Monday, August 31, 2009


This is not a work-related post today, but those familiar with this blog know that I will sometimes include news posts that are race-related. I've been working extra days and hours, so I missed the news about a White pastor (Phoenix, AZ) who is encouraging his parishioners to pray that President Obama dies "from brain cancer like Ted Kennedy."

The pastor, Steven Anderson, stands by his remarks and says they are related to Obama's stance on abortion. But, I find it hard to believe that is the only issue.

And, it's not just this pastor. We've seen the health care debate used as a means to accuse Obama of things such as creating "death panels" to put people's grandmothers to death and we've also seen pictures of Obama as Hitler with posters claiming he is a Nazi or communist.

If anyone thinks that race isn't a primary factor behind these sorts of death wishes and outlandish attacks, they are living in La La Land. This is bigger than positions on abortion and/or health care. There are still many people in this country who can't deal with the fact that they have a Black/bi-racial president.

The wish for Obama's death from brain cancer probably seemed better than the pastor saying he hoped Obama would meet his demise by an assassin's bullet. But, it's worth noting that a protestor showed up at an Obama town-hall in the Phoenix area carrying a loaded assault rifle. This person was a member of Anderson's church!

Anyway, I thought I'd share to the story on the pastor:

You can also click on the title of this post to visit the website.

Friday, August 28, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Employees Subjected to Racist Slurs, Graffiti, and Nooses!

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.

In this legal brief a manufacturer of custom modular home is being sued by the EEOC for racial harassment of Black workers, incluing racist slurs, graffiti, and nooses being used. For more details, see below:


GREENSBORO, N.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed alleging that Professional Building Systems of North Carolina, LLC, violated federal law by subjecting African American employees to a racially hostile work environment. Professional Building Systems builds custom modular homes in two locations including at its facilities in Middleburg, Pa., and Mount Gilead, N.C., where the racial harassment occurred.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from around July 2005 to around early 2008, black employees were subjected to egregious racial harassment while employed at Professional Building Systems. African American employees were subjected to racist abuse, which included nooses and racially offensive drawings that depicted blacks and the Ku Klux Klan. Black employees were also subjected to racial slurs, including use of the racial epithet “n----r.” Most of the harassment was perpetrated by one of the managers of the Mount Gilead facility.

Although the employees complained about the racial harassment, the EEOC said, Professional Building Systems failed to take action to stop or prevent further harassment. The agency brought suit on behalf of Efird Cato, Albert Davis, Torrence Funderburk, Scottie O’Nell Green, Rodney Medley, and Michael Scott, who filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC, as well as a group of similarly situated black employees.

Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00617) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the company. The agency seeks compensatory and punitive damages for all aggrieved employees, as well as injunctive relief.

“Although the EEOC has made marked progress under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act toward eliminating racial harassment and discrimination in the workplace, cases like this serve as painful reminders that severe racist behavior still exists,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the agency’s Charlotte District. “This agency will continue to carry out its mission to eliminate discrimination in the workplace, and to ensure that employers who condone racial harassment make amends to aggrieved employees.”

Tina Burnside, supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, added, “Employees should not have to be subjected to racial slurs, racial graffiti and nooses. In particular, a noose is a historic symbol of racial terror used to intimidate blacks, and cannot be tolerated in the workplace.”

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


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Red Flag Words in the Workplace

In order to figure out if you are being documented at work as a poor performer/under-achiever or as a behavior problem, one of the things you have to look at is whether or not you are being documente--in writing. It's bad enough to have false allegations made face-to-face, but it's another more troubling problem to have those lies put to paper. Written documentation of so-called poor performance or behavior issues can lead to written warnings, probation, suspension, demotions, and even termination.

If you believe you are being documented with a false pattern of problems, if you believe minor behavior problems are being exaggerated (regarding the length of the so-called problem and/or severity of the problem), and if you believe you are being set up for employment actions, you need to decide how you are going to respond. Any false allegations can come back to haunt you. For instance on performance evaluations.

