Tuesday, January 26, 2010

R.I.P. Cookie: 1992 - 2010

My dog has been very ill and has gone to the big dog run in the sky. I will not be posting today, since I'm still mourning the loss. I got my dog, Cookie, when I was 22 years old and she was about 1 week old. I'm months away from turning 40. 18 years is a long time to spend with a dog.

Thanks, Cookie, for all of the good times and companionship over the years. You really were my road dog, traveling everywhere with me in my car. We had some good times...even though you were mean as heck! LOL

Anyway, for all dog owners out there, give your dog an extra hug today. You sure do miss them, when they're gone.

R.I.P. Cookie Nicole (yes, she had a middle name)

Friday, January 22, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: White Consultant Subjected Black Manager to Hostile Work Environment

What I like about this legal brief is that it shows that employers are liable for the discriminatory, harassing, and/or retaliatory actions of everyone on their payroll. So, when we think about "employee" abuses, we need to remember that this also can include workers, such as consultants and/or vendors. If an employer is aware that an employee is being subjected to illegal behavior, the employer is responsible to put a stop to it--immediately.

In this case, a Black manager was being harassed by a White consultant several times a week. When the Black manager complained, two White managers asked the consultant to stop the offensive behavior. The consultant did not.

Employers are obligated to prevent illegal behavior and to put a stop to it, once they realize what is happening. In this case, it seems the consultant was running wild and violating federal statutes at every opportunity. It's worth noting that the employers settled this case quickly. The case was filed in April 2009.

For details on the case, see the settlement news below:


Georgia Car Dealership to Pay $140,000 for Racial Harassment of Black Manager
EEOC Said Augusta Car Dealer Violated Federal Race Discrimination Law

ATLANTA – S&H Thomson, Inc., doing business as Stokes-Hodges Chevrolet Cadillac Buick Pontiac GMC, will pay $140,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on January 14th. The agency had charged that the Augusta car dealer allowed a white male management consultant to subject an African American sales manager to a racially hostile work environment over a four-month period.

The EEOC first filed the suit in April 2009 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit against S&H Thomson, Inc., the white consultant visited the car dealership three to four times a week and never missed an opportunity to make racially derogatory comments towards the black sales manager. The sales manager was subjected to humiliating and degrading comments every time the consultant visited the dealership and almost always in the presence of other people. After the black sales manager complained about the derogatory comments, two white managers asked the consultant to stop his discriminatory behavior. The consultant ignored their requests to cease and continued to make the derogatory comments at every opportunity.

The consent decree settling the suit, in addition to the monetary relief of $140,000, includes provisions for equal employment opportunity training, reporting, and posting of anti-discrimination notices. In the suit and consent decree, S&H Thomson, Inc., denied any liability or wrongdoing.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. In the lawsuit, the federal agency sought compensatory and punitive damages for the harmed employee, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“This is an outrageous case where an African American employee was subjected to humiliating and degrading behavior,” said Bernice Kimbrough, district director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “What is also disturbing about these allegations is that the white management consultant ignored requests by other white managers to stop making the racially derogatory comments.”

Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “We are pleased with the employer’s efforts to quickly resolve this dispute, while taking positive steps to remain in compliance with the law in the future. We are committed to eradicating this type of discrimination 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 www.eeoc.gov.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The EEOC Has a New User-Friendly Web Site!

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a new user-friendly web site. This is what they have to say about it:

In order to make information about the EEOC and the laws we enforce more user-friendly and easier to navigate, we have redesigned our website. We hope you will be able to find what you are looking for quickly and easily. If you are having difficulty locating the information you are seeking, try our new search engine. If you still cannot find what you need, and you know where it was on the previous version of our website, you can still visit our previous site. We will keep the previous version up through the end of 2009, but please note that we will no longer be updating it.

The web site can be found at: http://www1.eeoc.gov/newsite.cfm

To get an overview about the EEOC check out: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/

You can file a complaint at: http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm

You can find your nearest EEOC office here: http://www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Little Solidarity Might Go A Long Way

With the King holiday, yesterday, I couldn't help but think about the power of people working together for a common cause. Yes, people of different races joined forces with African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. But, clearly, African-Americans were, and had to be, the core force to initiate and champion the fight for equality in American society.

