensive notes at departmental meetings! Many employees must attend weekly staff meetings. Work assignments are often discussed, everyone takes a turn talking about what they are doing, new or anticipated projects are described, etc. Take note of how much work is available in your department and contrast that with the fact that you are being told there’s nothing for you to work on. Take notes about what other staff say they are currently working on.

5) Request assignments at these weekly meetings to create a group of witnesses to substantiate your claims that you were actively seeking work! If you don’t have weekly meetings, ask your supervisor for work in the presence of other staff. Create a list of who was present, when you’ve requested work, and present this witness list as evidence.

6) Find your own work and document your efforts to do so! Contact managers/staff in other departments to see if they have assignments you can work on. If your supervisor, HR or anyone else with authority in the company takes you off these new assignments, you will have more evidence that there is an orchestrated effort to keep you from having work. Finding your own assignments also shows that your supervisor, etc. could have found you work…if they really wanted to do so!

If you are coming across a lot of people who have a full work load and can share work with you, that can be evidence of a wider campaign to isolate you and run you out of your job. This is especially true if these people are of the same level/classification as you.

If you are running across a network of managers claiming they don’t have any extra work in their departments, you may also be able to use this as an example of how you are being shut down on a company-wide level.

One of my coworkers could not get a single higher-up or manager at our company to respond to her requests for work because the word had been spread by HR and management that she wasn’t to receive any assistance from anywhere in the company. This lack of response was used as evidence against our employer, who was later found guilty of retaliating against her by the Office of Human Rights.

It's important that you document all efforts by your employer to create a hostile work environment and/or to create excuses for executing tangible employment actions such as a demotion, suspension, probation or termination of your employment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Sister's In the Hospital

My sister had to have surgery yesterday, which is why there was no post. After very little sleep, I'm on my way to the hospital and work. Obviously, I don't have more time to post anything other than this short update on my situation.

I will try to post something tomorrow. But, if she's being discharged, I may not have the opportunity. Please be patient during this family emergency.

And, please check back in the next day or two. Thanks!

Friday, April 10, 2009

No Mistreatment of Complaining Employees Should Be Tolerated

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.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: Settlement in Case of Black Employees Targeted With Racial Slurs and Fired for Complaining

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Marjam Supply Company, Inc., a building materials supplier, will pay $495,000 to five former employees to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 03-cv-5413-SCR in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, White Plains Division) charged that Marjam discriminated against African American employees in its Newburgh warehouse facility on the basis of their race by subjecting them to differential discipline and termination, creating a hostile work environ­ment, and retaliating against employees who objected to the discrimination.

The EEOC charged that a Marjam supervisor and other Marjam employees made unwelcome racial slurs and comments. The racially hostile workplace included repeatedly calling an employee the N-word, talking about the Ku Klux Klan and referring to burning crosses in front of African American employees. An employee who complained was fired, the EEOC’s lawsuit charged. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“Egregious racial harassment still occurs in the 21st century workplace, even though some people may think such discrimination can only be found in history books,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Hostile work environments are unacceptable. The EEOC is committed to vigorous enforcement of the employment anti-discrimination laws to ensure that every worker has an equal opportunity to reach his or her full potential.”

The consent decree was sub­mitted to the district court judge for approval after the parties reached a settlement agreement in mediation. In addition to the $495,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to be paid to five former employees, the three-year consent decree includes the following injunctive relief:

Adopting non-discrimination and complaint procedures;
Appointing an Equal Employment Office Coordinator;
Establishing a toll-free number for reporting discrimination complaints;
Providing anti-discrimination training;
Issuing a memorandum to all employees on Marjam’s commitment to abide by all federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination;
Posting a notice about the EEOC, the lawsuit, and Marjam’s non-discrimination and complaint procedures; and
Monitoring and reporting on carrying out the settlement terms.

“Employers must recognize that they have a responsibility to prevent racial harassment in their workplace and to take swift action to correct any discrimination when it occurs,” said Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC’s New York District Office. “In addition, retaliating against employees for complaining about discrimination is unlawful and taken very seriously by the Commission.”

