Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Call In The Troops!

If someone on your job is mistreating you AND WON’T STOP, speak to your supervisor and request a meeting between you, your supervisor, your harasser, and their supervisor.

Although you don’t want to give the impression that you can’t resolve your own problems, you don’t want to work somewhere that gives you tension headaches or where you walk half-way around the earth to avoid passing someone’s desk. There comes a time when you may need someone to mediate in order to resolve a volatile and sensitive situation.

But, before you speak to your supervisor about the issue, demonstrate that you’ve tried to come up with solutions on your own. This is where copies of offensive or nasty email and voicemail messages, hard copy documentation, recordings, and a log can come in handy to support your position. But, remember not to show your full hand. Only provide the least supporting evidence needed to effectively prove your point. Always hold something back, if possible. That way, if a trumped up case is built against you, you will still have a powerful arsenal of evidence that your employers are not aware of.

Having this evidence can be vital in discrediting false charges that may be brought against you by your employer. If the problem continues, after you’ve met with both supervisors and your harasser, contact Human Resources. Don’t let harassment or other mistreatment continue!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Know the Rules!!!

Know what’s in your company’s personnel manual!!

We all have to get better at using our employers policies and practices against them, if they have violated their own standards and written statements about their guidelines and procedures.

It's good to use quotes from the personnel manual when you are emailing HR or executive staff about any official internal complaints or grievances you plan to file. This will let HR know you’re familiar with the policies and procedures of the company.

It also lets them know that you understand how they are supposed to be handling your complaint/grievance. Your employer will see how serious you are about your issue.

However, in the name of full disclosure, you should realize that some will take your knowledge as a reason to be afraid. This includes fears about you becoming a trouble-maker and/or fears about you pursuing legal action.

A friend of mine made a complaint at work and, because she was knowledgeable about her workplace rights, had to deal with HR accusing her of trying to set up a legal case against the company. That was the last thing she wanted, but when an employer knows they have done dirty, they can become paranoid and project their own ill-behavior and deeds onto others.

Nevertheless, employers are supposed to follow their own written procedures. Therefore, if they deviate from their procedures, they are simply providing you with documentation that could be evidence of a potentially deliberate attempt to violate your employee rights and to ignore your complaint.

Know your rights and hold your employer’s feet to the fire, when it comes to adhering to their own written policies and procedures. However, you should do so knowing their is a potential for your employer to intentionally escalate the situation.

Monday, April 26, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: EEOC Settles Lawsuits for Sex and Race Harassment Against Preston Hood Chevrolet

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

This legal brief, and many of the others I've posted, really reinforces how often employers refuse to do the right thing by their workers. With great frequency, we see how employees report abuses in good faith only to be faced with inaction and/or retaliation for coming forward.

We can only hope that one day it is easier for those in power, as well as the so-called guardians (e.g., HR staff), to do the right thing by their workers.

For details about the case, see below:


Biloxi Car Dealer to Pay $120,000 to Resolve Multiple Charges

GULFPORT, Miss. – Biloxi, Miss.-based Preston Hood Chevrolet has agreed to pay a total of $120,000 to settle two employment discrimination lawsuits, one for sexual harassment and one for race harassment, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on April 21st.

In the sexual harassment case (SD MS Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-1266), the EEOC charged that during 2006 and 2007 Preston Hood subjected a class of female employees to harassment based on their sex and forced one employee to quit. In the race harassment lawsuit (MS Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-1265), the EEOC asserted that during 2007 Preston Hood subjected an African American employee to harassment based on his race. The EEOC said that the harassment in both cases was perpetrated by both management and non-management employees.

The women alleged they were subjected to sexually explicit, provocative and insulting language, pornographic material and unwelcome sexual advances. The black male employee alleged that he was subjected to racial slurs and racially derogatory language. In both cases the employees reported that they complained to management but no corrective action was taken.

Race and sexual harassment violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach pre-litigation settlements.

The consent decree settling the race harassment case requires Preston Hood to make payment to Rickey Hayes of $35,000 and to provide significant injunctive relief. In the gender discrimination case, the dealership will pay $85,000 to Lisa Battaglia, Rebeca Gonzalez and a class of former female employees.

