The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) highlights several areas in which the agency is increasing its focus, including the protection of vulnerable immigrant and migrant workers. That focus was recently underscored by the agency’s settlement of a case involving allegations of national origin and race discrimination against an Alabama employer that employed Indian workers through the federal H2-B program.
It should go without saying that dressing up as a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member in modified work clothing at work is unacceptable conduct in the eyes of any employer. As this case from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania shows, three employees who were fired after being photographed dressed in KKK garb couldn’t prevail on a theory of reverse race discrimination.
Last July, the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The focus rightly was on how far we have come as a society in eliminating discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.
Close on the heels of that celebration, however, recent events provide some distressing reminders that bigotry is not dead.
by Saul Glazer
The recent police shooting of Tony Robinson put Madison in the national headlines. Thankfully, unlike last year’s events in Ferguson, Missouri, the protests following Robinson’s death have been peaceful. However, the incident has once again put a spotlight on how we view race relations. This article discusses race relations in general and the problems employers have with race issues in the workplace.
Robinson shooting and reaction
Imagine you employ Rajesh Tank, an employee of Indian descent, as a regional VP. Other employees report that Tank engaged in unprofessional conduct that hurt team morale, showed favoritism toward certain employees, and pressured employees to hire a particular contractor. You investigate the allegations, find some truth to them, order Tank to terminate the contractor, and place him on a corrective action coaching plan.
Tank then reports inappropriate racial workplace comments and objects to the level of discipline meted out to the employee who made the comments. He engages in unprofessional conduct after being placed on the corrective plan, and despite your request that he terminate the contractor, he doesn’t. He also raises concerns that he is being discriminated against in the workplace. As a result of coworkers’ complaints about him, you conduct a second investigation and conclude that discharge is the appropriate course of action.
Discussions about “microaggression” have become more common in the mainstream media. A simple Google search reveals college websites documenting students’ recently experienced microaggressions and articles analyzing microaggression from major media sources, including National Public Radio and the New York Times. This article provides the definition of microaggression, examines a recent case from a federal court that likely involved microaggression (although the conduct wasn’t described using that particular label), and provides a bottom line for employers.
What is microaggression?
As protests rage around the country following recent grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to indict police officers involved in the deaths of two unarmed black men, employers may find tension spilling into the workplace.
In November, a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb. Witnesses claim the 18-year-old unarmed Brown was trying to surrender when the officer shot him, but the officer claimed Brown was the aggressor.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed the issue of whether a “sex- plus” claim of discrimination, in which a former employee claimed that she was discriminated against specifically for being an African-American female, can be made under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case is significant not only for its reinforcement of the notion that the various traits protected by Title VII necessarily coexist and shouldn’t always be considered separate from each other but also for its emphasis on the importance of e-mail evidence in discrimination cases.
by Kylie Crawford TenBrook, Best Western International, Inc.
In April, recordings of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks to his half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend assistant* surfaced. Among those remarks were the following: