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Race/ Color Based Employment Discrimination

Racially based discrimination carries a painful history in America and the aftermath is still very present even though government prohibits discrimination through constitutions, state statutes and acts, which are exemplified in cases largely through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is dedicated to enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to practice inequality against applicants or employees. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs outlines the basic needs of an employee and can show how someone could be affected by inequality. Such intolerance can be seen across the country with recently occurring events such as the EEOC v. Yellow Transportation case, the EEOC v. DHL Express case and the current top position hiring conflict in the NFL. To fully understand the issue of discrimination in the U.S. today, we must understand the long-standing history our nation has with intolerance. As unfortunate as it seems, our country was built with this notion of inequality. Slaves were brought over from Africa to work fields for wealthy or soon-to-be wealthy Americans. At the time it seemed like a way of life, though the reality is that it was extremely oppressive and today such an inferior take on differences in cultural background is considered unethical. In 1865 the 13th Amendment was passed abolishing slavery, although the Civil Rights Movement did not occur until the 1950’s lasting through the 1960’s. The Civil Rights Movement officially ended only 45 years ago. The oppression seen throughout America’s history is slow to change and the aftermath is still present, though great strides are being made toward equality. Today one of the most commonly occurring forms of partiality is seen in the workplace and geared toward race, color, religion, sex, sexual preference, national origin, age, disabilities or genetic information. (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, n.d.) Racial discrimination is one of the more common forms of discrimination, receiving much attention over the past several decades. Racial discrimination, in particular in the workplace, is defined by the EEOC as “treating someone (and applicant or employee) unfavorable because he/she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race.” (EEOC, n.d.) Another term according to the EEOC is classified with race is color discrimination, described as “involves treating someone unfavorable because of skin color complexion.” (EEOC, n.d.) Race based discrimination can also occur because the person is married to or associated with a person of a certain race or color, or in connection with a race-based organization or group. Discrimination can also present itself where the victim and the inflictor are of the same race, color or ethnicity. The following evidence supporting the existence of discrimination in the workplace is stifling, illustrating a clear matter of contention present in America today. According to a 2002 Rutgers University study, 46 percent of African American workers believe they have been treated unfairly by their employers, as opposed to 10 percent of whites. Also, the study has found that 28 percent of African Americans and 22 percent of Hispanics/Latinos have experienced workplace discrimination, in contrast to the 6 percent of whites. Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of workers who made a complaint believing that they were being treated unfairly say that their boss ignored their complaint, taking no action in response. In comparison, over half say that they do not believe their employer took prompt and satisfactory action. Less than half of white workers and 83 percent of African-Americans agree that a policy to maintain a certain level of diversity in the workplace should be required by law. However, there is more accordance that the diversity of the workplace should reflect the demographics of the city or town in which it is located. (Dixon, Storen, Van Horn, 2002, pg. 2-13) Because of the bias’ that have occurred in the workplace, the federal government found a need to implement laws making employment discrimination illegal. Some federal laws prohibiting race/color discrimination are: Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, the Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. According to the U.S. Constitution and Title VII of the U.S. Code, employers may not take race into account when hiring, recruiting, determining pay or offering promotions. Under federal law, companies with 15 of more employees are covered by Title VII, which is the primary law prohibiting employment discrimination. (Nolo, n.d.) Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 amends Title VII to permit jury trials and compensatory and punitive damage awards. (EEOC, n.d.) Further, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments limit the power of the state and federal governments to discriminate by violating and individuals rights of due process and equal protection. The process of interpreting these laws and filing a suit can be extremely tedious without assistance, which is where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helps those who are wanting to make a claim.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducts federal investigation of workplace discrimination for intentional discrimination cases. The EEOC is dedicated to interpreting and enforcing freedoms that are prohibited by discrimination, particularly in the workplace. (EEOC, n.d.) Employees who feel that they have been a victim of discrimination can file a claim, before filing a suit in a court of law. The EEOC’s efforts are exemplified in some of the following cases. The EEOC v. Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC Freight suit is a fine example of the current subject, occurring in 2012. The EEOC filed a race harassment and discrimination suit against Yellow Transportation and YRC Freight, who were business mergers, a fortune-500 company and the worlds largest less-than-truckload freight company, on behalf of as many as 324 African American workers in the Chicago Ridge Facility. Evidence proved that black employees were subjected to multiple incidents of hangman’s nooses and racist graffiti, comments and cartoons. (EEOC) The cases did not go to trial and ended in an $11 million consent decree in which Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox of the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Illinois granted preliminary approval of. This was the second largest case the Chicago EEOC office has resolved with YRC (at two of its facilities) within the last few years, now resulting in the company paying out $21 million for racial harassment and discrimination allegations. Many discrimination cases end this way to keep it from becoming a case, therefore going public and affecting the company’s reputation. (EEOC, n.d.) Similarly, another suit involving EEOC in Chicago took place in 2010, this time against DHL Express, Inc., the well-known shipping company. In this instance EEOC acted on behalf of 94 claimants African Americans who allege that DHL Express was giving them different assignments based on race. The manner that the company pursued this was by assigning black drivers to predominately black neighborhoods and white drivers to predominately white neighborhoods. Further investigation by the EEOC provided that DHL also assigned more dangerous and difficult tasks to black workers. This particular case is a very in depth case and is still pending due to issues with fact discovery relating to the claimants. As of October 2012, the defendant’s (DHL Express) motion to compel was granted and the fact discovery cut-off date extended to February 1, 2013. (Justia, 2013) Another compelling case on employment discrimination was the Nichols v. Southern University Illinois University Edwardsville case in 2007. In this race discrimination action lawsuit the plaintiffs were members of the Southern Illinois University Police Department, which patrol the East St. Louis campus and the Edwardsville campus. The plaintiffs claim are as follows: (1) that all of them were disproportionally assigned to the University's East St. Louis campus because of their race; (2) that Owoseni, Smith, and Nichols were denied temporary upgrades to sergeant because of their race; and (3) that Owoseni, Smith, and Nichols were retaliated against for making complaints of racial discrimination. (Garland’s Digest, n.d.) The district court granted summary judgment on behalf of the University. The plaintiffs did not provide sufficient proof that the University acted with discriminatory intent and the University had valid reasoning for their decisions, which were claimed to be unbiased. Therefore, the 7th Circuit District Court’s grant of summary judgment affirmed. A final example of the controversies that are currently being faced pertaining to racial based employment discrimination can be seen in today’s media, such as, the upheaval over the NFL’s current hiring decisions. Out of fifteen top NFL vacancies, consisting of eight head coach jobs and seven general manager positions, all were filled by white candidates. The Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003, named after Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, who persistently advanced that the league require every team to interview at least one minority candidate every time there are openings for coaching or general managers. Assistant coach Jim Caldwell asserts that "It has been a great rule and it has worked in the past. Just like anything else, you have to, after a certain period of time, revisit it and take a look and see if it needs a little tweaking. I think it does in this particular case." (Espn, 2013) Caldwell’s statement can pertain to many rules, acts and other laws that must keep up with the times, in this instance those relating to race based discrimination. Discrimination poses other problems aside from legal, such as social and psychological. People have particular needs when it comes to being satisfied employees and human beings in general. The needs hierarchy is based largely on and outline by Abraham Maslow, otherwise known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy consists of five needs from higher to lower order needs. Self-actualization being the highest-order need includes self-fulfillment of potential, doing things for the challenge of accomplishment, creativity, aesthetic appreciation and more. Next order of need is esteem or ego needs which entail recognition, prestige, confidence, leadership, competence, success, strength and intelligence. Social needs are acceptance, a feeling of belonging, group participation and membership and more. Safety needs include security, comfort, peace, no threats or danger, and an assurance of long-term economic well-being. The lowest order of needs and the base of the needs are physiological comprising of food, thirst, sleep, health, body needs, exercise and rest. (Rue, Byars (2009 pg. 267-269) These needs detail what a worker needs to feel satisfied in a career, hence, when these needs are not being fulfilled the worker will likely leave the position. Discrimination of any kind hinders most of these basic needs; worker needs to feel safe, secure, fulfilled, accepted, challenged, successful and many other needs that inequality burdens. The government and other groups have taken actions in an attempt to hinder and control discrimination in the workplace and in society in general. A great deal has been done on the federal and state end to prevent employment discrimination, though the problem still exists. Despite all of the efforts, according to the EEOC there were 99,412 total discrimination charges based on individual filings and of the 99,412 total charges, 36,174 of them were race or color discrimination charges. (EEOC, n.d.) Stifling statistical evidence, real life cases and everyday media supports that there is an existing problem, which adversely affects a person’s basic needs in life and in the workplace, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The EEOC is persistent in supporting and enforcing laws that protect workers from discrimination. Again, despite efforts, discrimination carries a long standing history in America and is slow to evolve; however, people are protected from discrimination, particularly in the workplace, through constitutions, state statutes and acts.

Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC Race Discrimination Case Against YRC/Yellow Transportation Ends with $11 Million Decree (2012). Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-29-12a.cfm
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. About EEOC. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/index.cfm
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Types of Employment Discrimination: Race/Color Discrimination. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/race_color.cfm
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Charge Statistics FY 1997 Through FY 2012. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges.cfm
Garland’s Digest. Employment Discrimination Law. (n.d.) retrieved from http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/content/A_Workplace_Divided.pdf
Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute. Employment Discrimination: An Overview. (2013) Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/employment_discrimination
Shaw, S., DeGroff, J., Maatman, G. L. Jr., (2013, Jan 25). The Top 5 Most Intriguing Decisions in EEOC Cases of 2012. Lexology. Retrieved from http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=4f655298-4a27-4c80-b04a-d0944092961b
Associated Press. (2013). Ex-Coaches: Rooney Rule is Broken. ESPN. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8903044/black-former-nfl-coaches-say-rooney-rule-broken
Massie, M. K. (n.d.). The Stress of Workplace Discrimination: What Can Employers & Employees Do? Monster. Retrieved from http://career-advice.monster.com/in-the-office/workplace-issues/stress-from-workplace-discrimination/article.aspx
Nolo. (n.d.)Employment Discrimination in Washington: Avoid Employment Discrimination Against Protected Classes in Washington. Nolo.com. Retrieved from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/washington-employment-discrimination-31852.html
History. (n.d.) Jan 31, 1865: House Passes the 13th Amendment. History.com. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/house-passes-the-13th-amendment
Dixon, K. A., Storen, D., Van Horn, C. E. (2002) A Workplace Divided: How Americans View Discrimination and Race on the Job. Americans’ Attitudes About Work, Employers and Government: Work Trends. (Pg.’s 2-13) Retrieved from http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/content/A_Workplace_Divided.pdf
Rue, L. W., & Byars, L. L. (2009) Motivating Employees. B. Gordon, L. Spell. (13e.), Management Skills & Applications. (264-282). New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

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