In both cases, Preston Hood also agreed to provide significant injunctive relief, such as implementing and disseminating anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and procedures; providing training to managers and employees; posting a notice in the workplace explaining Title VII employee rights and employer obligations under the statute; promptly and thoroughly investigating and addressing complaints of race or sex based harassment; and taking steps to ensure that there will be no retaliation against employees who complain about conduct believed to be discriminatory.

“Every employee deserves the freedom to work in an environment free from any form of harassment,” EEOC Birmingham District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas said. "We are pleased that Preston Hood is now taking affirmative steps to improve the work environment. Employers should recognize that upon first receipt of a complaint of harassment, they must take prompt action to ensure that the misconduct stops.”

EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney C. Emanuel Smith added, “Workplace harassment is one of the most egregious and demeaning forms of discrimination. Employers who allow their employees to be victimized by this type of behavior need to know that serious repercussions may follow their inaction.”

According to its website, Preston Hood Chevrolet serves the Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., areas and specializes in the sale of new and used Chevrolet vehicles.

In 2009, the EEOC received 12,696 charges of sexual harassment and 33,579 charges alleging race-based discrimination, the latter accounting for 36 percent of the agency's private-sector caseload. Historically, race-based charges have been the most frequent type of filing with EEOC offices nationwide.

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


Friday, April 23, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: EEOC Settles National Original Discrimination and Retaliation Suit for $100K!

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

This legal brief is about a Mexican worker, but if you look at the details, such as the treatment he was subjected to and the types of degrading insults he had to endure (about Mexicans and Mexican music and wanting to "get rid of him," for example), you can see the overlap with some of the issues Black workers and other minorities also deal with on-the-job.

For details about the case, see below:


Cannon & Wendt to Pay $100,000 to Settle EEOC National Origin Discrimination / Retaliation Suit

PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced, on April 13th, that it has settled a national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against Cannon & Wendt Electric Co., Inc., one of the oldest and largest electrical contractors operating in Phoenix, Ariz., for $100,000 for Victor Cortez and a comprehensive consent decree, signed by Federal Judge Earl H. Carroll.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, accusing Cannon & Wendt Electric Co., Inc. of discriminating against Victor Cortez when it subjected him to racist statements and then retaliated against him by terminating him after he complained about the unlawful discrimination.

According to the EEOC’s suit, EEOC v. Cannon & Wendt Electric, Co., Inc., CV-07-1710 PHX/EHC, employee Victor Cortez was unlawfully harassed because of his national origin by his immediate supervisor, Mark Ghose. The harassment included comments by Ghose, such as “I hate all Mexicans,” “they are worthless,” and “I hate Mexican music.” It was also alleged that Ghose openly stated his belief that Cortez was “useless” and he wanted to “get rid of him.” The EEOC also alleged that when Cortez complained to Cannon & Wendt’s then owner, Albert Wendt, Wendt failed to take any action except to ask “so, what do you want me to do about it?” The national origin harassment continued after Cortez’s complaints. Soon after he complained about the unlawful discrimination, Cannon & Wendt fired Cortez.

The EEOC obtained $100,000 for Cortez as damages for lost wages and benefits as well as compensation for the emotional distress. By entering into the consent decree, Cannon & Wendt agreed also to give Cortez an apology; subject Ghose to certain training; an injunction against national origin harassment and retaliation; reporting to the EEOC; the posting and distribution of a notice; change its anti-discrimination policies; and conduct extensive training for its supervisory and managerial workforce over the next three years.

Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the Phoenix District Office, said, “Each of the statutes that the EEOC enforces contain a specific prohibition against retaliating against any employee or applicant who opposes discrimination internally or files a charge of discrimination with a state or federal agency. Because there is a significant imbalance of power between employee and employer, this office will continue to vigorously enforce the statutes’ anti-retaliation provisions through its investigations and litigation. In Victor Cortez’s case, we are satisfied that he has been compensated for the egregious manner in which he was unlawfully treated.”

Janet Elizondo, acting director for the Phoenix District Office, said, “Title VII provides that employees, including Victor Cortez, are entitled to work and keep their dignity. No employee should ever have to sacrifice his or her identity in order to keep a job. This employer not only ignored Mr. Cortez’s rights to be free from discrimination, but also fired him because he complained about the unlawful discrimination. This is a particularly troubling case because the EEOC sued this particular employer for religious discrimination a few years ago. After being sued, most employers take their EEO obligations under the law seriously. It is troubling to the EEOC to see a repeat offender.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Veronica Molina said, “Cannon & Wendt’s treatment of Mr. Cortez was outrageous. If the company had not settled, this would have been a very good case for a punitive damages request from a jury.”

