Friday, July 29, 2011

Document Warnings About Potential Problems with Work Assignments--CYA!!

If you haven’t learned this lesson already, learn it fast. EVERY TIME you inform a White coworker or manager (or anyone else for that matter) that there is a fundamental problem with an assignment or project, document what your misgivings are, who you reported any potential problems to/what your specific concerns are, and what that person’s response was. Do this without exception! It does not matter whether or not you have raised concerns about your personal work or a group assignment. You need to get in the habit of documenting issues that may potentially be blamed on you or a group of staff, at a later time.

Point blank…many managers and coworkers WILL NOT take full responsibility for the work being done by their staff or within their unit—when things go wrong! When things go right, they will scream from the mountain tops that it was their bold leadership, oversight, judgments, and execution that lead to success. When things go wrong, someone’s head must roll and they will do everything in their power to ensure that it is not their head!

I used to have a screen saver on my computer that always caused managers to frown. It read (and you’ve probably heard this before):


I have argued this, many times, when I have been blamed for a problem that was caused by decisions made by task leaders or project directors. For instance, I worked with a White manager that inundated junior-level staff (all Black) with petty changes to procedures on an assignment that did not enrich the quality of the work. Instead, the non-client requested changes bogged us down. The client wanted a quick turnaround time. We could finish the work quickly, so long as we didn’t have to add the petty steps being requested by the manager. When staff tried to warn this manager that his changes would slow us down to the point where we would probably miss the deadline, he didn’t want to hear it. What really sucked was that he was requesting pretty cosmetic and petty changes that didn’t impact the work being provided to the client, but were time consuming, even though it didn’t appear that they would be. We tried to explain to him why what seemed like minor changes, wouldn’t happen as quickly as he thought. He insisted we do the work as he specified.

The deadline was missed. So, the manager argued to his supervisor (after a client complaint) that we were slow, did not respect and could not adhere to deadlines, and that we were unfocused. He essentially made us sound lazy, which we know is a stereotype. And, he said things like, “I thought I could trust all of you to be professional enough to get this done, without me breathing down your necks.” Trust? We couldn’t be “trusted”? That was a character attack and an attack on our professionalism.

But, the problem wasn’t that we were “untrustworthy.” The problem was that he insinuated himself into our procedures, simply so that he could put his “signature” on the way the assignment was completed. He imagined the client’s jubilation with his petty revisions. But, we warned him that the deadline would likely be missed. Yet, he insisted that the work be done in his special way. When it blew up in his face, his changes were somehow not the root cause for the problem. The group I was working with was accustomed to successfully working on quick turnaround schedules, but somehow we were suddenly incompetent, lazy, and need micromanaging.

Unfortunately, we didn’t document in writing that we were told to add procedures and make cosmetic changes. And, this manager didn’t provide us anything in writing. He just did his usual number of racing into our work space, hyperventilating, and barking orders. We were in such a rush to try to get everything done, we made the mistake of not covering our as*es.

The manager insisted that we “misunderstood” him. He didn’t want all of those petty changes. Those were things that he wanted to “roundtable” and discuss as changes for future assignments. The fact that we “misunderstood” him was the problem. Yes, four individuals “misunderstood” the same information in the very same manner. And, we were chastised by management for not being serious about our jobs, not stating that a deadline could be missed (which we did), and for not respecting our clients. All that from one as*hole lying about reality!!

From that point on, I made it a point to…

ALWAYS PUT REQUESTED CHANGES AND WARNINGS IN WRITING--even when they come from a supervisor or manager. Keep a paper trail. Write something as simple as, "Hi [name]! As you requested, we will be changing our procedures to [name revisions]. However, I am still concerned about [warning]. We will follow your advice to [response to warning]."

Had we simply sent him an email stating the date and time of his revisions to our procedures and included a list of the changes, AND our concerns about meeting the deadline…it would have been impossible for him to argue that he was not aware that he was jeopardizing a deadline and causing us unnecessary work. You live and learn.

Learn the lesson that others have learned the hard way. If you warn someone that “x” will lead to “y”, PUT IT IN WRITING!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Great Lakes Chemical Corporation Settles EEOC Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Manufacturer Unlawfully Terminated Black Employees, Federal Agency Charges

EL DORADO, Ark. – Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, a manufacturer and seller of chemical products in El Dorado, Ark., will pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging racial discrimination, the agency announced on July 12th.