One of my coworkers received a memo that attributed the typographical errors of other staff to her. It was known that she did not make these mistakes. However, she was told, in writing, that this lack of quality control was unacceptable and that she caused the company embarassment with the client, time, and money to correct the mistakes.

My coworker continued to be accused of making such errors because it helped show a pattern of negative behavior that was later used as part of the justification to place her on probation and threaten her with termination. She ended up receiving various performance deficiency memos that were nothing but a laundry list of false claims made out to look like substantial problems she'd been having for a lengthy period of time. She was also made to appear to not be showing any improvement on correcting the false behavior.

I wanted to list, as I've done in the past, a series of words or phrases that should make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Some of the red flag words and phrases include:

• “Consistently” or “often” or “frequently” or “repeatedly” or “chronically” or “habitually,” etc. - The point is that you have allegedly demonstrated a pattern of making the same mistake or exhibiting the same negative behavior, such as demonstrating a bad poor attitude, arriving to work late, missing deadlines, etc.

• “I’ve noticed…” – For the same reason as above.

• “Many people…” or “Some people…” or “A number of people…” or “Everyone” - The point is to show that there is corroboration for the accusation. It’s not just one person’s point of view that you have a problem--everyone or many people allegedly believe the same thing. People making this statement, generally won’t name names, they’ll just make a blanket statement about so-called mass perceptions about you.

• “I’ve talked to you in the past about…” - The point is not just to criticize you, but to show that you have shown no improvement in some negative behavior that was previously brought to your attention.

• “I’m concerned by…” or “I’m puzzled by…” or “I’m troubled by…” - The point is to show that there is something extremely off-putting or unprofessional about your behavior and that it likely represents a potentially major problem.

• “If you would have…” or “If you had only” or “I thought that you…” - The point is the “you” part of the sentence because the writer is stating that you are solely to blame for something going wrong.

These are just examples of some subtle ways that you can be documented for performance deficiencies at work. If the allegation isn’t true, this represents a potentially devastating problem; in terms of your ability to maintain a positive reputation and any impact the misrepresentations may have your performance evaluations, etc.

Receiving one criticism may not be a big deal, even though it could represent someone’s effort to document you. It’s the form that the criticism takes that makes a written complaint have the potential to be extremely damaging to your reputation. It’s one thing to be told that you have missed a deadline, but it’s another to be told that you “consistently” miss deadlines.

Please note: An insolated incidence of criticism usually has no right to appear in your performance evaluation, even if it did involve major issue. Normally, any atypical behavior is included in the notes/comments of a performance evaluation. Therefore, if an incident was isolated, your review should not be tainted to make it appear as if this was a recurring problem. It can be noted on your evaluation, but your review should be reflective of your consistent and normal work performance.

Always read your email or memos carefully. Look at the words that precede and follow criticisms! Understand when you are being documented and you can get on the offensive and, hopefully, derail the train that’s headed in your direction. Respond to the email with facts. Don’t attack the sender; simply clarify what you believe to be false about their criticism. But, don’t be defensive.

Black people have a fine line to tread between explaining something and being called defensive. Apparently, White people explain and Black people defend! So, briefly make your point, professionally, and move on!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't Seek Legal Advice at Work!

If you're dealing with race-based discrimination, harassment or retaliation at work, you should avoid trolling around for legal resources at work. Don't ask coworkers if they know a lawyer you can use to go after your employer, don't do Internet searches for employment lawyers at work, and don't ask for legal advice that pertains to filing a complaint against an employer.

All of these things will likely get back to your employer because staff may feel they must tell a supervisor, manager, etc. what you are planning to do. Staff may think they can get a reward for disclosing your plans (e.g., a bonus, salary increase, promotion, etc.) Or, staff may just feel like spreading gossip (so and so is getting ready to sue the company).

Don't give your power away by providing fodder for office gossip or by telegraphing to your employer that you plan to file a complaint with EEOC, a lawyer, etc. Your search for a lawyer and guidance on employment issues should be done on your personal time and outside of the office. Many employers use software that records keystrokes and they can also see every web site employees visit.

