Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Question Me!

Cold Hard Facts...There are some White workers, supervisors, etc. that don’t like ANY Black coworker appearing to question their authority. Point blank. I don’t know if it’s a carry over from slavery or what. There are just some Whites who will take the words of a thoughtful Black person as a threat to their real or perceived power, as a blatant attack by the Black person or as insubordination. Insubordination is the backbone of fabricated complaints against Blacks throughout the country. It’s the NWA (Ni**ers with an attitude) defense.

A few years ago, a White coworker misread an email I sent and stormed into my office accusing me of circumventing her authority. She was sweaty and red-faced and DEAD WRONG. But, she carried on and on accusing me of embarrassing her and challenging her authority, etc. I let her ramble on, looking at her like the idiot she was. Then, I asked her if she read the email from the bottom/last email to the top. She had not. I asked her to go back to her office to do so. But, before she left, I let her know that she just wasn’t that important to me. Yes, if she wanted to engage in a conversation about authority she didn’t have (she wasn’t a manager or even my manager), then we had to get real. I told her point blank that she was not that important to me and that I did not work on Falcon Crest or on some other nighttime soap opera. I asked her not to project her behavior onto me. I told her that I did not conduct myself in that manner.

She went back and read the email and came back to my office—red-faced—to apologize. I told her, “It’s just not that serious. I don’t have time for games like that.” Again, she wasn’t even a manager and she wasn’t my manager. Yet, she saw something in the email that falsely led her to believe that I was trying to do her job or was questioning her or whatever her dumb mind came up with. And, she became enraged.

I think she was upset by who she perceived to be challenging her, more than by the perceived challenged. She had 4 Master's degrees, which she always bragged about. And, she dind't appreciate this younger Black woman, who was junior to her, actually having the knowledge to participate effectively in an email exchange with members of the contracts office. She didn't know who I thought I was. Yes, she might not have liked anyone challenging her. But, my race escalated her emotional response. How do I know? My feelings were confirmed, when she later admitted to being raised by Mormons that disliked Black people! So, I know race was an issue in her upbringing. And, I was a member of the race that was disparaged in her household. I can't make this stuff up, folks!

So, imagine how some managers will respond to Blacks that are legitimately questioning their authority, language, policies, actions, etc. That brings us to requesting an investigation of a racist supervisor, manager, etc.

If you are requesting an investigation of a supervisor or manager or anyone in a true position of authority over you, you should request the investigation through Human Resources. Period! Don’t go to that person to give them a heads up out of respect, fear, etc.

Legally, you have a right to skip the chain-of-command, if the perpetrator is part of your chain-of-command and has violated your workplace rights. Therefore, I would recommend that you bypass your supervisor or manager, as they are the harassing party in your complaint. Human Resources will notify your supervisor or manger of the investigation, which is the appropriate way for the process to work.

If you are filing a complaint against your supervisor, be sure to present an evidence list and a witness list. Remember, your employer is more likely to immediately believe a supervisor over a worker. So, the burden of proof is on you! You have to show that misconduct has taken place. Your evidence list should contain a quick summary of documents, charts, instructions, nasty/offensive emails, etc. that can help prove your case.

The witness list should contain the name, title, and other information related to anyone who witnessed harassment, bullying, etc. By submitting evidence, instead of just making accusations, you will help your company take your complaint and request for an investigation more seriously because your evidence will demonstrate that you can prove the allegations are true. Don’t forget…the scariest kind of proof, for any company, is evidence that is explosive (e.g., written documentation, such as emails) and evidence that can be presented by a witness.

Having witnesses correlates to having someone who will be able to provide testimony, on your behalf, regarding the incident. This person can provide testimony not just for an in-house investigation, but for a legal trial, if things get to that point.

When submitting evidence, it’s important to be strategic. Don’t ever give anyone in Human Resources and/or corporate management everything you have to prove your case! You may need to hit your supervisor or employer hard—at a later time. Don’t tip your hand too soon. Present compelling evidence, but always hold out. This will stop your employer from being able to create false documentation, administrative forms, etc. that appear to counter your legitimate evidence.

Don’t sell your employer short. If the company is desperate to disprove a case or thinks it is in legal jeopardy based on employee claims of discrimination, etc., your employer may engage in manipulating timesheets, creating fraudulent documentation of fabricated performance deficiencies, etc. Don’t help them make up their lies! Hold out some information and use it to box them into a corner, to prove future lies, etc.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Say My Name...Say My Name...(And Pronounce It Correctly!)

In my opinion, MORE THAN ANY OTHER RACE, Black people are very easily distinguished from one another. African Americans have such a wide variety of facial features, skin tones, hair textures, hair styles, eye colors, etc. that a person would have to go completely out of their way to be routinely unable to distinguish one Black person from another.

Many Blacks try not to be visual cookie-cutter types. In fact, African Americans are damn near studied and are routinely imitated because of the creativity we bring to our style of dress, manner of walking, behaviors, etc. Even in our “professional clothes,” many African Americans are still able to rock our own personalities and to maintain our personal swagger. Only a Black person can turn a wild Saturday night burgundy weave hairstyle into complete professionalism by Monday morning. Yes, the wild burgundy weave will be swept into a neat up-do hairstyle, bun or sophisticated ponytail. What’s the saying? “Let me do me!” And, many of us do—professionally.