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

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Don't Be a Proverbial Crab-in-a-Barrel in 2009 and Beyond!

Black people can make each other miserable at work by being the proverbial crabs in a barrel. I can’t believe some of things I’ve seen Black workers do to each other over the years. For instance:

--Having a preference for reporting to a White manager because they can so-call “do more for you” and are “just better,” which results in some of us being resentful for being “stuck” with a Black manager;

--Engaging in a work slow-down, when given an assignment by a Black supervisor/manager;

--Intentionally holding on to an assignment in order to cause work delays for a Black supervisor/manager and out of a sense that you have to be “begged,” which makes you feel important;

--Intentionally turning in sloppy work to a Black supervisor/manager or coworker;

--Pretending not to know how to do something or how a process works, when asked about it by Black coworkers;

--Accusing Black coworkers of being “fake,” a “wanna-be,” etc. because they have been deemed not to be “ghetto” or “real” enough and making these statements to Black AND White coworkers;

--Knowingly spreading false gossip about Black coworkers to White coworkers or actually telling their personal business to White coworkers.

--Being complicit in targeting a Black coworker for mistreatment after they’ve complained of abuse;

--Accepting money and/or a promotion or some other reward for false testimony against a Black coworker;

--Lying to investigators about what happened to a Black coworker (e.g., saying you don’t know anything), not out of fear for your job, but because you don’t “owe them anything;”

--Intentionally making false statements about a Black coworker, who has complained of race-based discrimination, harassment or retaliation;

--Openly finding humor or getting pleasure out of a Black person being targeted by management; and

--Saying there is no racism in the workplace, just because a Black person has complained about it and not because it is true;

These are just examples. I’m sure some readers could greatly expand on this list.

The sad truth is many of us still have a plantation mentality. Instead of focusing on our condition, we focus on what’s petty and we may treat each other in an intentionally harmful manner. We set up false competitions with each other. We envy each other because of success or reward. We seek to bring someone down, who we think believes they are superior to us (e.g., they “talk White,” went to a “good school,” etc.). We find reasons or don’t need reasons to be uncooperative. We feel a loyalty to Whites because we’re grateful they “let us” have a job. We’ve seen friends and family treat each other this way and treat other Blacks this way. We simply may not know any better. There are all sorts of reasons for Blacks hating on each other and walking around with a “that ni**er ain’t shit!” attitude about another Black person.

We need to stop being so quick to tear each other down. We need some self-reflection…a moment to stop and ask why we engage in this behavior. We need to strive to change what is internally wrong with how we think about and treat other Black people. We need to treat each other with the same respect we demand from Whites in the workplace.

It’s fine not to deal with someone and develop a reasonable rationale for why you don’t care for them. But, with Blacks, from my experience, you have people sniping and carrying on with people they don’t know enough not to like.

“That b*tch think she cute.”
“That motherf*cka thinks he’s so smart.”
“He ain’t gonna tell me what to do.”
“She thinks she can boss me around.”
“She don’t mean sh*t to me.”

I’ve heard it all before and more than once. Just trying to be difficult and trying to find a way to cause some grief. Many of us don’t mind being crabs in the barrel.

When it comes to the workplace, we will never free ourselves from discrimination and other illegal behavior, when we choose to focus on needlessly destroying and being difficult with the Black people we work with. This reinforces our targeting by those in the workplace, who would choose to treat us in a disparate and unequal fashion.

We can’t fight the real battles that need our intention, if we simply desire to focus on petty squabbles of our own making. Let’s all look inside ourselves this year and identify how we may be contributing to any issues in the workplace and how we can make things better. And, let’s strive to stop being difficult with each other for reasons that are without merit!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Readers Leave Feedback on THEIR Experiences with Workplace Racism

The first reader is speaking about the fight for civil rights for the ever-growing numbers of bi-racial folks in this country. The comment was that some bi-racial individuals appear to be White, but are of mixed heritage. They believe their appearance makes it harder to get equal rights. Here’s what they (anonymously posted, no gender included) had to say:

You may be surprised to learn that in my agency the fight has been for equal civil rights. Hope you caught that, "equal" civil rights.

At my agency being white can and has made you an open target. The system known as EEO doesn't apply to you.