The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 1:09-CV-01042) alleged that Great Lakes violated federal anti-discrimination law when it terminated several black employees because of their race. Specifically, the EEOC alleged that Great Lakes terminated black employees based upon discriminatory and subjective evaluations.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"The EEOC remains committed to promoting equality of opportunity in the workplace for members of all races. We believe the decree entered by the Court will ensure that African American employees are not singled out for discriminatory treatment,"said Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC's Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and certain counties in Mississippi.

In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit enjoins Great Lakes from terminating employees in its El Dorado central location’s Inorganic Bromine (IOB) Unit on the basis of race. Great Lakes will also provide race and color discrimination training to all supervisory and management personnel in its IOB Unit and post a notice reinforcing the company’s policies on Title VII.

According to its website, Great Lakes is a business of Chemtura Corporation, a global specialty chemicals company. It is one of the three largest developers and manufacturers of bromine and bromine-based products.

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


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Zoo Syndrome

QUESTION: What happens when a Black employee shuts their office door for a prolonged period of time?

ANSWER: Some White staff will begin to openly wonder what the Black employee is doing behind that closed door. And, unfortunately, many White staff will also begin to offer up unsolicited comments about what they think is happening. So, you’ll hear everything from “I’ll bet she’s on a personal phone call” to “She’s probably shopping on the Internet” to “She’s just goofing off.”

I call it the “The Zoo Syndrome.” White employees, who have The Zoo Syndrome, like to be able to walk by a Black person’s office or cubicle and have the ability to inspect what’s going on inside. It’s just like going to the zoo to see what the animals are doing inside the different exhibits. And, just like at the zoo, some White people get pissed when the “exhibits” are closed.

For some strange reason, a Black person working behind closed doors seems to inspire a fair amount of negativity from White staff. It’s not uncommon for a Black employee, who dares to shut their office door, to be told that they are perceived to be “inaccessible,” “closed off,” or “non-managerial.”

But, when a White person shuts their office door for an extended period of time, have you ever noticed that the conspiracy theories suddenly disappear and positive insinuations are all that can be heard? As a result, a White person working behind a closed door is “probably working on a deadline” or is “probably on a conference call” or they are perceived to be “busy and focused.”

I’ve been amazed, over the years, at how often the open or closed position of a Black worker’s door could inspire so much petty commentary from White staff. But, it’s really not surprising. Blacks in the workplace are often victimized by negative inferences being drawn from normally accepted company-wide behaviors and practices. As a result, three White staff in one room are “having a meeting” and three Black staff in one room are “having a party.”

In the workplace, the on-the-job racist will leave no stone unturned in their effort to paint a Black worker as having some sort of professional deficiencies. As a result, many Blacks are forced to deal with some of the most petty, mean-spirited, and career-stifling nonsense imaginable. So, petty issues, such as doors being occasionally closed, can often become fodder for discussion on a Black person’s year-end performance evaluation, but the same situation will never be mentioned to a White employee.

We live in a society full of race-based double-standards. The workplace is no exception.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Jackson Park Hospital Sued By EEOC For Race Discrimination And Retaliation

Federal Agency Charged Black Female Employees Were Segregated in Job Assignments

CHICAGO – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a class race discrimination lawsuit in federal district court here on July 14th against Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center. The EEOC charged that the hospital, on Chicago’s South Side, subjected a class of black female employees to different terms and conditions of employment and segregation in job assignments because of their race. The suit also alleged that at least one of the women was demoted in retaliation for opposing and complaining about unlawful employment practices.

John Rowe, the director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said the agency’s administrative investigation revealed that numerous black female medical technicians at Jackson Park appear to have been required to perform assignments that their male counterparts who were not black were allegedly not required to perform.

Race discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center, N.D. Ill., No. 11 C 04743, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit has been assigned to District Judge Milton Shadur and Magistrate Judge Gilbert. The EEOC’s litigation of the case will be led by Trial Attorney June Wallace Calhoun and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

“There’s a word for assigning work on the basis of race,” said Rowe. “It’s segregation—and it has long been prohibited by federal law.”

EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, “This case appears to be one of an increasing number which involve retaliation. That’s something we are always on the watch for and always want to challenge. Retaliation damages everyone—individuals, employers, and the public interest—so we are not inclined to let it slide.”

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

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


Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm Back!

Technology has been rebelling against me. I was without a cell phone, laptop, and my cable box(es) went crazy for over a week! I've got it together now. New posts starting tomorrow. Thanks for your understanding.
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