But, what legacy has truly been passed on to us?

So, many of the very young Black workers that I come across today (the under 25 crowd)really don't seem to believe that workplace racism is a serious issue they have to deal with. Society has surely changed and is more open and sometimes appears to be more tolerant, however, some of our younger brothers and sisters really think that talking about on-the-job racism is akin to talking about dinosaurs--it's a thing of the past.

As I included in a post, last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that they filed the second highest number of complaints EVER for the organization. That is for last year...2009!!!

So, we have this contradiction, where many younger Blacks feel everything is okay, but reality tells us that we are seeing things heading in the wrong direction. If you think about it, the EEOC had their second highest number of complaints filed, but most workers don't file complaints AND not all complaining workers go to the EEOC to make a complaint. You have workers going to other state/county agencies for assistance, such as a local Office of Human Rights agency. And, some workers take their complaints straight to a lawyer. So, the number of race-based complaints may have risen across the board and not just with the EEOC.

What's thought-provoking is the observation that most Black workers don't file any type of complaint. Some of us have a certain level of acceptance with work-place racism. We need our jobs. We don't want to be subjected to retaliation for complaining. We don't want to be seen as complainers and whiners or as someone playing the race card. So, we rely on our support network of Black coworkers, friends, and family to get us through trying times on the job. Because of our turbulent history in this country, we have developed a great capacity to move on from abuse and torment. So, we can often continue to work with those who are tormenting us--even for years. We are survivors! It is amazing how much we, as a people, can put up with!

But, I wonder how we can truly break through in the workplace if we have younger generations coming along who don't believe they are dealing with a serious issue of workplace racism? How do you improve your future if you don't understand your current situation?

I get the feeling that the weight of continuing the fight for workplace equality will fall mostly with the over-30 aged Black workers--and starting at 30 is being very generous.

If we don't fight race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, I'm not sure who will. Can we really count on younger workers realizing that the more things change, the more they stay the same?

I don't know. I'm not sure a light will come on over their heads. We are at a different point in history. Race-relations aren't what they were, so the need to fight against "the man" or "the system," as it used to be called, isn't a pressure that is felt anymore.

But, I do know this...when it comes to workplace racism, a little solidarity might go a long way.

This is a collective fight. It's a fight we make so that each generation has it a bit better than the previous one. Are we passing on a tradition of fighting for equality? Or have we become an "it's all good" race of Black folks?

What do you think? Post a comment!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Never Respond to Written Attacks (Emails, etc.) When You're Angry!

One of the hardest things in the world, especially when you’re young, is to write an email or memorandum when you are ready to tear someone’s head off! When you’re working with The Black Factor, you have to be mindful of the stereotypes associated with African Americans and work against those perceptions.

Don’t give people any ammunition to call you angry, defensive, hostile, pissed, irate, hypersensitive or confrontational. Find ways to present your case in clear yet non-emotional language. I’ve been in this situation many times, so trust my advice. When it comes to responding to emails and memos, when you’re angry:

-- Read and walk away. If you’ve received something in writing that upsets you or angers you, read it, walk away, and then come back and read it again. If you are dealing with negative written communication, it's important to take a deep breath and do something else for a few minutes. After some time has passed, revisit the written documentation and decide if your initial impression of the correspondence was correct.

-- Talk to a trusted coworker or friend. When you get upset at work, talk to a coworker or friend, even someone who doesn’t work at the company. It’s best to speak to someone with more experience than yourself, who may have been involved in similar situations and is able to give you perspective on what has happened and how you should respond--if at all.

If you don’t have a more senior coworker or friend to speak to, at the very least talk to someone with values, a work ethic, and a level of professionalism that are similar to your own. This way, you know you can trust their opinion and advice. Let them read your email. See if they think you’re overreacting or if you really have an issue you should address. Remember, you are looking for an objective opinion, but, ultimately, you have to trust your own instincts. Your friend or coworker may not know the person you’re discussing as well as you do or may not understand the dynamics of your office. If after talking it over, you feel you need to respond, you should be professional, direct, and respond promptly.

-- If you are responding to email, prepare your response in another software format, like Microsoft Word. When you receive an email that angers you, don’t hit the “reply” button and then compose your email response. You may accidentally send the message before you are ready to do so. Instead, compose your response in another program and cut and paste it 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 of 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 with emotions. Try to avoid this behavior and stick with facts. Try to be very specific about any issues. You can identify exact quotes or language that support your claims and you can address how this impacts your work or reputation or job security.

--If someone is making blanket statements and vague negative claims about your behavior or work, don't automatically attack them--ask for specific examples. Surely, if what they are saying is true, they should be able to provide you with examples of what you are doing that is negative/unprofessional or incorrect. If they made the claims in writing, they shouldn't have any problem listing specifics in writing. You want them to write down any false claims so you can have documentation, from their own hand, about what they perceive as wrong. If they lie, that's on them. Make them commit the lies in writing, so they can't later say they never made certain accusations.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Workers Subjected to Higher Levels of Radiation Exposure Than Their White Coworkers

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 case, Black workers were subjected to racial epithets, but, even worse, they were exposed to higher levels of radiation than their White coworkers.

A Black worker, who complained of racial mistreatment, was suspended and then laid off in retaliation for complaining of abuses.

For specifics on this settlement, see below:

Race, LLC / Studsvik to Pay $650,000 to Settle EEOC Racial Harassment & Retaliation Suit

Radioactive Waste Processing Company Targeted Black Workers for Higher Radiation Exposure, Federal Agency Charged

MEMPHIS – A Memphis radioactive waste processing company will pay $650,000 to 23 African American employees and provide other relief to settle a race and retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on December 31st.

According to the EEOC’s suit against Race, LLC, doing business as Studsvik, LLC (Civil Action No. 2:07-cv-2620, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division), Courtney Britton, who worked as a lead worker in the shop for Studsvik, and other African American employees, were subjected to racially offensive comments by their white supervisor. Further, the complaint alleged that Britton’s supervisor regularly referred to him and other African American employees with the N-word and other derogatory slurs, such as “boy.”

In addition, the EEOC said, white managers subjected Britton and other African American employees to excessive radiation exposure, more than their white co-workers. The EEOC also charged that Britton was suspended for 15 days and then laid off in retaliation for complaining about the racial harassment.

“Some of the discrimination alleged in this case is unusually extreme because of the physical danger it created for African American employees,” said EEOC Acting Chair Stuart J. Ishimaru. “It is deeply disturbing that this kind of race-based discrimination could be inflicted upon innocent workers. Further, the EEOC is particularly concerned when people who have the courage to speak out against such discrimination then experience retaliation by their employer. The EEOC will fight such misconduct forcefully, as we did in this case.”

Besides the monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving the case enjoins Studsvik from discriminating against its employees because of their race and from retaliating against workers who assert their rights, and enjoins Studsvik from making assignments in the shop area based on race. Studsvik agreed to adopt and maintain an anti-discrimination policy prohibiting discrimination, to distribute the policy and complaint procedure to all employees, and to provide mandatory training to all employees regarding the policy.

At the training, Studsvik’s highest ranking individual will either appear in person or via video conferencing to announce and affirm the company’s commitment to a zero tolerance policy concerning race discrimination, its new anti-discrimination policy, and the penalty for violating the policy. Finally, Studsvik will provide annual written reports for three years to the EEOC regarding its job assignments and any complaints about discrimination.

Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC’s Memphis District, which includes Tennessee, Arkansas, and 17 counties in Northern Mississippi, said, “Racial harassment remains a longstanding problem in the workplace for many minorities. Mr. Britton and other African American employees endured the abuse because they needed to work to support their families. The manager who rendered such abuse is no longer employed and cannot be rehired. This resolution ensures that there are now policies and procedures in place so that African American employees are treated with dignity and respect in this workplace.”