Maintain a healthy dose of paranoia. When it comes to even the possibility of vindicating your employment rights, keep your plans private!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Strategies for Working With Problem People at Work

Tips for Dealing With Problem Coworkers and Managers
Following my last few posts on unqualified White workers in the workplace (inspired by the nomination of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President), here are tips for dealing with problem coworkers or managers of any type:

• DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! There isn’t any incident to small to document, when you know you are dealing with a problem employee and manager. If you have a verbal dispute with someone or if you are subjected to verbal threats, document those events. Documentation could mean anything from (1) writing down everything that was said (with date, time, where it took place, witnesses, etc.); (2) sending an email to the person asking them to confirm or clarify what they said or expressing your rational opposition to what they said to you; (3) reporting the person to a supervisor, manager, executive; or (4) lodging a written complaint with Human Resources. The point is, get every incident in writing;

• Report what’s going on! Don’t suffer in silence. Federal law shows an understanding that employees may be afraid of retaliation, but there is also an expectation that employees complain. If you are afraid of going to your supervisor, you can speak to someone else with authority at your company. That person is legally bound to report what your concerns are, if you feel you are being harassed, etc. Even if you feel you will be ignored or if you are being ignored, don’t stop reporting what is going on because this is the best way to prove what you are being subjected to at work;

• File everything away in chronological order. This will save you a world of trouble, when you need to organize the information and/or present it to an attorney or outside investigator in a way that makes sense and gives the exact manner in which events took place;

• Keep a list of witnesses! Always think about proving your versions of events. Write down the name(s) of anyone who witnessed mistreatment and abuses at work;

• Keep all emails, instructions, memos, etc. from the individual causing you problems at work. This can help show that you followed instructions, that you were being subjected to a hostile environment, and can help you show that someone is lying about their current version of events or suddenly faulty power of recall;

• Read the employee handbook! You can’t fight any workplace battle without knowing your rights. By understanding the policies and procedures, as well as the anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation information, you are putting yourself in a position of strength. Use the handbook to expose the coworker or manager as violating company policy and, potentially, Federal statutes. Reading the employee manual could arm you with quotes to use against the coworker, manager or company, as a whole because the manual will dictate how the company has defined they will respond to or address certain issues. If the company isn’t following its own guidelines, you can call them out on it and you can point that out to an attorney or outside investigator;

• Be professional and courteous! Always remember that you are in the workplace and conduct yourself as such. Remember, dirty water seeks its own level, so don’t sink to the level of a racist, an ignoramus or other workplace cretins. You will be much better off if any claims that you are unprofessional, rude, mean, etc. can’t be supported by your own written correspondence or conversations that were overheard by other staff;

• Save offensive voicemail messages! Use a recorder to save the message. Have trusted coworkers listen to the message, so they can confirm what was said. Also, save voicemails containing instructions, so you can prove how you were told to complete an assignment; and

• Always blind copy yourself when you send a sensitive email or memorandum! By doing so, you have a record of the list of recipients, and the date and time the correspondence was disseminated. You will also have proof of the exact content of your email in case someone adds text into your document that you did not include in your original message. I’ve seen this done!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Employers Are Supposed To Try to Prevent Harassment and Abuses!

Employers shouldn’t wait for race-based problems to crop up in the workplace. Instead, they should be proactive in trying to prevent any race-based harassment of employees in their workforce.

To protect employees from unlawful racial (and other) harassment, employers should adopt a strong anti-harassment policy, periodically train each employee on its contents and procedures, and vigorously follow and enforce it. The policy should contain:

• A clear explanation of prohibited conduct, including examples;

• Clear assurance that employees who make complaints or provide information related to complaints will be protected against retaliation;

• A clearly described complaint process that provides multiple, accessible avenues of complaint;

• Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the extent possible;

• A complaint process that provides a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation; and

• Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

If you are the victim of race-based harassment and retaliation in the workplace, look at these areas to determine where you believe your employer failed. This may be a part of the case you build against your employer, should you decide to vindicate your rights through an outside investigating agency or through a lawyer.