There is a perception that if you look white, you are white and will be treated as such. This makes little sense with a President in office who has made it clear that because he looks black, he identifies himself as black. His choice may be political, mine is not.

Congressman Elijah Cummings said in a speech last year that new class of multi-racial citizens are being over looked. He's absolutely right.

BLOGGER NOTE: Anti-discrimination policies exist for all classes of people. A Black run-business, a Black manager, and/or Black coworkers cannot discriminate against, harass or retaliate against White workers, bi-racial workers, etc. any more than if Whites were perpetrating the offense. Whites, Hispanics, etc. also can't engage in illegal behavior against bi-racial workers. If you appear to be White, but are known to be mixed, that may be a motivation for attacks from someone of any race. It's the same as a White person, who may be subjected to workplace attacks for dating a minority, being married to a minority or having children that are bi-racial. This is all illegal behavior and can't be tolerated in a just society.

The key for anyone making accusations of workplace violations is to know their workplace rights, to document everything, and to keep a list of witnesses who can corroborate what has been going on. No one should have to deal with torment in the workplace based on anyone else’s biases.

The second reader (anonymously posted, no gender listed) is speaking about different types of workplace racists and had this to say:

Most co-workers are a little too savvy to make racial epithets out in the open in public so they are what I call “Closet Racist.” I believe that there are at least three categories of racist in the workplace, but they are all racist the same: (1) the bodacious racist; (2) the closet racist and (3) the preferences racist. All of these people share one common goal: they say that they prefer white folks; only associate with blacks who confirm their stereotypical racist beliefs and attack any black person who challenges their stereotypes.

The Bodacious Racist:
These people do not hide who they are and you can respect that even if you don’t like them. You know to stay out of their way because everything that comes out of their mouths is potentially a “class action lawsuit” waiting to happen. They have no trouble making statements like: “Mississippi Burning was my favorite picture”; “All black women are single mothers that have never been married”; “Black men are angry or ignorant.” This person will usually go down in flames when the company cannot use them anymore or are tired of moving them around and covering up for them. The do not associate with black people.

The Closet Racist:
These people are always associating with the bodacious redneck racist white folks. They sit silently and listen to their private jokes and laugh; take them out to grab a beer after work; you will find them tagged to the bodacious redneck racist person on FACEBOOK; or speaking fondly of the bodacious redneck racist and always trying to justify their behavior: “Oh, you know that’s how she/he is they really do not mean any harm.” The bottom line is: behind closed doors; when no one is looking; they are undeniably in agreement with the bodacious redneck racist. Quite frankly, you would not even recognize them as the same person. They are just too afraid to step up and be accounted as being one of the good ole boys or girls.

You can always identify the “Closet Racist” by who they are willing to associate with both at work and off of works premises. They associate only with blacks who confirm their racist beliefs.

The Racist who has Preferences:
These people are in complete denial because they will not admit that they are a racist. They are not easily identifiable. However, you will find them linked to the Bodacious Racist and the Closet Racist at weddings, private parties etc. You will find them involved in doing favors and going out of their way to give raises and promotions for whites that they would never do for blacks. You will find them covering up for the Bodacious Racist. Because this person does not know that they are a racist they are potentially the most dangerous. They will target you for termination, if they have the power to do so and encourage the involvement of their co-worker friends who range in the two previously mentioned categories up to and including other blacks that will bend for a dollar. They believe because they have associated with you, you owe them something and if you step out of your invisible lines that they’ve drawn, they will try to crush you.

Like the old folks used to say: "Everyone has done something, even if it doesn’t always hit the front pages!" White folks lynched blacks for years, “police even” and not one of them received a criminal sentence, lost their badge or served one day in the slammer until one shot Dr. Martin Luther King. When I look at the old pictures of blacks lynched and see the faces of the angry white mobs around them, I wonder --where are they now? I know, their children and grandchildren are currently working for my former employer.

BLOGGER NOTE: Sounds like one of my former jobs! Your description of the workplace racist with preferences was dead on with my experience on how they behave in the workplace.

Thanks for writing. Anymore comments from readers? Leave your thoughts on this post!