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

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/12-31-09a.cfm

Friday, January 08, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Female Suffers "Devastating Permanent Mental Injuries" at Work Due to Lack of Action By Employer Against White Male Coworker!

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 case is a primary example of how verbal attacks/assault can escalate in the workplace. Physical intimidation is sometimes part of the attack on complaining workers. In this case, the intimidation became a full-fledged assault.


Whirlpool Corp. To Pay Over $1 Million For Harassing Black Female Worker, Judge Rules In Bench Trial

EEOC Said Company Tolerated Verbal Harassment Culminating in Physical Assault

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On December 29th, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a final court judgment of $1,073,261 against Whirlpool Corporation in a race and sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Carlota Freeman, an African American former employee at the company’s LeVergne, Tenn.-based facility. The EEOC alleged in its lawsuit that the appliance manufacturing giant failed to protect Freeman from persistent harassment by a white male coworker, which ultimately resulted in her being physically assaulted by him.

Following a bench trial, Tennessee District Court Judge John T. Nixon last week awarded Freeman $773,261 in back pay and front pay, and $300,000 in compensatory damages for nonpecuniary injuries – the maximum allowed under federal law. During the four-day trial, the evidence showed that Freeman reported escalating offensive verbal conduct and gestures by the male coworker over a period of two months before he physically assaulted her; four levels of Whirlpool’s management were aware of the escalating harassment; Whirlpool failed to take effective steps to stop the harassment; and, Freeman suffered devastating permanent mental injuries that will prevent her from working again as a result of the assault and Whirlpool’s failure to protect her.

“It is deeply disturbing that such a large and sophisticated company would allow this sort of abuse to go unchecked – even up to the point where serious physical injuries are inflicted on one of its employees,” said Commission Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “This significant monetary award

for a single individual should put Corporate America on notice that there can be extraordinary consequences for tolerating or overlooking egregious discrimination. The EEOC will not stand by while vulnerable workers like Ms. Freeman are forced to forego their economic security and fear for their safety because of their race and/or sex.”

The EEOC filed suit against Whirlpool under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee (Civil Action No. 3:06-0593) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.

EEOC Regional Attorney Faye Williams said, “Whirlpool unsuccessfully argued that because it had posted a policy prohibiting harassment, the company relieved itself of responsibility for Ms. Freeman’s injuries. However, the court correctly pointed out that when those charged with enforcing a policy don’t take that responsibility seriously, an employer has not met its duty under Title VII to prevent and stop illegal harassment in its workplace.”

Carlota Freeman intervened in the case and was represented by Nashville attorneys Helen Rogers and Andy Allman. Whirlpool Corporation was represented by the Littler Mendelson law firm out of Chicago.

EEOC Trial Attorney Steve Dills said: “The purpose of equitable relief in Title VII cases is to make whole the victims of discrimination. Unfortunately, the judgment in this case is a bittersweet outcome because the injuries suffered by Ms. Freeman are so devastating.”

According to its web site, Whirlpool Corporation, with world headquarters in Benton Harbor, Mich., “is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, with annual sales of approximately $19 billion, 70,000 employees, and 68 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world.”

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

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/12-29-09.cfm

Thursday, January 07, 2010

2009: The EEOC Filed the 2nd Highest Number of Workplace Discrimination Complaints!

WASHINGTON – Yesterday,the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that 93,277 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency nationwide during Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, the second highest level ever, and monetary relief obtained for victims totaled over $376 million. The comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for FY 2009, which ended Sept. 30, 2009, are posted on the agency’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/index.cfm.

“The latest data tell us that, as the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the Commission’s work is far from finished,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Equal employment opportunity remains elusive for far too many workers and the Commission will continue to fight for their rights. Employers must step up their efforts to foster discrimination-free and inclusive workplaces, or risk enforcement and litigation by the EEOC.”

The FY 2009 data show that private sector job bias charges (which include those filed against state and local governments) alleging discrimination based on disability, religion and/or national origin hit record highs. The number of charges alleging age-based discrimination reached the second-highest level ever. Continuing a decade-long trend, the most frequently filed charges with the EEOC in FY 2009 were charges alleging discrimination based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and sex-based discrimination (30%). Multiple types of discrimination may be alleged in a single charge filing.

