Articles Posted in National Origin Discrimination

Cases involving racial harassment and retaliation are often nuanced.

There are some legal subtleties to this case. But other matters contain so many stark and disturbing details that they almost seem made up. As you learn what happen, you wonder “how on Earth could this have happened and lasted as long as it did?”

Joseph & Kirschenbaum recently brought an action in United States District Court on behalf of a counselor at a New York City rehabilitation facility. What our plaintiff suffered is astonishing, given that these events occurred in the 21st century. Here is a brief catalog of some (not even close to all!) of what our client alleges he went through at his job:

In April, jilted would-be contestants of ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette filed a high profile racial discrimination suit against the network and the show’s producers.

The plaintiffs allege that the highly popular shows failed to cast diversely. The two shows have been on TV for over a decade — 23 seasons all told — and they have never featured a “person of color” as either a Bachelor or a Bachelorette. According to an article in the Hollywood Reporter, “The lack of minority faces on the show has been a curiosity of some analysts even before this lawsuit.”

Christopher Johnson and Nathaniel Claybrooks, two of the plaintiffs, want to get the lawsuit certified as a class action. They also want to keep the case in Tennessee, where it’s currently situated. Lawyers for ABC and the producers of the show filed documents on June 1 to try to move the case to Los Angeles, since the City of Angels has been where “virtually all of the material witnesses” reside.

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting on a stark and disturbing story of racial harassment involving the ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corporation. Montrelle Reese, a 33-year-old former salesman with the company, heard employees use racial slurs and saw them perform a racially insulting black face routine.

According to a CBS Chicago news report, “Reese insists racial harassment was tolerated for months at the company’s Westchester office… [and he also] provided a photo of a ThyssenKrupp manager in blackface during [a] skit [at a company managerial function].” He also said his direct supervisors used the N-word.

A Sad Racial Harassment Story That’s Drawing a Lot of Political Attention

Deshon Marman, a football player for the University of New Mexico, recently boarded a U.S. Airways flight out of San Francisco, probably expecting a mundane trip. But a surprising series of turns placed Marman at the center of a provocative racial discrimination case

According to an Associated Press report, Marman had been wearing “saggy pants.” Airline officials asked him to pull up his pants, since he allegedly was “exposing a body part.” Marman refused, repeatedly. Ultimately, the U.S. Airways captain ordered Marman to leave the flight. He refused. The airline called the authorities. Marman was arrested and charged with “trespassing, battery of a police officer and obstruction.” Prosecutors later dropped the charges.

That could easily have been the end of the story, in which case we probably would not be blogging about it. However, Marman wanted revenge. His lawyers have now accused U.S. Airways of racial discrimination: an accusation that’s stirred up fire and brimstone in the blogosphere. Consider these anonymous reader comments from www.wowt.com:

Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York City is a crucible of un-pretty human emotions and interactions. And now one of the stars of the cast, Cindy Barshop, has been hit with a racial discrimination lawsuit. Barshop is an entrepreneur who owns Completely Bare spas. Altovise Collier, one of her employees (and also a costar on Real Housewives), has leveled accusations that “she was tormented [at work] and then wrongfully terminated because she is black.”

Reality TV Magazine summarized the situation this way: “Collier says that Barshop underpaid her, only giving her half the $700 a week salary and paying her in cash. Without a paystub, Altovise claims that she was unable to lease or rent an apartment, leaving her to rely on friends who let her sleep on their couches.” Collier also claimed that the employees at Completely Bare joked that she had been hired simply to “inject some color” into the staff and was essentially hazed “like I was in some sort of sorority.” Collier approached Barshop about the alleged mistreatment; one week later, she was fired. The mom of two has so far denied Ms. Collier’s claims and insists that she fired the aesthetician “because of the quality of her work.”

As is often the case in heated battles over allegations of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, wage and hour violations, and retaliation, this debate boils down to a “he said, she said” type argument. If you or a coworker or a family member has been mistreated at work – whether you work at a fancy restaurant, beauty parlor, or machining shop – the more evidence you can collect and protect, the better.

Victims of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and other workplace violations often feel fairly confident that the perpetrators “knew what they were doing.” A boss, for instance, who makes lascivious suggestions to a secretary, clearly understands that he is engaging in illegal or at the very least untoward behavior. A plant manager who intentionally demotes (or fails to promote) an African-American might not admit out loud that he is “racially discriminating” – but in his heart of hearts, he is clearly aware of what he’s doing – and that it’s wrong.

Right?

Perhaps… but perhaps not.

According to an April 25th article in the Hartford Courant, last year, employees filed nearly 100,000 complaints of workplace discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – “an all-time high.”

More than 33,000 complaints were specifically for retaliation, which has now surpassed “racial discrimination” as the number one EEOC complaint. The EEOC also received high numbers of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, disability and national origin, and religious discrimination complaints last year.

A spokesperson for Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), Jim O’Neill, blamed the spike on the recession: “The economy is bad and people are desperate not to lose their jobs, so they are filing complaints they would not necessarily have made in the past.”

34 year-old Alisa Dolinsky will receive $40,000, pursuant to charges of New York City religious discrimination, according to an article in the Associated Press.

The orthodox Jewish nurse applied to work at Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island in 2007. Initially, the hospital offered her the nursing job, but rescinded their offer when Ms. Dolinksy stipulated that she would not work on the Jewish Sabbath (from Friday evening through Saturday evening). Since the hospital operates around the clock, seven days a week, administrators determined that they couldn’t afford to hire Ms. Dolinsky when other applicants might be able to provide more complete coverage. The New York City Commission on Human Rights brokered the settlement, although the hospital did not admit any wrongdoing, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Cases of employment discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and religious discrimination at work often serve as cannon fodder for employment blogs, pundits, and academics. This case, even in its condensed form, appears pregnant with interesting ethical questions. For instance, how long does a religious Sabbath have to be to constitute a serious inconvenience? If Ms. Dolinsky had been a member of another religion that required her to take off six days a week (and work only one day), common sense would dictate that she would not be an appropriate job applicant for the hospital. Conversely, what if she only had to take off half a day a week? Or a quarter day? Would that constitute a significant enough impediment to her working at the hospital? Where do you draw the line, time-wise?

The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has filed a religious discrimination suit on behalf of Christopher Woodson, a Rastafarian who allegedly did not get hired as a mover because of his long dreadlocked Rastafarian hair.

According to an AP article, Woodson applied to work for Lawrence Transportation Systems in May 2008. But the company denied him a chance to be a loader because of their “grooming policies.” According to a statement provided by the company’s lawyer, “[Woodson’s] hair was down to the middle of his back, and he was asked to get it cut to about shirt collar length.” The attorney said that, since loaders work closely with customers, the official policy stipulates “that hair, facial hair, beards and general grooming must be neat, clean and trimmed.” Hiring someone who looks like Woodson, in other words, would cause the company “undue hardship” and a loss of business.

The EEOC has counter-argued that Rastafarians “view growing their hair unbridled as a tenet of their religion.” Therefore, the company’s decision not to hire Woodson violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC wants Lawrence Transportation to pay for Woodson’s back pay as well as pay punitive damages and recalibrate its hiring policies.