Yet, I think nearly every Black person has been “confused” for another Black person, by someone who is White. Have you or someone you know been “mistaken” for Black coworkers that you DID NOT resemble?

Unfortunately, Blacks are often viewed and treated as an INTERCHANGEABLE GROUP OF PEOPLE who aren’t worth knowing—or remembering—on an individual basis.

So, let me break this down. A racist considers particular groups of people beneath them, as unimportant, as worthless, etc. A racist in the workplace is not going to trip off of having to remember the names and faces of Black or other so-called minority workers. A racist sees a minority as an annoyance or, best case scenario, but still offensive, as something to tolerate. But, the minority worker is still essentially invisible to the racist because the racist sees a person without value. The racist sees someone to use, but only when absolutely necessary. A racist doesn’t mind using Black workers as labor because even “massa” did that on the plantation. To a racist, that’s all Blacks are—labor. So, if they have to work with you, they will. But, they will treat Blacks as labor—like an ox or a mule. THESE ANIMALS DO NOT NEED TO BE CALLED BY NAME!

And, I don’t want to hear anything about…maybe it was just an honest mistake. That’s a load of crap. We each learn to identify other humans BY NAME as infants and toddlers. We learn that PEOPLE AND THINGS HAVE NAMES, such as Mommy, Daddy, ball, bottle, doggie, etc. So, don’t tell me a full grown human being can’t remember the face and name of someone they work with EVERY DAY!!

I started temping at a company where I was subbing for a Black woman who had been an employee at the company for a number of years. This woman went out on maternity leave and I was taking her place in Human Resources for 3 months. Her coworkers would enter Human Resources, look me dead in the face, and would call me by this woman’s name! We looked NOTHING ALIKE!! This woman was taller, lighter, had different hair color, dressed differently, etc. But, I can only assume, they believed she transformed herself into another human being—overnight. How else could they confuse me for their coworker? They’d worked with her FOR YEARS!!! To make matters worse, some people acknowledged their confusion. They would furrow their brows and say, “You look different today.” My response? “That’s because I’m not her! I’m another person. Nice to meet you.”

I’ve even heard a recent story, at a company I will not name, where a Black man was called by the name of a BLACK WOMAN, who’d just joined the company. Who called him by this Black woman’s name? HIS OWN MANAGER!! How long had he worked for this White manager? YEARS!! That’s how much he meant in her world. He could be “mistaken” for a Black female new hire.

So, here’s my thing now: you want to call me by another name? I will not answer you.

Get my name right.

You want to send me an email with another person’s name? I will not respond to you!!

Or, if I respond, it will be simply to ask you if you meant to send the email to someone else.

White people don’t have a problem letting you know that you mispronounced or misspelled their name. They will correct you on the spot—even in email. And, they will let you feel their attitude about the mistake. Blacks shouldn’t accept anything else, but being properly identified for who we are. Don’t laugh it off…CORRECT IT!!

HAVE YOU BEEN MISTAKEN FOR YOUR BLACK COWORKERS? Tell us about what happened. Post a comment.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quick Tips: Be careful of taking advice. Even people you're cool with may not have your best interests. People have agendas so trust your gut instincts.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quick Tip: Be patient! Your harasser gets the benefit of the doubt until an investigation is complete. Careers are at stake. Don't expect a quick resolution.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Chapman University Sued for Race Discrimination

Black Professor Was Denied Tenure, Then Discharged Because of Race, EEOC Charges

SAN DIEGO – Chapman University, a private university in Orange, Calif., violated federal law when it denied tenure to and then discharged a black professor due to her race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on September 20th.

The university hired the professor in 2001 as an assistant professor of marketing for the George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics (ASBE). Despite strong recommendations in her favor by professional peers both inside and outside of Chapman University, a review committee denied the professor’s application for tenure and promotion to the position of associate professor in October 2006. Chapman’s board of trustees ultimately denied her tenure appeal and effectively discharged her in June 2008. The EEOC contends that non-black professors were promoted despite the alleged victim’s superior record in teaching, scholarship and/or service to the university and her profession. At the time of her application for tenure, the alleged victim was the sole black faculty member in a department of approximately 30.

The EEOC filed its suit against Chapman University in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division (EEOC v. Chapman University and the Board of Trustees of Chapman University, Case No. SACV10-1419-CJC ( RNBx)), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. According to the EEOC, the alleged acts of discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, back pay and front pay on behalf of the alleged victim, along with injunctive relief intended to prevent future race discrimination at the university.

“Although this country has made great strides in addressing race discrimination, racial barriers still persist,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Denying upward mobility to qualified minorities while promoting less qualified non-minorities exacerbates the glass ceiling that continues to ail the American workplace.”

Marla Stern, local director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, said, “Situations like this, with apparent favoritism for less qualified non-blacks over well-qualified African-Americans, are not only unfair to the direct victims, they are counter-productive to the organization and help perpetuate injustice in our country. The EEOC will continue to fight such damaging discrimination.”

Founded in 1861, Chapman University is a private, non-profit university with programs in seven schools and colleges, and an enrollment of approximately 6,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students.

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


"I dare you. Go ahead and write that down!"

-- Everyone says you’re an extremely negative person.