The near-historic level of total discrimination charge filings may be due to multiple factors, including greater accessibility of the EEOC to the public, economic conditions, increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force, employees’ greater awareness of their rights under the law, and changes to the agency’s intake practices that cut down on the steps needed for an individual to file a charge.

The FY 2009 data also show that the EEOC resolved 85,980 private sector charges. In FY 2009, the Commission resolved more charges than ever alleging unlawful harassment, as well as allegations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In FY 2009, the EEOC recovered a record high of $294 million through administrative enforcement and mediation. Further, the productivity of EEOC investigators increased in FY 2009. The EEOC resolved the second highest number of charges per available investigator in the past 20 years.

The Commission also filed 281 new “merits” lawsuits and resolved 321 merits lawsuits in FY 2009 (merits suits include direct suits and interventions alleging violations of the substantive provisions of the statutes enforced by the Commission and suits to enforce administrative settlements).

Through its combined enforcement, mediation and litigation programs, the EEOC recovered more than $376 million in monetary relief for thousands of discrimination victims, and obtained significant remedial relief benefiting millions of workers across the country (e.g., court decrees or settlements requiring employers to change discriminatory policies or practices).

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

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-6-10.cfm

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Do Searches for Legal Assistance Outside of Work Hours!

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!

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year...Same Old Bull!

No posts came from me recently because I had yet another problem to deal with at work.

This time, some chicks were engaged in unethical and illegal behavior on the job and they got caught doing what they were doing. And, they got caught because I was doing my job and informed management. So, to get revenge on me...one of these women (Hispanic) decided to get her friends at the job in on her little plot to get back at everyone she perceived as doing her dirty in the workplace. Of course, I was on that list.

So, lo and behold, I am brought into a meeting with several members of management and I am asked whether I am involved in the unethical and illegal behavior and whether or not I was engaged in a cover-up AND whether or not I was aware that other workers were doing the same thing. This questioning was all due to intentionally false and malicious allegations from minority workers against me--a Black woman.

After hearing me speak quite eloquently, professionally, and sincerely, I was completely exonerated and the corporate office was informed that I had absolutely nothing to do with the activities going on. The allegations were lies!

I went point-by-point against all the false allegations. This isn't true because x,y, and z. This isn't true and you can confirm that by looking at the cameras, etc.

They almost got your girl, but not quite. This chicks comrades (that's what I call them) were even asking me after the fact if I was still being "investigated" and if anything "ongoing" was happening to me behind the scenes. They were doing that pretending to be concerned for me. But, my questions were "What are you talking about?" and "What meeting was I in?" The entire thing was confidential. So, how did they know? They were the ones involved, likely. Or, their good friends were and sent them to probe me.

It was wild to hear them digging for information that would lead them to believe there was still a chance I would be fired. I told them, "It's over."

And, then I laughed.

And, I laughed and smiled the rest of the day and I extended my hours for the day just to prove that I wasn't done in by the likes of them.

But, I have to tell you, I almost decided to quit writing this blog. I am so sick of those of us who are ignorant crabs in a barrel. All some of us want to do is drag each other down.

If you know you are doing something that can cost you your job, and you get caught...why not take it like a man? Sit in the big boy or big girl chair. Take your lumps!

But, no!

The fact that up to 6 people co-signed onto these allegations and even wrote statements full of lies is extremely disheartening and frustrating. I am so glad I don't know exactly who said what, although I have my suspicions.

I am literally writing off most of that job!!

However, I refuse to let ignorant crabs in a barrel stop what I am trying to do with this blog, which is to be a positive resource for folks and to share some of the horror stories from myself and others. Those who are under attack always feel alone and that no one has any idea what they are being subjected to and how it feels. This blog is about realizing you are not alone!

Again, I will not stop blogging in 2010.

That is my resolution.

Sorry, I had to vent.

But, like Arnold Schwartzenegger said as the Terminator...

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