For example, if you file a complaint of harassment and your employer spreads the word, you could argue that your employer assisted in the creation of a hostile work environment by failing to provide you with any measure of confidentiality and allowing your harasser to learn of your actions, to escalate those actions, and to turn other employees against you.

Another example might be that your employer determines that a coworker has been harassing you, but does nothing to the employee because they are working on a major contract and are valuable to the organization. Having gotten away with harassing you, the employee continues to engage in the attacks against you. Even if they had not, the employer sent the message that it was okay to engage in illegal activity.

One of the best things you can do, if you are filing a complaint against an employer, is to have a clear understanding of company policies and procedures and to use those policies and procedures against your employer at every opportunity. It is very powerful to be able to show that your employer's written anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies amount to a paper tiger.

Written policies don’t protect an employer. If their processes are deficient and if they ignore their own policies, they may be held legally liable for any violations of Federal statutes.

Know the policies and procedures, know your rights, and show the contradictions or lack of enforcement of anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation provisions.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Tips for Dealing With Drama Queens (and Kings) at Work

Some people end up with problems at work because of the company they keep. One drama-loving employee can cause collateral damage for an innocent worker. It can be anything from getting caught up in gossip, to getting suckered into engaging in inappropriate behavior, to being lied on by the individual, to being thrust into a clique with an enemy not of your choosing, to you name it.

Some people like drama. And, they like having company, while they do their damage. Here are some tips for dealing with these folks:

TIP #1: Don’t set sail on someone else’s drama cruise. If someone is trippin’ out in the office, let them have it. You can listen. You can laugh. But, don’t let them drag you into an office scandal or cause you to sully your reputation by association.

TIP #2: Learn to listen to people, to what they are really saying—not the surface communication. Watch people. Get a feel for how they get down! As the cliché states, actions do speak louder than words.

TIP #3: When you see people for who and how they really are, start putting people in boxes. For instance, certain people are cool for going to lunch, one or two may actually be people you can confide in, certain people can tell you what’s going on behind the scenes, etc.

TIP #4: Don’t expect that you can fully trust anyone. Assume that anything you say may be repeated, that people may secretly feel competitive with you, that someone is secretly jealous of you, etc. Stay on your toes, even with those you believe are friends. After all, it is work. You never know what motivations people may have that can lead to potential issues on the job.

TIP #5: Document the foul behavior of your coworkers…it could be the leverage you need—someday! If you know people are screwing in supply closets, reading or sharing confidential information, sabotaging others, etc., write it down and collect the proof. If you ever get called out on petty nonsense, you can certainly question why you are being called to task, while others are known to be running wild.

TIP #6: Just stay away from drama queen and kings unless work requires you to deal with them!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fighting To Be Considered

In life, there are times when anyone may be accidentally overlooked. But, for far too many Black employees, what happens in the workplace is not a matter of being accidentally overlooked, but of being INTENTIONALLY IGNORED! In the workplace, the Black Factor seems to provide some employees with a cloak of invisibility that causes them to be deliberately ignored, marginalized, and professionally stifled.

As a result, many Black workers have to endure the hardship of working with managers and coworkers that never even entertain the idea that we should be considered for certain assignments and projects or be involved in any work planning activities.

For some employees with decision-making authority, Black workers simply do not exist—except to serve as labor. So, if they have a menial/low-level assignment, this sort of decision-maker can call off the name of nearly every Black worker that qualifies to do that level of work. However, if the work is junior to high-level in nature, conveniently the names of White workers may be all that rolls off their tongues.

I remember working with a Black low-level staff person that was going to school for computer technology/programming. He was less than one year away from getting his B.A. A project came up that involved computer technology. In our department, no one had that experience because we specialized in health-related work. Believe it or not, as the team was being built, at no point was this Black person’s education/background brought into the conversation. So, I brought him up and recommended he join the team because he would be able to provide more insight into the specifics of the project. After stating my case for him, I was told, “You know, I didn’t even think about him.”