--Everyone says they’d rather not work with you.

--Everyone says you’re snooty.

--Everyone says…(choose your poison)

Have you been on the receiving end of an “Everyone says…” at work?

Well, I have. At my previous job, everyone supposedly said they couldn’t get along with me and I was told that everyone in the company (yes, inside AND outside my department) believed that I was angry and defensive. But, that’s not where things ended. Eventually, when it was clear that every comment being made about me was personality-based and not work-related, which violated company policy, I was suddenly told that “everyone” thought I had a problem managing my time and projects and that “every” task leader I worked with said they never knew what I was working on and that I didn’t complete my assignments on time.

This was only 9 months after receiving a great performance evaluation that said I was “team oriented,” “a joy to work with,” “pleasant,” “provided updates,” etc. Not only did a recent performance review contradict what was being said about me, but it turned out that my employers were forced to make a stunning admission in an external investigation. Yes, even I was shocked when they admitted that “Only one person could be found that stated…”

Why the change of heart? No, they didn’t investigate and realize they made a mistake when accusing me of performance deficiencies. They just straight got caught up in a lie. That’s because I would and I will not let anyone make blanket assertions about me that are completely untrue or that have been exaggerated to forward someone’s personal agenda/vendetta against me.

And, that’s the moral of the story.

Just because some so-called authority at your company (read: your supervisor/manager, director, etc.) proclaims that “everyone” at your job holds a certain negative opinion of you, it doesn’t make the proclamation true.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of what is alleged to be a tag-team accusation, start doing some serious questioning of whoever is making the assertion. You should:

--Find out who is allegedly saying these things about you. Ask for names.

--Even if names are provided, ask for the context of the comments or charges against you. In what situations are you alleged to have behaved inappropriately?

--Ask for those making accusations against you to put those comments in writing! Then, ask to see the written comments. If your employer says they don’t want to break the confidentiality of those mounting the charges against you (assuming they won’t provide you with the names of your accusers), tell them to remove the names from your copy of the accusations. They can simply strike through any names with a black magic marker, which will allow you to see the specific allegations being made about you without revealing the names. Always remember, just because someone is willing to put something in writing doesn’t make it true, although your employer may argue the opposite. People have agendas. I’ve worked with a Black coworker who bragged about making false accusations against her Black manager.

Some may wonder why you want negative comments about you in writing. Well, if you know the accusations are false, you will want to start gathering evidence. This is especially true for repeat accusations and accusations of an egregious nature. Make them write it down.

Everything that isn't documented amounts to he said/she said and will need witnesses to corroborate what happened. It's always dangerous to have to rely on people to tell the truth, when their job is at stake. Even though retaliation is illegal, it doesn't stop everyone from engaging in retaliation. So, to eliminate he said/she said, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

You'd be surprised how often accusations go from being major to minor to a miscommunication or misunderstanding (e.g., I misspoke, I didn't mean to say it like that, etc.), when you ask someone to write it down. People don't want stuff to come back to haunt them later. It's one thing for an employer to create false documentation, but it sometimes gives them a bit of a shiver down the spine when you're the one essentially saying "I dare you. Go ahead and write that down." They'll be forced to wonder what you're up to and why you're not afraid of getting a hard copy in your hand. Trust me, stories can change when you decide not to settle for verbal attacks and false allegations.

--Go through all of the allegations and refute them, line-by-line. Professionally attack the lies and half-truths. Be thorough. Anything you don’t address might come back to haunt you later. Do not lie! Just present a factual response.

--Always find out what specific policy(ies) you supposedly violated. If you are being reprimanded with some sort of employment action (demotion, transfer, pay cut, etc.), you should ask for a copy of the written policy that supports the decision. If you are not provided with a copy of the policy, from the current version of the personnel manual (not something your employer throws together), ask for a copy to be given to you—immediately. Ask what criteria were used to decide on the penalty you received. Ask that your employer justify the action—in writing!

--If you feel your punishment was extreme, find out why lesser remedies (oral or written warning, etc.) were not seen as a resolution to the problem.

--If you believe you were the victim of outright lies and an orchestrated campaign to get you in trouble, make an official request for an internal investigation. Provide any evidence you have and identify how any of your accusers are linked. For instance, the person who first reported you is the subordinate of someone you have problems with and that person has close ties to someone else who is making false accusations, etc. Try to tear down the house of cards by pointing out any inconsistencies that you can prove.

Hopefully, if you’ve been having any problems with staff, you’ve been documenting what’s been going on. Compile all of your evidence and use it to clear your name. If not, your case may come down to you say vs. they say. This will likely not come out in your favor, since your employer can argue that “they” have corroboration. They may not have evidence, but they are telling the same story.

Try to find anyone who can support your version of events and get a written statement from them. Think about staff who can write a very glowing character reference for you. Troll through your recent performance reviews for any statements that contradict what’s been said about you. Build a case in your favor. No one will do it for you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


This post isn't related to racism in the workplace, but it is something that I wanted to share. I was watching cable news and saw a story on the upcoming Newsweek cover issue, which is that men are going to have to "man up" and accept that, going forward, they may have to get educated, trained, and work in non-traditional jobs.

To be clear, after this recession, the biggest boom that's expected in the job market over the next 10 years are in jobs for teachers, nurses, home health aides and in other professions that have been historically dominated by female workers.