Cortez said, “I am very thankful to the EEOC for fighting for me. What happened to me was wrong. No one should have to experience what I did in order to support my family.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Started 2nd Job!

Sorry for not having posts Monday through Wednesday, but I started a second job and have been scrambling for time.

A new post is included today.

The Language of Workplace Violations: Adverse Actions

I've covered adverse actions before, but I like to repeat important topics such as this periodically.


An adverse action is an action taken to try to keep someone from opposing a discriminatory practice, or from participating in an employment discrimination proceeding.

Examples of adverse actions include:

--employment actions such as termination, refusal to hire, and denial of promotion,

--other actions affecting employment such as threats, unjustified negative evaluations, unjustified negative references, or increased surveillance, and

--any other action such as an assault or unfounded civil or criminal charges that are likely to deter reasonable people from pursuing their rights.

Adverse actions DO NOT include petty slights and annoyances, such as stray negative comments in an otherwise positive or neutral evaluation, "snubbing" a colleague, or negative comments that are justified by an employee's poor work performance or history.

Even if the prior protected activity alleged wrongdoing by a different employer, retaliatory adverse actions are unlawful.

For example, it is unlawful for a worker's current employer to retaliate against him for pursuing a charge against a former employer.

For more information about adverse actions, see EEOC's Compliance Manual Section 8, Chapter II, Part D.

Friday, April 16, 2010

An Employer's Oral Warnings May Not Prove They Tried to Prevent Harassment and Misconduct!

According to the EEOC, an oral warning or reprimand is appropriate only if misconduct (e.g., harassment) was isolated and minor. If an employer relies on oral warnings or reprimands to correct harassment, it will have difficulty proving that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct such misconduct. (Source:

In other words, don’t let promises from your employer, regarding someone being written up or “spoken to” about misconduct guide your decisions as to whether or not your employer is providing ample protections for you under the law. If you have been the victim of substantial and pervasive misconduct, the punishment of the offending individual should be more significant. For instance, it may be more appropriate that the individual be demoted, transferred, etc. Only you know the severity of your situation, but you should demand whatever punishment fits the crimes committed against you.

Additionally, your employer’s response to misconduct should be immediate. If your employer does not immediately correct pervasive misconduct, they are opening themselves up to legal jeopardy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Discrimination Based on Cultural Characteristics

In today's business society, we hear people mention buzz words like "corporate culture" or just plain "culture." Maybe we're conspiracy theorists, but many Blacks feel the word "culture" is just code for talking about the good old boy's network (read: White status quo).

I've heard from several Black people, this year, that have met with White interviewers who have used the dreaded "c" word. These interviewees felt the White interviewers went out of their way to announce that their company had a "culture" they liked and did not want to disrupt. What stood out for the Black folks who heard this is that these "culture" comments were made by those who did the hiring at small companies with few, one or no Black employees. So, the word "culture" stood out tremendously. It was almost like having someone wave a "Do not Enter" sign in from them.

Where does the EEOC come down on this culture issue?

Well, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination against a person because of cultural characteristics often linked to race or ethnicity, such as a person’s name, cultural dress and grooming practices, or accent or manner of speech.

For example, an employment decision based on a person having a so-called “Black accent,” or “sounding White,” violates Title VII if the accent or manner of speech does not materially interfere with the ability to perform job duties.

According to law, it's all about whether or not you can do your darn job! That's what employers pay people to do, isn't it?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Compensation Discrimination

The following information comes from the EEOC web site regarding compensation discrimination:

What is "compensation"?

Compensation refers to any payments made to or on behalf of employees as remuneration for employment. All forms of compensation are covered, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.

Under what circumstances is compensation discrimination unlawful under Title VII (The Civil Rights Act), the ADEA, and the ADA?

Compensation discrimination is unlawful when an employee is paid less because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. The following are examples:

--An employer pays women less than similarly situated men, and the employer's explanation (if any) does not satisfactorily account for the difference.

