Monday, February 28, 2011

What is a Tangible Employment Action?

This is one of the posts I like to reprint every so often because tangible employment actions are an everyday part of the business process and are an easy way to go after employees! Tangible employment actions can be made to appear legitimate, even when they are retaliatory or discriminatory. Pretexts are often used to justify such actions. And, that's where the battle to show the truth comes in.

Most Black people are not referred to as a “nig_er” in today’s American workplace. Yes, this vicious name-calling does still happen. But, people are savvy these days and have gained an understanding that they need to go deep, deep, deep undercover when they want to get their racism on. Because of how covert racism has become, it’s become harder to prove there are disparities on a job. It’s also difficult to prove active racism, an offensive work environment, discrimination, racially-based harassment or retaliation.

So, how do you set about proving there are issues on your job? Well, think of tangible employment actions. According to the EEOC, a tangible employment action is a significant and negative change in your employment status. Unfulfilled threats do not qualify.

Tangible employment actions include:

--hiring and firing;
--promotion and failure to promote;
--undesirable reassignment;
--a decision causing a significant change in your benefits;
--salary decisions/changes; and
--work assignments.

Always think about tangible employment actions when you make a decision to complain (internally or externally). You must show the professional impact of employment decisions on your career. For instance, a tangible employment action could be shown in an employee who was scheduled for a promotion, until major components of their job were stripped out of their daily responsibilities—without cause. As a result of this employment decision, this person was deemed unqualified for the promotion (which was likely the motive for the employment decision).

A Black employee complaining about a sensitive racial issue might find themselves accused of improper behavior, related to something else, and end up demoted or transferred to a hard to reach work location or may be asked to do lower-level assignments that are not a part of their job. This tangible employment action could be proven to be retaliatory.

An employee could be fired for accusing a manager or coworker of race-based abuses. This is also an example of a tangible employment action--a significant and negative change in your employment status.

Regarding salary, title, and benefits, it doesn’t matter if you are "allowed" to keep your salary, title or benefits after a tangible employment action. If an employment decision represents a significant change in your employment status, it may qualify as a tangible employment action.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Union-busting, hidden as deficit reduction, is coming to many states after Wisconsin. Pay attention to this issue. Unions protect workers & get out the vote!
Today I stand with the teachers, nurses, and all public employees of Wisconsin who are fighting for their rights.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Stay positive! If you feel the odds are against you, don't have a big pity party. Bad energy has to go somewhere! Stay positive & don't give ammunition away.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Find Your REAL Champions!

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

People have tried to make you think you’re crazy. They have made you doubt yourself. They have tried to confuse you—challenging your memory of events. You have probably been sold a bill of goods that has convinced you that you’ve overreacted, that you’re sensitive, and that you’ve misunderstood the English language.

You may now believe that you’ve jumped to conclusions. You may have been convinced that you are unaccountable for your actions and behavior. In fact, you now may believe that…


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: There Are Black People Who Are British?

This legal brief should give you a chuckle. A British woman did some phone interviews, got a paid internship, and came to the U.S. (Idaho in particular) only to find that some people were surprised she was of African descent because she was BRITISH!!

How did the Negro get to the U.K.?

See below for details:


Northwest Cosmetic Labs Settles Discrimination Suit
Company Fired Black British Intern Because of Race and Color, Federal Agency Charged

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Northwest Cosmetic Labs has agreed to settle a federal suit charging discrimination based on race, color and national origin and retaliation against a black employee for $30,000 and other relief, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on January 13th.

According to the complaint, the employee, a British subject born in Zimbabwe, was hired after a series of phone interviews for a full-time paid internship in cosmetic formulation. She did not interview in person because she was living in England at the time. Upon her arrival in Idaho Falls, she was told by her supervisor that employees at the company would likely be “surprised” to find out that she was black, since she was British. From the beginning, the EEOC said, she received little to no direction from her supervisors and was rarely given assignments, despite her repeated requests to be given work. Her treatment stood in stark contrast to that of the company’s two other interns, who were both Caucasian. They were given ample opportunity to participate in projects and to receive feedback from supervisors. After consistently receiving different treatment from her white counterparts and hearing more race-based comments, she raised these issues with management. Soon thereafter, the EEOC said, she was fired.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed this suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation. Under the consent decree settling the suit (EEOC v. Northwest Cosmetic Labs LLC, Civil Action No. 10-608-CWD, U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho) approved by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale, Northwest Cosmetic Labs will pay the employee $30,000. In addition to the monetary payment, the company will adopt a comprehensive non-discrimination policy and complaint procedure, conduct anti-discrimination training for staff and management officials and submit semi-annual reports to the EEOC detailing any complaints of race discrimination or retaliation that may have arisen in the prior six-month period.

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "Employment decisions must be based on merit and ability, not race and color. We are pleased that Northwest Cosmetic Labs took this lawsuit seriously and that it will be taking steps to make sure that race and color are not a barrier to success in its workplace.”

“Instead of encountering the exemplary American values of justice and equality, this young visitor was treated to discrimination and punishment for standing up for her rights,” noted EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado. “Fortunately, this country also has an EEOC to fight for discrimination victims, and we will continue to do so.”

Located in Idaho Falls, Northwest Cosmetic Labs formulates and manufactures cosmetic products for third-party customers based throughout North America, Europe and Australia.

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

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