I recently had a conversation asking what the U.S. would be known for in the future. We've shipped away manufacturing jobs and our automobile industry is dramatically reduced and changed. If you call your bank or other service provider, you're likely to speak to someone in India. On top of jobs going overseas, so many businesses have gone belly up and won't be resurrected.

So, where will the work be?

That's why I was so interested in that TV interview with the two writers of the story.

We will all have to adapt going forward and if anyone is considering going back to school or going into some technical training, it's important to know where the money and stability will be. Our job market is no longer the same. People are still unemployed and underemployed in high numbers. About 1 million people are estimated to have slipped to the poverty line this year alone.

We have to make plans and think about viable jobs for the future. If we can ever get clean-energy technology going, that might lead to lots of jobs in various parts of the country in solar, wind, and clean coal. And, I guess, there's always construction.

But, outside of that, I think it is a good suggestion for men to start looking at more options in the job market. I thought this story was important to share and that some of my male readers might want to go ahead and take a lot at the full Newsweek story.

If you're female, maybe you should drop some hints to the men in your life, particularly if they are having trouble finding/keeping work. The right training may open up different avenues for them. Lord knows this country is ocmpletely understaffed in nursing.

I hope this post was of interest.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tough Reality About Racism in the Workplace

Although this post is about what I call the concept of "White privelege," let's not forget that other minority groups AND Blacks, themselves, are equally capable of having biases against Blacks and of engaging in workplace behavior that may violate Federal statutes/employment laws. Having said that, this post is about White on Black realities in the workplace.


You only have to talk to Black workers to realize how many of us feel that our careers are often intentionally stifled by those we work with. Sometimes I wonder exactly how many African Americans have been held back, railroaded, and marginalized simply because of our race. I think the answer is far more people than we will ever know. I mean, how do you calculate the number of White managers or supervisors that have not promoted Black staff or given Black staff the same consideration and benefits that White workers routinely receive?

Some Whites would probably say, “That’s sounds like a cop out. Maybe some Blacks just don’t work hard to get what they want.” But, that’s what I expect someone to say when they are the beneficiary of White privilege.

White privilege is the polar opposite of The Black Factor. White privilege is a positive. The Black Factor is a negative. And, much of what goes on in corporate America has to do with these shallow and inappropriate ways of handling issues, evaluating people, examining situations, and making decisions.

White privilege allows you to believe that anyone who hasn’t achieved a certain level of success didn’t do so because they had no desire to succeed and, therefore, really didn’t try hard enough. White privilege allows you to tell someone, with a straight face, that all they have to do is work harder and longer hours than anyone else and that everything else will fall into place. White privilege allows you to not be truthful to yourself or others about the reality of preferential treatment.

Preferential treatment comes from those in power to those they designate as recipients of that power. Far too often, those recipients typically don’t come with a Black face. People choose to associate with those that are like themselves or those who they believe will “fit in.” In corporate America, when all things are equal, nothing is ever equal. So, when someone’s up for a promotion and a White manager has to choose between a White employee and an African American employee, and all things are equal regarding qualifications, years of experience, technical expertise, etc., many White managers are going to select the White employee for the promotion. They’d have to fight human nature, and any personal biases they may have or stereotypes they believe, in order to do the opposite.

Some White people don’t seem to get or want to accept the reality that there are different sets of rules for different people. But that’s the privilege of White privilege. White privilege allows you to believe that everyone has an equal shot to succeed in this country, despite this country’s horrid racial history and current social and economic issues that impact minorities living in America today.

White privilege allows you to become the judge, jury, and, should you choose it, the executioner, of others. White privilege allows you to provide conflicting reasons for your words and actions and to expect that others will accept the contradictions without question. White privilege is the ultimate privilege, hence bliss, because it is the cornerstone that keeps your world afloat—this belief that you are innately superior to everyone around you.

I’ll give you an example of White privilege in action. I’ve worked in Human Resources on a couple of jobs. More than once, I’ve been told that we were placing employment ads, but only as legality. If I received any applications or resumes, I was told to place them in a file with a copy of the employment ad and to tuck them away in a file cabinet. No one was going to be interviewed because someone had already been picked for the position. And, it was usually a friend or the friend of a friend of someone currently working at the company. Yes, they were always White. These people had the job before walking in the door. The interview was a mere formality. Repeat this in how many workplaces and tell me how many other applicants ever had a crack at employment?

It must be nice to have a system rally around your effort to find gainful employment. Most of us wouldn’t know anything about that. Nevertheless, many Americans actually question why affirmative action has been needed in America. They can brag about the system hooking them up, in one breath, and then argue that African Americans and other minorities should have to earn their way into the system, in the next breath. This is despite the free pass that many of them have used and despite systematic racism and other social factors.

For African Americans, hard work, experience, intelligence and other factors don’t automatically translate into success. The Black Factor prevents many African Americans from becoming mid-level managers, executives or even entrepreneurs. People pretend there’s no such thing as White privilege and preferential treatment. But, we all know—deep down—that lots of things people receive (from jobs to qualifying for home and business loans) were acquired because they just happened to be the right color or class.

What’s my point?

Give up?

Never! That’s what the racist wants. So, don’t give them that victory.