--An employer sets the pay for jobs predominantly held by Hispanics below that suggested by the employer's job evaluation study, while the pay for jobs predominantly held by non- Hispanics is consistent with the level called for by the job evaluation study.

--A discriminatory compensation system that disadvantaged African-Americans has been discontinued, but salary disparities caused by the system still continue.

How can you tell whether compensation discrimination may be occurring in a workplace?

Of course, there can be an explicit policy or other direct evidence of compensation discrimination. For example, in the past, some employers provided lower pension benefits to women even though the women made the same pension contributions as men. This was held unlawful by the Supreme Court.

Typically, however, discrimination in compensation is more subtle and requires closer examination. The basic approach outlined in the Compliance Manual section is to identify similarly situated employees and compare their compensation. If there are differences, the next step is to determine whether there are nondiscriminatory reasons for the differences. If not, the differences may well be due to discrimination. Even if there appear to be nondiscriminatory reasons, those reasons should be evaluated to determine whether they actually explain the pay differences.

How do you determine whether employees are similarly situated?

The jobs the employees hold should be similar enough that one would expect the jobs to pay the same. This need not be an overly rigid process. The key is what people actually do on the job, not job titles or departmental designations. Skill, effort, responsibility, and the general complexity of the work are guideposts in determining job similarity.

Is it unlawful to discriminate in bonuses, commissions, and other compensation not included in base pay?

Yes. Bonuses, commissions, stock options, and any other payments in addition to base pay must also be provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. It is important to determine whether the employer's policy for providing non-base compensation is nondiscriminatory in design and application. There are two basic issues to consider in determining whether there is discrimination in non-base pay: (1) whether the eligibility criteria for the non-base compensation are applied in a nondiscriminatory way, and (2) whether, among those eligible, employees receive non-base compensation in nondiscriminatory amounts.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Professional Building Systems Of North Carolina To Pay $118,000 To Settle Race Harassment Case

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

Custom Homes Manufacturer Subjected African American Employees to Racial Harassment, EEOC Charged

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Professional Building Systems of North Carolina, LLC, of Mt. Gilead, N.C., will pay $118,000to six African American employees who filed charges of racial harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and six more African Americans who were also subjected to racial harassment, the agency announced on April 8th. Additionally, the company agreed to significant non-monetary relief to settle the lawsuit brought by the EEOC.

The EEOC brought the lawsuit against Professional Building Systems after it had identified at least 12 black employees who had been subjected to racial harassment there. According to the EEOC’s complaint, at various times between mid-2005 and 2008, black employees were subjected to racial harassment that involved the creation and display of nooses; references to black employees as “boy” and by the "N-word”; and racially offensive pictures such as a picture that depicted the Ku Klux Klan looking down a well at a black man. In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that the managers of Professional Building Systems not only knew about the harassment and took no action to stop or prevent it, but also that a manager was one of the perpetrators of the harassment.

Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Professional Building Systems of North Carolina, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00617), after attempting to reach a voluntary settle­ment with Professional Building Systems. Thereafter, six of the harassment victims intervened in the EEOC’s lawsuit via private counsel.

“Make no mistake: Almost fifty years after the passage of landmark civil rights laws, nooses and racial epithets like the “N-word” are still being used to ridicule and intimidate in the work­place,” said Acting EEOC Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The EEOC will forcefully fight this reprehensible and racist conduct wherever we find it, and we’ll insist on securing substantial relief for victims, as we did in this case.”

In addition to monetary damages, the consent decree resolving the case provides for injunctive relief to prevent Professional Building Systems from maintaining a racially hostile work environment or engaging in retaliation under Title VII. The decree also requires the company to post its policy against racial harassment; distribute the policy to employees; provide annual, company-wide training on racial harassment; eliminate all existing nooses or racial epithets, if any, from its facility; and report future verbal or written complaints of racial harassment.