Well, why not? Everyone was always talking about his schedule because they knew he changed his work hours to accommodate school. So, the issue certainly wasn’t that people forgot that he was studying. And, this worker always talked about computer programming. So, it’s not likely anyone forgot his specialty area. The fact of the matter is this man was just irrelevant to these folks. He was just a low-level Black employee, therefore, it was automatically assumed he couldn’t substantially contribute to the project—even though he knew more on the subject that anyone else involved.

How did the situation get resolved? The Black man was brought in to take notes on our phone calls and do rudimentary work, such as looking up phone numbers for computer technology experts that we wanted to interview. He had great ideas, but only felt comfortable sharing them with me because he said no one else would listen to him or even consider his idea because of the source—him!! As a result, I had to be the carrier pigeon for his ideas, taking his suggestions to the group as he sat across the room pretending it wasn’t his idea.

The ideas were still shot down. But, that didn’t surprise either of us. I was a higher level, but I was just as Black as he was!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sand Beneath Your Feet

Ever stand in the water, at the beach, and feel the sand shifting beneath your feet? With each passing wave, you feel as if you are sinking a bit deeper and are on shaky ground.

Sometimes that happens at work.

Right now, at my job we've seen a couple of our big-time execs suddenly up and resign. It feels like a restructuring is going on behind the scenes and everyone feels a bit tense. There's no obvious reason to question our job security, but something feels off...things feel a bit unsteady--just like sand beneath our feet.

We've suddenly seen people steadily and surely being reprimanded for performance issues. Some seem legit, but some seem questionable because we've lost some high performers. It feels like someone is cleaning house.

Have you ever felt this at a workplace before?

My thoughts and suggestions would be to:

--keep doing a good job at work;

--update your resume;

--talk to friends & family about job opportunities (just in case);

--start reflecting on educational opportunities or a career change; and

--doing everything possible not to give anyone ammunition to get rid of you or to target you.

You never know where the sand will take you, but you can try to be prepare for small and big surprises!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Employers Use Pretexts to Cover-up Racist Intent

When targeting workers, some employers develop pretexts (cover stories) that are used to hide racially based motivations for employment actions, such as demotions, suspensions, firings, etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This will help you have a clear understanding of the practices and policies that should dictate your employer’s actions with regard to the everyday conditions of your employment.

Having a well-rounded familiarity with this information will put you in a stronger position to defend your employee rights, to track and report misconduct and mistreatment, as well as to position yourself for and negotiate your next promotion or other advancement opportunities.

Friday, August 07, 2009

No Post: Working Overtime!

I have been working every day since the weekend and will not be able to post today. Please check back on Monday. Thanks readers!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Don't Get Roped Into Delivering Bad News on Behalf of White Cowokers or Managers

Do not allow White coworkers to designate you as the bearer of bad news that is to be delivered to other minority staff. You know what I’m talking about…a White person may ask you to relay negative information to another Black worker that you are friendly with because that person “might take it better coming from you.”

I have been placed in the uncomfortable position--more than once--of having someone White share a Black coworker's alleged performance issues with me in the hopes that I could talk some sense into the person. For instance, a White manager has asked me to speak to a Black, female coworker about her "bad attitude" because we were lunch buddies. That was totally inappropriate! You should consider any requests like that inappropriate, as well.

Relaying a message like that is not your business, should not be made your business (bad news should be confidential between coworkers or between managers and subordinates), and should come from someone in authority.

If you are ever put in the position where someone has asked you to serve as the office’s Negro anchorman (disseminating “breaking news” to other minorities), kindly tell them that, despite any existing relationship you might have with what I will call their "target," you are not comfortable being placed in the middle of a sensitive situation.

Thank the person for considering you capable of being careful and delicate in conveying sensitive information, but make it clear that you do not wish to take your relationship with your other coworker that direction. Emphasize that you are not their supervisor or manager and, therefore, it is inappropriate for you to conduct yourself as such.