The point is that it’s not always about you. It’s often about other people’s bullshit and baggage. The Black Factor is their issue. It’s an issue people force on you…another standard they hold you to. It’s tempting to wonder what you’re doing wrong. It’s tempting to think that other people are inherently superior to you, that they’re always smarter than you are.

But, it’s important to remember that everything people receive, they didn’t always earn. They didn’t necessarily get “it” because they were smarter than you or more talented than you. They didn’t necessarily get something because they played the game better than you.

Sometimes people are just lucky, sometimes they had that hook-up, and sometimes they were the “right” color. Regardless of whatever lines are fed to you about some shortcoming on your part, keep working hard, find ways to improve, and keep striving to do better—for you!

Don’t internalize other people’s bullshit.

Don’t beat yourself up.

You’re not inferior.

Control what is within your power to control.

Fight for what you’ve earned and...

Don’t give it away by giving people ammunition to use against you!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Dockworkers and Janitors at Trucking Giant Subjected to Nooses, Racist Graffiti, and Adverse Working Conditions, EEOC Alleged

$10 Million Consent Decree Ends Racial Harassment Case Against YRC/Roadway Express

CHICAGO – Federal Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox has granted preliminary approval to a $10 million, five-year consent decree which will end the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) race harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Roadway Express and YRC, Inc. In addition to the multi-million-dollar monetary relief, the decree enjoins future discrimination at the facilities and requires the appointment of a monitor to oversee its implementation.

In its suit, the EEOC alleged that the company subjected black employees at its Chicago Heights, Ill., and Elk Grove Village, Ill., facilities to a racially hostile working environment and racial discrimination in terms and conditions of employment. Roadway Express operated the facilities until its merger with Yellow Transportation, when the two companies combined operations to form YRC, Inc., in October 2008. It is now the nation’s largest less-than-truckload freight hauling company.

“It is dispiriting that the severe racial stereotyping and harassment alleged in this case continues to be a problem,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “This settlement embodies the agency’s 45-year struggle against this scourge on the American workplace.”

The EEOC was set to try this case before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on October 12, 2010. The EEOC was prepared to present evidence that black employees were subjected to multiple incidents of hangman’s nooses, racist graffiti and racist comments, and racist cartoons. The EEOC also planned to present evidence that Roadway and YRC subjected black employees to harsher discipline and scrutiny than their white counterparts and gave more difficult and time-consuming work assignments to black employees than white employees. According to the EEOC, black employees had complained about a these conditions over the years, but effective corrective action was not taken.

“No one should have to endure degrading racial harassment in order to earn a living,” said P. David Lopez, General Counsel of the EEOC. “The EEOC is committed to ensuring that all employees have the opportunity to put in an honest day’s work free from discrimination.” Lopez noted that this consent decree is the latest in a series of large race harassment suits that the agency has resolved recently, including suits against roofing contractor Elmer W. Davis ($1 million), home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool ($1 million), national grocery chain Albertson’s ($8.9 million), and the Bahama Breeze restaurant chain ($1.3 million).

In addition to the payment of the $10 million, the consent decree enjoins YRC from engaging in discrimination because of race and from retaliating against individuals who complain about racial discrimination; requires the development of revised anti-harassment policies; specific recordkeeping and reporting of complaints; and annual anti-harassment training. The decree also requires YRC to retain consultants to examine the company’s discipline and work assignment procedures and recommend changes to prevent racial disparities. Finally, the decree requires the appointment of a monitor to oversee the company’s response to complaints and to report on the company’s compliance with the decree. The monitor will report semi-annually to the court and to the EEOC.

The consent decree, which was preliminarily approved by Magistrate Judge Cox yesterday, covers over 300 African-American employees who worked at the Chicago Heights and Elk Grove Village facilities as dockworkers and janitors from March 2002 to the present. Eligible claimants will be invited to participate in a claims process over the coming months. At the conclusion of the claims process, the decree and distribution schedule will be submitted to Magistrate Judge Cox for final approval.

The consent decree resolves three lawsuits that were to be tried together: the suit against the Chicago Heights facility (EEOC v. Roadway Express and YRC, N.D. Ill. No. 06 C 4805), and against the Elk Grove Village facility (EEOC v. Roadway Express and YRC, N.D. Ill. No. 08 C 5555), brought by the EEOC under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race discrimination. In addition, 10 current and former employees intervened in the EEOC action (10 C 5304). The EEOC filed another race discrimination suit against YRC which is still in litigation (EEOC v. Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC, Inc. No. 09 CV 7693).

EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson said, “This consent decree is an important marker on the road to civil rights on the job. Unfortunately, the American workplace is not free from the racist symbolism of the hangman’s noose or the persistent sting of racist graffiti. But we are moving in a better direction, and we are hopeful that this decree will aid YRC in addressing these problems.” In addition to Hendrickson, the EEOC was represented by Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory Gochanour and Trial Attorneys Richard Mrizek, Ethan Cohen, and Deborah Hamilton. The 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.

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


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Major Changes In The Workplace!

Sorry, I've missed posts the past two days, but I've had some major changes going on at work. Not only are we entering our yearly review period, but we also have new management.

