Articles Posted in Race Discrimination

If you are a New York employee who has been subjected to wage and hour violations – e.g. your boss withheld tips illegally or compelled you to work overtime in violation of explicit company policy or of New York Labor Laws – you probably feel pretty helpless and confused right now.

On the one hand, intellectually, you understand that you should be entitled to fair treatment and fair pay. On the other hand – or at least you tell yourself this – your situation is “complicated.”

Perhaps you’re angling for a promotion and you don’t want to “make waves” by complaining about the wage and hour violation. Perhaps you’re just terrified of your boss. Perhaps you were raised to “tough it out” when things get rocky. In any case, you are aware of a subtle dissonance in your life. You know you deserve better. But you’re not sure how to break out of the cycle and demand better treatment… and potentially get compensated for damages that you’ve endured.

In an April 3rd piece at realclearpolitics.com, “The Invincible Dogma,” popular conservative columnist, Thomas Sowell, built a case that many racial and sexual discrimination lawsuits are unwarranted. According to Sowell, “at the heart of these legal charades [i.e. anti-discrimination cases] is the prevailing dogma that statistical disparities in employment… show discrimination.”

As examples, Sowell discusses “unfounded” lawsuits against Federal Express and the Sears department store chain. Plaintiffs in these cases cited statistical evidence that showed racial/gender imbalances in the workforce of these companies. For instance, Sears’ workforce was overwhelmingly male – and that struck many observers as fishy or aberrant. Sowell’s point is that, imbalances in the workforce (gender imbalances, racial imbalances, etc) are often just statistical noise. In other words, there was no intention of malice or intended discrimination. Sometimes workforces are overwhelmingly male (or white, or what have you) due to sheer chance and random distribution.

Here’s a metaphor to help you understand Sowell’s reasoning. Imagine you flip a quarter five times in a row and get heads every time. You might think that the quarter was “biased towards heads” – and indeed, the coin might be a trick coin. But according to statistics, if you did this exercise 32 times, the likelihood of getting “five heads in a row” is one out of 32 — unusual, but not outrageously so. And if 32 people flip a quarter five times, odds are that at least one person will flip heads five times in a row – even given a fully “fair” coin.

When celebrity “comfort food” chef Paula Deen recently disclosed that she’d been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, the revelation made national headlines and provoked criticism that her rich Southern-style cooking might have been to blame for her illness; now, she’s back in the news with another setback: a sexual harassment lawsuit. Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, face some pretty embarrassing and shocking charges.

Here’s the scoop, according to celebrity gossip site TMZ.com…

Lisa Jackson, the general manager at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House – Deen’s Savannah, Georgia restaurant – alleges that she suffered serious harassment over the course of six years of employment. Here are the most incendiary charges:

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.

Earlier this week, Specialist Adam Jarrell filed a racial discrimination complaint against the New Mexico Army National Guard. Specialist Jarrell’s story is more than a little scary and disturbing. The 23-year-old served the National Guard since 2006. He was recently deployed to Afghanistan, where he was the only African-American among 216 soldiers in his unit.

According to a Reuters news report: “The alleged harassment began after Jarrell reported the physical abuse of two subordinate soldiers by an officer in Afghanistan in 2009… after that, Jarrell said he was subjected to increasing torment, including threats of physical violence and racial slurs. The abuse culminated in a noose hanging outside his barracks door.

When Jarrell reported what had been happening to his commanding officers, “they ignored the issue and wrote him up for jumping the chain of command, even though harassment claims were not subject to those rules.” A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico summarized the blunt argument: “No one should suffer the kind of racial hatred Specialist Jarrell experienced, least of all someone who is on the frontlines of battle.”

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.

31-year old Janet Kim has filed a complaint through the New York State of Human Rights against “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmare” celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay — as well as Ramsay’s restaurant in the London NYC Hotel. The single mom, who works as a commis chef, alleges that her male colleagues sexually harassed her and mistreated her in a variety of ways.

Here are some of the “incendiary” allegations against the male chefs:

• According to the Daily Mail Reporter, workers referred to her derogatorily as “China” – hinting at racial and ethnic discrimination there.

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