You can also make it clear that you will speak to the person about the subject, but only if they choose to share the information with you first. Other than that scenario, you would rather focus on your work and personal conduct and leave any verbal warnings to the appropriate members of management.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Being Bamboozled and Set Up By An Employer

Some employers will engage in acts of sabotage against an employee they have decided to target for whatever reason. Usually, the sabotage will 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.

Monday, August 03, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: EEOC Says Black Manager Denied Fair Wages Based on Race

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 manager, who was denied fair wages due to his race. He was hired in a “training” position and was promised a promotion and raise after 6 months. Lo and behold, six months later he is promoted, but the money doesn’t follow. He was the only Black manager. Additionally, after taking on the accounts of two White managers, he STILL didn’t get his proper financial due. A White junior manager was hired making more than the Black manager, even after he took on the additional workload!

I’m sure this sounds familiar to many readers because many Black workers do not receive a wage that is commiserate with their experience and that is equal to what White coworkers, performing similar duties, are making. Wage discrimination is more prevalent than most people realize. Still, you have many Black workers who complain to each other, but not management, about wage disparities. We do not want to rock the boat and find ourselves with no salary, so we will tolerate making thousands less than our White counterparts and we will often accept any justification for the differences in salaries. It is sensible to fear retaliation for complaining, particularly about wages. So, wage discrimination based on race is often uncontested on the job.

For more details on the legal brief, see the specifics below:



Louisiana Office Products Supplier Denied Black Account Manager Fair Wages Due to Race, Federal Agency Charges

NEW ORLEANS – The Gulf Coast Division of a nationwide office products supplier violated federal law by denying an African American account manager fair wages due to his race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on July 30th.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Corporate Express Office Products, Inc., a subsidiary of retail giant Staples, Inc., refused to pay Frank L. Hawkins III proper wages due to his race, and, as a result, he was forced to seek advancement and equal opportunities with a different employer. Hawkins began working for Corporate Express in January 2003, when he was recruited from college with a marketing degree. He was hired by the company as a junior account manager with an annual salary of $32,500, plus commissions. Hawkins was informed that this was a training position and that after six to eight months he would be promoted to account manager with an increase in his base salary. However, although Hawkins was promoted to account manager that August, his base salary was not increased.

Hawkins was the only African American account manager working in the Gulf Coast Division out of Baton Rouge, La. He had no disciplinary action, received numerous certificates and accolades for his achievements, and exceeded his performance goals. However, the EEOC said, Hawkins’s annual base salary was never increased based on his performance, despite his continued requests. Yet a white female colleague received a $2,500 salary increase in 2004, allegedly due to her performance, increasing her salary to more than $40,000. In addition, when two white employees left he company, Hawkins took over their accounts without receiving any salary increase for the increased workload -- and the change entailed increased sales. Further, the white male hired to replace Hawkins as the junior account manager received a higher base salary than Hawkins earned even after he became an account manager. By October 2006, Hawkins determined he could not advance with this company despite his efforts and achievements. Therefore, he submitted his resignation that month.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-00516) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination and retaliation, as well as back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

“The most frequently filed charges with the EEOC are allegations of race discrimination, racial harassment, or retaliation arising from opposition to discrimination,” said Keith Hill, director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office. “The EEOC is committed to its mission of eradicating such discrimination from the workplace.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Jim Sacher added, “There is absolutely no excuse for race discrimination in the 21st century, and no employer is entitled to treat an employee differently because of his race or color.”

According to company information, in July 2008, Corporate Express was acquired by Staples, Inc., one of the world’s leading suppliers of office products to businesses and institutions. Corporate Express has 167 locations, including 39 distribution centers, and employs more than 8,500 employees nationwide, including more than 1,700 sales and more than 650 customer service personnel. Staples, Inc. serves businesses of all sizes and consumers in 27 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Staples, Inc. is headquartered outside Boston, Mass.

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

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