We seem to have a wave of employees receiving below standards on their yearly reviews, which means they don't receive a pay increase AND they could be working their way towards unemployment. And, we've had a long-time manager fired, another demoted, and are undergoing a complete restructuring, title changes, etc.

For me, there is the issue of "new opportunities" and whether or not my employer will promote from within. We've seen a couple of people passed over for outside workers. The jobs that were filled weren't even posted. They never got to apply. This is something they should fight but they don't want to.

There is a woman at work, who's done the hiring--bringing in people she recently worked with before joining our company and not promoting from within--who I KNOW doesn't want me to get one of the "new opportunities."

Unfortunately, for her, the new director likes me a lot and told her she is to speak to me about this new job. She's beside herself and can't even hide it. She even asked him what he saw in me.

He told her.

And, he has the last word. She has to speak to me next week about this new job. I want to speak about the pay increase, as well.

This woman came in and changed things for the worst. And, another person comes in and seems ready to undo a lot of what she's done.

This just goes to my point that you never know what kind of work environment will be created at your job just based on personalities, biases, and personal agendas. Right now, there seems to be a tug of war between two people with absolute authority. One has worked for us for 8 months and the other for 3 weeks!! We don't know what will happen to any of us, when the dust settles.

There definitely seems to be a good vs. evil element to this. A schemer vs. someone trying to make our workplace a more positive environment. The schemers never go down without putting up an extraordinary fight. They try to wear you down.

The schemers have to go. People have to be prepared to help them out of the door. Right now, we've got people at work preparing to speak up and ask for a change in behavior or a change in personnel. We'll see what happens.

For now, I remain positive. I see potential for things to get better at work. However, I do see how they might be ugly at first. There's definitely some fighting and speaking up to be done.

I will keep you posted.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Right Way to "Talk Back" At Work

In the workplace, silence can kill you. Suffering in silence, while someone is bullying you, harassing you, retaliating against you or discriminating against you is a form of active participation in your mistreatment. Silence signals your explicit agreement. By not complaining, you’ve spoken. You’ve said that everything is okay.

Only you can decide if you prefer to remain quiet, rather than speak out against abuse. Just keep in mind that silence won’t change anything. A person, who is capable of violating Federal statutes (read: breaking the laws) prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace, is probably not going to wake up one morning and decide that they’re wrong and should cease this behavior.

In fact, it’s more likely that they will escalate their behavior. If they’ve been getting away with potentially illegal behavior and their target hasn’t spoken out, they will have the impression that they can get away with anything. If this person has authority over you, it’s not that hard to imagine your illegal mistreatment continuing or escalating. So, instead of “just” never putting you up for a promotion, this person may decide to accuse you of fake performance deficiencies, demote you, suspend you, place you on probation, etc.

There is a huge risk in remaining silent!

Part of the issue is that many Blacks are afraid to speak up at work. Part of that is connected to our history in this country. After emancipation, Blacks still had no rights. We could be lynched for being in the wrong area, looking at a White person the wrong way, not stepping aside, when a White person was walking by, etc. We began to train ourselves to be deferential to White people because we could pay with our lives, if we were deemed to have offended a White person (truly or falsely). As a result, there are many Blacks who are still intimidated by Whites and who are afraid to be perceived as being contrary or difficult because they may become a target.

On top of that, Blacks have many stereotypes related to our so-called negative attitude. For instance, we are supposed to be angry, defensive, hostile, rude, unprofessional/ghetto, loud, and to have large chips on our shoulders. We’re never supposed to be able to take constructive criticism because someone with a bad attitude is incapable of having any kind of reasonable discussion.

All of this feeds into a fear of being perceived as talking back to White folks, if the need arises to make a complaint or challenge/confront any issue at work. Many of us feel that if we say anything, we are going to be bombarded with many of the criticisms I just mentioned. If you “talk back,” you will be called defensive and/or hostile. If you “talk back,” you will be called angry and/or rude. If you “talk back,” then you just can’t take constructive criticism.

For many Blacks, it seems easier to remain silent…to just suck things up. But, despite consistent pressure on Blacks to remain silent (even from other Blacks who consider speaking out against abuse to be tantamount to “troublemaking”), we have a right to be heard!

Instead of thinking of speaking up as “talking back,” start thinking about it as protecting your interests. For instance:

--Not allowing someone to falsely accuse you of missing deadlines or making costly errors on an assignments protects your interests because it makes it hard or impossible for false claims to appear in your performance evaluation, can prevent you from being written up or placed on probation, can prevent your termination, etc.

--Documenting and reporting harassment, including a hostile work environment, can protect your interests by providing the evidence you may later need to prove that you have been subjected to potentially illegal mistreatment at work;

--Documenting your verbal and written communications about being passed over for a promotion, while less qualified staff were promoted protects your interests because the documentation shows that there is a potential issue with equitable evaluation of skills, education, and tenure and that you voiced your concerns to management; and

--Documenting solutions you’ve offered to stop abuse and/or to rectify harm caused by abuse protects your interests because it shows that you aren’t simply a “whiner” or “cry baby” and that you offered a way to resolve problems in-house.

Remember, you are your first line of defense. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns about issues. You have a right to protect your interests. As long as you are expressing concerns in a professional manner and you are making complaints in good faith, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Let's Get Physical!