“Nooses are symbols of hate, prejudice, and discrimination, which should not and will not be tolerated in the workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “It is especially inexcusable when managers perpetrate racial harassment against their sub­ordinates or know about racial harassment and fail to address it. EEOC will continue its efforts to eliminate racial harassment in the workplace on behalf of harassment victims.”
Tina Burnside, supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC’s Charlotte District, added, “The EEOC is pleased that the consent decree includes injunctive measures designed to ensure that black employ­ees are no longer subjected to racial harassment and can work in an environment free of nooses and racial graffiti.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at


Monday, April 12, 2010

IN THE NEWS: Jacqueline A. Berrien Becomes New Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

WASHINGTON — Jacqueline A. Berrien, the former Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), was sworn in on April 7th as the Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. She becomes the fourteenth Chair of the EEOC, which will celebrate the 45th anniversary of its founding in July.

Berrien was nominated on July 16, 2009 by President Barack Obama, who signed a recess appointment for her on March 27, 2010. She will serve until the end of the Congressional session in 2011 unless she is confirmed by the by the Senate for a full term.

During her more than twenty years of law practice, Berrien has been devoted to public service and addressed a wide variety of civil and constitutional rights issues. Throughout her career, she has represented clients in cases concerning subjects as varied as pregnancy discrimination, employment discrimination on the basis of immigration status, voting rights, and access to affordable housing. She comes to the EEOC after five and a half years as a leader of LDF’s national legal advocacy and scholarship programs. She also has taught in trial advocacy programs at Fordham and Harvard law schools and served on the adjunct faculty of New York Law School.

A native Washingtonian who has lived most recently in Brooklyn, N.Y., Berrien’s commitment to public service is longstanding. She paid part of her college tuition by working for federal and local government agencies, starting at the bottom of the federal pay scale during her senior year of high school. She earned her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College and in her junior year was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in recognition of her leadership potential and commitment to a career in public service. She received her law degree from Harvard Law School, where she served as a General Editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. She began her legal career clerking for Judge U.W. Clemon, the first African-American appointed to the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, AL.

“I am confident that I am here because many people who lived before I was born were determined that I should have opportunities that they could only witness in dreams and articulate in prayers,” Berrien said. “I am motivated by the knowledge that the entire nation will benefit as we move closer to fulfilling the mission that guides the EEOC: to end unlawful discrimination in the nation's workplaces. I welcome the opportunity to work with anyone, within or outside the EEOC, who is determined to fulfill the agency’s mission.”

Berrien joins Commissioners Stuart J. Ishimaru and Constance S. Barker. Chai R. Feldblum, who received a recess appointment, was also sworn in as a Commissioner of the EEOC today. With the addition of nominee Victoria Lipnic, who was also given a recess appointment and will be sworn in later in April, the EEOC returns to its full complement of five Commissioners. General Counsel nominee P. David Lopez, who was given a recess appointment, will be sworn in to his post tomorrow.

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


Friday, April 09, 2010

The Truth About Inaction

People throw around labels about Blacks playing “race cards,” but they just don’t get that so many African Americans don’t and won’t report racially-based issues at work because they don’t want to make waves/trouble that would incur the wrath of a White person on the job. Or, perhaps, they don’t want to incur the wrath of the company, as a whole.

In my work experience, I’ve learned that most Black folks don’t want to make a formal complaint about someone who’s White. Despite not making formal complaints about mistreatment, African Americans will complain to other minority family, friends, and coworkers because we know they will understand our predicament at work. So, we complain to those who are like us and, then, we do nothing!

Doing nothing about an issue isn’t inaction. It’s the exact opposite! Specifically, when we do nothing about mistreatment from White coworkers or supervisors, it’s an active way for us to ensure that:

--We don’t have to fear a negative reaction against us from our supervisor, manager, Human Resources staff, etc. based on our grievance;

--We don’t look like a cry-baby or whiner;

--We don’t look like we’re “playing the race card”;

--We don’t make ourselves more of a target;

--We don’t piss off whoever is already tormenting us;

--We don’t end up having our tormentor forming a group alliance against us that is even more vicious than the attacks coming from a lone perpetrator;

--We don’t look like a troublemaker, like we have a chip on our shoulder, are hypersensitive, are angry, are defensive or that we have no respect for authority, (by reporting a White coworker);

--We don’t hurt our chances to get a fair performance evaluation and salary increase (connected to the troublemaker issue); and that

--We don’t end up in trouble because someone in authority believes that we, and not our tormentor, are the real problem.