Friday, April 03, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: The EEOC Sues for Sexual Harassment, Race Discrimination, and Retaliation Against Black Workers

Sorry for being briefly M.I.A. I've been having issues with my blood pressure and have been feeling very under the weather. Today's post is a legal brief update.


The Legal Brief gives everyone an idea of some of the types of cases that EEOC litigates, provides information on anti-discrimination legal proceedings/court rulings, and identifies some of the specific race-based issues that other Blacks have faced and challenged in the workplace. The Legal Brief also provides 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.

This legal brief is about the EEOC suing Accurate Insulation for sexual harassment, race discrimination, and retaliation. The agency cites explicit sexual and gender based comments, racial slurs and retaliation against Black workers.

BALTIMORE – On April 1st, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit against Accurate Insulation, LLC, on behalf of a female and class of African American workers who were employed at its Upper Marlboro, Md. location.

According to the suit, (Civil Action 8:09-cv-00793), filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the EEOC charges that a senior manager at Accurate Insulation subjected Felicia Cooper to sexually offensive overtures, overt comments, and explicit sexual requests.

A senior manager also made racially charged statements to Lamont Womack, Elton Morgan, and Charles Briscoe by frequently referring to them as “boy” and stating that they “haven’t gotten their 40 acres and a mule,” referencing a proposed governmental reparations act following slavery. All four employees are African Americans and were employed as home insulation installers.

Shortly after they filed internal complaints, the company began exclusively hiring Latino workers to replace them, and the African American employees’ job assignments and work hours were then drastically reduced. All four African American employees were terminated after they filed complaints of discrimination with the EEOC.

EEOC filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which prohibits sexual and racial harassment, and retaliation for complaining about it. The complaint seeks monetary and injunctive relief, including back wages, and compensatory damages, the creation and dissemination of effective anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, training and punitive damages. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

“It is surprising that race and sex discrimination remain a persistent problem in the modern workforce,” said Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “Any form of discrimination in the workplace is unlawful, and workers cannot lose their jobs for reporting it.”

According to its web site, Accurate Insulation, LLC is an independent, locally owned installer of insulation, garage doors, gutters, and fireplaces with two locations, Upper Marlboro and Hagerstown, Md., with more coming soon.

In FY 2008, EEOC announced that workplace discrimination charge filings increased 15% to an unprecedented level of 95,402. Charges based on race, sex, and retaliation continued to be the most frequently filed charges.

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

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Staying on Top and Getting Some Control of Your Internal Investigation

I've got medical appointments today, so here's a reprint that I think is useful for anyone having to deal with an internal investigation at work being conducted by their supervisor, Human Resources or some other authority. These are the dos and don'ts of internal investigations:


· Request the formal investigation in writing/via email (memo);

· Save multiple hard copies of the request, including any supporting documentation that was forwarded to HR;

· Know the procedures that govern the investigation;

· Know the expected timing of the investigation;

· Present evidence strategically. Only submit what is vitally necessary to prove your case. Submit the evidence in some logical order for ease of understanding the issue;

· Label your evidence with the relevance of each item submitted for review by the investigator;

· Present a witness list;

· File an appeal, if you don’t agree with the decision;

· Find alternative resources, if your situation warrants it (e.g., outside/external investigation, legal counsel, etc.); and

· Keep your mouth shut during the investigation--remember that you are surrounded by liars and opportunists in the workplace.


· Allow people with conflicts of interest to be an integral part of the investigation. Express why you are concerned with a person’s participation in the investigation and ask for alternates to replace that individual;

· Inform your chain-of-command before filing a complaint, if your chain-of-command is the party that is bullying, discriminating or retaliating against you;

· Accept a determination you don’t agree with--investigate your options, such as filing an appeal or filing a complaint with EEOC; and

· Give your employer ammunition to use against you. For example:

-- make sure you report to work early or on time;
-- don’t miss deadlines;
-- be professional at all times;
-- double-check your work;
-- don’t take the bait (e.g., people will try to antagonize you to get an angry response that can be used against you later);
-- document everything; and
-- don’t keep evidence at work where it can be found and destroyed.
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