Okay, so it seems like stuff is really about to jump off at my job and this isn't about a white and Black racial issue. This is literally about a Black, female higher up going absolutely crazy in the workplace. She's only worked with us for less than a year and it's gotten to the point where most people--on every shift in the store--have real issues with her.

Now, I know sometimes things can be chalked up to office gossip and that sometimes you have a bandwagon effect, where everyone wants to be involved in the latest bit of on-the-job chaos. However, I've experienced this woman first hand.

As a reminder, my job is primarily Black and Hispanic--as far as staffing. So, this Black woman is having issues with other minorities.

The lastest bit of drama has her intentionally banging into a worker and this was seen by other workers. It's not one person's word against another. No, according to witnesses, she stepped into this Black female's way. After banging into her, the female worker shoved this member of management hard enough to send her flying backwards.

Verbal threats were exchanged. Now, everyone expects these two women to fight. Literally.

Here's what's interesting to me--why didn't the manager report that she was shoved and why didn't she try to have this worker fired? Is it because she knew there were witnesses who saw her bang into the worker?

If she were innocent and she was the victim of violence, why wouldn't she act to remove this person? And, it also makes me wonder if she'll find a way to retaliate.

This just goes to show that you never know who or what is gonna jump off at work or what color that person will be. It's not always about an out of control White person or someone of another race.

Blacks are just as able to act like buttholes, to break rules, to abuse authority, to bully and badger, and, yes, to even engage in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

I'll keep you guys updated on the madness!

Monday, September 06, 2010

This post discusses adverse actions and protected activity.

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 stop reasonable people from pursuing their rights.

Protected activity is any activity that opposed discrimination. Protected activity includes: opposition to a practice believed to be unlawful discrimination (opposition is informing an employer that you believe that he/she is engaging in prohibited discrimination.) Opposition is protected from retaliation as long as it is based on a reasonable, good-faith belief that the complained of practice violates anti-discrimination law; and the manner of the opposition is reasonable.

Examples of protected opposition include: complaining to anyone about alleged discrimination against oneself or others, threatening to file a charge of discrimination, picketing in opposition to discrimination, or refusing to obey an order reasonably believed to be discriminatory.

If you file a complaint of retaliation, one of the questions an investigator will as is if there is evidence raising an inference that retaliation was the cause of any adverse action?

An investigator will to to see if any adverse actions took place shortly after an employee engaged in any sort of protected activity AND will try to determine if the decision-maker knew that the complaining employee engaged in the protected activity before they made their decision on any adverse actions.

In other words, did your supervisor know you were complaining of discrimination before that supervisor refused to promote you or terminated you?

An investigator will also look to see if there was a long period of time between the protected activity and the adverse action, and will try to determine whether there is other evidence raising an inference that the cause of the adverse action was retaliation.

In other words, the investigator will look at the timing of your complaint of discrimination or you saying that you would file a complaint of discrimination, etc. compared to how long it was before you were denied a promotion or terminated (the adverse action).

Friday, September 03, 2010

"It is advisable for an employer to keep records of all complaints of harassment."

Establishing patterns of prior bad acts in the workplace can help an employee demonstrate that their employer had indications that a coworker, supervisor, etc. had a history of engaging in illegal misconduct, but did nothing to prevent such behavior from happening—again. Establishing patterns of prior bad acts can also demonstrate that an employer not only ignored a problem employee or manager, but that they also may have never even attempted to correct the behavior. For instance, the harasser was never put on any warnings, placed on probation, sent to training, demoted, transferred, suspended, etc.

But, establishing patterns of negative behavior is not just the responsibility of the victim of harassment, retaliation, etc. The employer is also obligated to examine the pattern behavior of employees. When it comes to patterns of negative behavior, the EEOC says:

“Reasonable preventive measures include screening applicants for supervisory jobs to see if any have a record of engaging in harassment. If so, it may be necessary for the employer to reject a candidate on that basis or to take additional steps to prevent harassment by that individual…it is advisable for an employer to keep records of all complaints of harassment. Without such records, the employer could be unaware of a pattern of harassment by the same individual. Such a pattern would be relevant to credibility assessments and disciplinary measures.”

This all goes to show how important it is to look for prior bad acts by a harasser. But, at the same time, it shows how important it is to notify your employer/make a formal complaint of harassment, if you believe you are being subjected to a hostile and offensive work environment.

Think of it this way…if you suffer in silence, you embolden your enemies—as our President, George W. Bush, is fond of saying.

By filing a complaint against your harasser, you help to create a history of your harasser behaving in an illegal manner. If your harasser has already been on the receiving end of harassment complaints, their record of this illegal behavior will be extended to the present—as opposed to possibly years ago.

Just the fact that you made a complaint can go a long way towards helping another employee, who may find that they have the same problem with this same employee—in the future. It’s up to each of us to hold racist employees, harassers, etc. to account.

Still, even without complaints, employers are responsible for any illegal behavior that was so prevalent that members of authority/management had to have known the illegal abuse was happening!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

My Email Address

Anyone wishing to write me can reach me at

Don't Allow Your Employer To Keep You Playing Defense!

Unfortunately, instead of providing a remedy to correct race-based misconduct (by firing or demoting the offender) some employers will escalate attacks against the victim of the harassment. If you’re being subjected to harassing behavior and a hostile work environment at work, beware of the traps that are often laid by supervisors and/or employers.