So, inaction is a major tool for African Americans at work. For Blacks, the expectation that we will be ignored or marginalized or that we will suffer retaliation at the hands of Whites did not die after the so-called end of the Civil Rights Movement. The fear of retaliation is a strong driving force behind African American inaction, even today. I’ve felt the pressures and have heard coworkers say that a person shouldn’t, “start the White people up!”

So, I know why there is often marked hesitation at the very idea of reporting a White person in the workplace. I have heard all of the reasons listed above as the justification not to do anything about mistreatment, even illegal mistreatment, at work. I’ve had these reasons creep into my own psyche.

Unfortunately, it’s a rational fear to have. Blacks know this fear is legitimate because we’ve seen what happens to outspoken African Americans at work. We’ve heard the name-calling and have seen how this type of Black person has become a target at work, has been isolated, has received poor performance evaluations and salary increases (justified by allegations they have a “bad attitude”), and has been passed over for opportunities. These “types” of African Americans may even have been laid off for false reasons (lack of work) or fired for false reasons (insubordination). Point blank, it’s often safer to stay quiet because it can be career suicide to be labeled as the “militant” at your job.

But, the reality is…they can’t lynch you! If that’s what it takes to get the courage to report mistreatment, then remind yourself of that every day. This is not the day of physical lynchings! Yes, people on your job can make life difficult for you, but that’s a burden and challenge our ancestors faced, head on, every day. The fight for equal rights is a fight that still needs to be fought.

We can make a difference. But, we can’t change a damn thing if we suffer in silence!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Stop the Character Assassin!

Unlike some in the workplace who write and speak in a covert or coded way that shields the true meaning of what they are actually saying, there are others who will come right out and make negative statements about those they supervise or work with. When you run across a person like this, regardless of level, it is up to you to:

-- Clear up any misrepresentations by responding with facts. Don’t get into name-calling or write an emotional response to an email or memo. Just present the facts and list/name any witnesses who can substantiate what occurred. Additionally, you may also want to refer staff to supporting documentation, such as previous emails, instructions disseminated to the project team or other information in your possession that confirms your version of events.

-- Have a zero tolerance policy for anyone attempting to slander your name and/or falsely assassinate your character. Your family name is priceless. It may not mean much to those you work with, but it should mean everything to you. You were born with that name and regardless of what kind of life you’ve lead (whether you come from poverty, abuse, etc.) NO ONE has a right to tarnish your name with false statements about who you are and what you represent.

The name you have is the name that you carry to your grave. Wear your name with pride. Don’t let anyone get away with character assassination. I don’t care if you’re a janitor or an executive.

Character assassination must be addressed, in writing, to all those who received negative communication about you or to those who were directly spoken to with negative information. Your silence can be construed as agreement, when you don’t address negative statements about yourself and your job performance. Don’t worry about the mind game, “you’re sensitive” or “you can’t take criticism.” Those comments are a way to put you back on the plantation, as if you have no voice in what goes on around you and what perceptions are created about you.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hit the Road With the Right Stuff!

A reader once asked for my advice regarding what information they should take with them, before they leave employment at their current job. This was a great question because once you’ve left a company, your opportunity to get vital information is gone. I am including two lists.

The first list is an accounting of some of the things you should take with you, if you have an outstanding complaint/grievance against your employer. Even if you have not officially filed an external complaint and do not know if you will pursue legal action, this is information you should take with you.

The second list includes some of the items that employees should ensure they have, even if they are leaving their job under the best/positive circumstances.


--A copy of your company’s personnel manual or, at the very least, the applicable sections that are germane to your case

--A copy of your company’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies

--A copy of any written warnings you’ve received, including performance deficiency memos or emails that are meant to document patterns of negative behavior or work performance

--A copy of your job description to show your official responsibilities (you can use the description to show how you may have been bogged down with many unofficial tasks that would ensure you failed to fulfill the requirements of your job)

--A copy of your timesheets

--A copy of the position for which you were seeking promotion or may/could have been promoted to fill

--A copy of performance reviews

--Memos and email that prove your case/claims

--A list of incidents that support your allegations of harassment, etc. (including dates/times)

--Organization charts that show the hierarchy at your company/of your department

--A list of superiors that you reported harassment, etc. to (including dates/times)

--A copy of congratulatory email/”thank you” email demonstrating that you did a good job performing your work

--Photos of any graffiti or racial slurs that were used to attack you

--Tape recordings of nasty/offensive voice mail messages

--Witness statements by those who witnessed harassment, etc. or, at the very least, a witness list of those who saw or heard things that happened to you

--Performance review guidelines that should have dictated how your review was composed and the appropriate evaluation standards for your position

--A copy of any email/memos you’ve sent to superiors or Human Resources complaining about mistreatment (include any responses received)

--A copy of your resignation letter


--An official copy of your job description

--A copy of your performance reviews

--A copy of congratulatory email/”thank you” email

--Writing samples – Writing can be an equalizer that makes you competitive with those who have degrees or more advanced degrees than you possess. Many people write poorly, including the college educated population. You are extremely valuable to an employer, if you write well. Always keep samples of your work. This includes keeping samples of any technical writing or proposal writing, as well as any writing for specific audiences (e.g., teens, AIDS patients, etc.)

--Design/product samples - For instance, if you oversaw or coordinated the work of a creative team or vendors

--Product shots -Stock photos of any finished products that you helped create

--General samples of your work, specific to your field (e.g., research analysis reports)

--Letters of recommendation – Make sure to get positive written feedback from your superiors and coworkers before leaving any job

--Phone numbers for oral references – Line up your references as you pursue other work opportunities. Find out what phone number your references would like to be called on (Some may want to receive a phone employment verification call on their cell phone and not their work phone)

Always think about what information is specific to your job/field and compile information that can be included in a portfolio of your work.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Payment to Settle Harassment and Retaliation Against Workers

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 brief is about Mexican workers, but they could just as easily been African Americans. There are similarities to some of the other briefs involving Black workers, such as verbal abuse and ever-decreasing working conditions/a hostile work environment.


Gonnella Baking Co. To Pay $350,000 To Settle EEOC Harassment And Retaliation Suit

Aurora Bakery Allowed Abuse of Mexican Workers, Agency Charged

CHICAGO – Gonnella Baking Co., a Chicago-area baking company, will pay $350,000 to settle a national origin harassment and retaliation suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced yesterday. The company will also be subject to a four-year consent decree, under which it will be required to report any further complaints of discrimination or retaliation to the EEOC and to provide training about employment discrimination law to its managers and other employees.

In its suit, the EEOC charged that Gonnella tolerated harassment of employees of Mexican national origin by a manager at its Aurora, Ill., facility and, when a number of those employees complained about the harassment, the manager retaliated against them by subjecting them to further verbal harassment, longer hours, and harsher working conditions. The EEOC sought relief for a class of seven employees, four of whom intervened in the suit as plaintiffs.

John Rowe, EEOC district director in Chicago, said that the EEOC’s investigation revealed that the Gonnella manager routinely made derogatory anti-Mexican comments to several sanitation employees of Mexican national origin. After some of these employees complained about the mis­treatment, the manager required the employees to work longer hours, with a number of shifts exceed­ing 12 hours and on one occasion reaching as much as 19 hours, according to Rowe. According to the employees, the manager warned them against making further complaints, telling one employee that if the employee complained to the company’s human resources department, she was “going to pay for it.”

The EEOC’s lawsuit was brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits national origin discrimination and retaliation in employment. Harassment of employees or alteration of the conditions of their employment is unlawful if it is motivated by the employees’ national origin or race or if it is done in retaliation for complaints about discrimination.

“The derogatory language and other harassment directed at the employees in this case are entirely inappropriate in the workplace,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “Gonnella failed to take action to address this conduct, despite numerous complaints about this manager from several different employees. As this case illustrates, employers who do not live up to their obligation to put a stop to employment discrimination expose themselves to substantial financial consequences and ongoing scrutiny.”

The EEOC’s lawsuit was filed on September 15, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (EEOC v. Gonnella Baking Co., Case No 08-cv-5240). The consent decree resolving the case was approved today by U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah. The case had been set to go to trial on April 12, 2010. In addition to requiring Gonnella to pay damages to seven individuals and to pay attorney fees to intervening plaintiffs, the decree contains an injunction prohibiting Gonnella from engaging in further discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, or retaliation.

The government’s litigation effort was led by EEOC Trial Attorneys Justin Mulaire and Brad Fiorito and EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory Gochanour.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

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