When a supervisor or a company decides to go into protection mode, they will sometimes try to create a rock-solid case against the complaining employee. The stronger the case against the employee—even a fraudulent case—the more secure the supervisor or employer will feel about deflecting any allegations that an employee or group of employees has engaged in illegal misconduct.

It’s a bait and switch. The employee goes from complaining about mistreatment to being lured into a position of defending themselves against baseless attacks, which often have nothing to do with the instigating incident. For instance, a Black employee may complain about a White manager using racial epithets and end up in a meeting defending allegations that they (the Black employee) has been habitually tardy to work—an accusation that was never made before they complained. Having been subjected to supervisor and employer traps, I can provide some tips:

1. Keep track of all the false allegations being made against you and guard against the attack by keeping all documentation that proves the allegations are false. For instance, to justify a malicious performance evaluation rating given to me (the lowest offered at our company) my former employer accused me of being unavailable to work on specific projects and they named those projects. They said that the task leaders never knew when I could work or what I was doing.

Unfortunately, for my employer, I had emails from the tasks leaders of those projects stating that our work was put on hold by government contracting officers or that the projects were canceled. The emails even stated that no one on the team should bill any hours to those projects because they were inactive. Therefore, how could I be unavailable for work that was nonexistent? An outside investigating agency now has the claim from my employer that I was not pulling my weight on these projects. But, this agency also has my written evidence that there was no work to be done because work had been suspended or permanently stopped.

Luckily, I saved those emails because those types of emails are important to keep and because my employer was already hinting that they were going to attack my time and work effort on a number of projects. My supervisor was suddenly fond of saying that EVERYONE was “watching my hours” and every “wonders what you do.” She telegraphed the company’s blows (attempted knock-out punches) and I was keeping all documentation related to where I knew the punches would come from.

2. Keep track of false allegations and show how your supervisor or employer is engaging in behavior that would lead you toward engaging in the negative behavior. For instance, a supervisor or employer will sometimes bog a targeted employee down with a lot of extra work. This is done to make it hard for the person to meet deadlines, to encourage mistakes, and to stress out the employee. If you find yourself in this type of trap, you should document all of your assignments prior to the point where you were a target and show how your assignments significantly increased after you became a victim of abuse. You could show how the workload wasn’t spread throughout your department—just to you.

Another example of this would be a supervisor or employer falsely criticizing an employee for not asking important questions, but leaving out the part about how they wouldn’t respond to the employee’s emails or voicemails and refused to have face-to-face meeting to discuss the assignment. In this example, the employee could show documentation of attempts at getting answers to questions that were rebuffed.

The point want to show that your employer is not documenting performance problems; your employer is creating and manufacturing performance problems.

3. For a moment, pretend any false allegations are true. So, look at the personnel manual and see how your employer should be handling their false complaints and management of you on the issues. You want to play the devil’s advocate to see if you can trap your employer with their own written policies and procedures. This is a tactic that can help your case. For instance, your employer may lay a trap for you with the end goal of demoting you. But, your employer may move more quickly than is justified by their own policy. The policy might say that you should only receive an oral warning for a first violation—real or not. You can use this to back your employer into a corner by asking why they are jumping the gun and violating their own policy. And, you could question why they are alleging your behavior is so egregious it warrants ignoring their own written policy.

All of the answers to these questions will go towards building your case against your employer. It can also force your employer to back off or commit to more lies—if that is the direction they wish to take things. But, if they do, they are already in a bad position, if they’ve ignored their own policies and procedures. If so, they are showing evidence of harassing or retaliatory behavior (if you’ve already made complaints).

4. Make the employer prove the allegations/traps. If they want to lie about you, make them fully own the lies. Instead of falling into the trap, ask for historical documentation of your alleged performance deficiencies and bog your employer down with questions that they can only answer by removing their complaint about you or by lying and getting themselves into more legal hot water. For instance, if your employer lays traps about false performance deficiencies, you can ask:

a. When did you first notice this problem?
b. Why didn’t anyone bring the alleged problem to my attention before now?
c. Can I see your evidence of this problem?
(e.g., if you’re accused of making critical errors that you’ve never heard about, ask to see the work and have the errors pointed out to you.)
d. Why am I being written up, instead of offered guidance, mentoring or training?
e. Other questions related to specifics of your individual circumstances.

I know it’s easy to get frustrated by fraudulent performance allegations and traps. But, try to see through the frustration and look at these things as your employer helping you to prove a case against them. If they want to break the law and continue to harass you, create a hostile work environment for you and/or by retaliating against you for complaining, document everything and ask lots of questions. Get the answers in writing. An internal and/or external investigation or a lawyer will do the rest—depending on how you choose to pursue the issue.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Employment Discrimination Resource

I came across a good resource for doing research about employment discrimination, The Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. The site is called Wex and it's a "community-built freely available legal dictionary and legal encyclopedia." Wex entries are collaboratively created and edited by legal experts.

They have an employment discrimination section that can be found at the following link: (you can also click the title to this post to be transferred to the Wex page)

There are links to various Federal acts/statutes which prohibit discrimination. You can also ask a lawyer a question online by clicking a link on the right side of the page.

You can search for a lawyer using a link at the top right of the page.
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