Articles Posted in Race Discrimination

An EEOC-championed national origin discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart has left the Bentonville, Arkansas-based megastore reeling. According to a February 8th story in the New York Times, a group of West African men allege that a Wal-Mart store in Avon, Colorado fired them because of their race and African heritage.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allegations say that, in January 2009, a new manager took over the Wal-Mart store in Avon and promptly called a meeting of the staff — many of whom happened to be West African. The manager allegedly said, “I don’t like some of the faces I see here. There are people in Eagle County who need jobs.” He also allegedly remarked, “Wow, there are a lot of Africans, and I don’t like some of the faces I see here.”

Subsequent to this manager’s takeover, many West African employees were reportedly subject to extra criticism and stiffer workloads. One 61-year old man exhausted himself stacking boxes — he was not physically capable of doing the work. West African employees also reported that Hispanic and white Wal-Mart associates got to take cigarette breaks, even though they were disallowed short prayer breaks.

A long smoldering New York race discrimination allegation against the NYC Fire Department has ignited a firestorm of commentary. Judge Nicolas G. Garaufis ruled on January 14th that the NYC Fire Department had intentionally discriminated against applicants based on their race, and that the city must take immediate corrective actions.

The Vulcan Society (an organization of black New York City firefighters) applauded Judge Garaufis’ decision to order the city to compensate minority firefighter applicants who applied for positions from the years 1989 to 2002. This would cover around 7,400 applicants, of whom the city is now required to hire 293. These candidates must be black or Hispanic, and some of them must be granted retroactive seniority.

Judge Garaufis stopped short of ordering the Fire Department to install a quota system for hiring minority applicants; instead, he urged all parties to work together to resolve any disputes that might arise in the execution of his orders. Judge Garaufis was quoted in the New York Times: “Achieving these basic aims [ensuring that qualified, diverse individuals come to be accepted as New York City firefighters] will require ongoing oversight, attention to many details and resolution of disputes among the parties.” (New York Times; January 21st, 2010).

How does race discrimination impact New York City job applicants? Two researchers at Princeton University’s Department of Sociology, Devah Pager and Bruce Western, tackled this subject in a new paper entitled Race at Work: Realities of Race and Criminal Record in the NYC Job Market.

Opinion polls indicate that the majority of Americans believe we’re living in a land of equal opportunity; a recent Gallop Poll showed that around 75 percent of Americans believes that whites and blacks are treated as equals on the job market.

The authors investigated this belief by following nearly 1,500 entry-level job applicants in New York for nearly a year to determine whether their race/ethnicity would impact their prospects on the job market.

New York employment discrimination and retaliation cases drain millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours every year. What about the Big Apple makes some employees particularly vulnerable to being discriminated against on the job?

Here is some speculation:

1. To live well in New York City, one typically needs a lot of money.

An EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) racial discrimination lawsuit leveled against the Albertsons grocery chain has resulted in an $8.9 million payout to nearly 170 Hispanic and African American plaintiffs who had alleged that they had been taunted based on their ethnicity and forced to look at racist graffiti plastered all over company restrooms.

All told, three lawsuits were leveled against the Denver based grocery chain. According to a December 16th AP article, the distribution of moneys will depend on the severity of the racial discrimination/retaliation, the number of years worked, and other factors. Payouts will range from $4,500 to hundreds of thousand of dollars.

The EEOC alleged that Albertsons supervisors not only did not stop the taunting or clean up the racially insensitive graffiti — which included swastikas and comments about lynching — but they also actively ‘participated in it.’ Although a spokesman for the company disputed many of the EEOC’s allegations, the company opted to make the settlement ‘to put an end to continued costly and disruptive litigation.’

Workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims can drain the time and energy of small business owners. No employer wants to deal with a contentious lawsuit. But when owners and managers don’t understand their legal responsibilities, problems can emerge and compromise even healthy and functional workplaces. So what are some behaviors to avoid when cultivating a respectful, harmonious work environment?

1. Distributing workload unfairly among employees. Favoritism can leave ‘unfavored’ workers feeling frustrated, out of the loop, and marginalized. Conversely, a favored employee may likewise feel uncomfortable, particularly if the favoritism could be construed as unwanted flirtation.

2. Not respecting the privacy of employees. For a good primer about how NOT to behave as a manager of a small business, watch the antics of the fictional employer Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office. Scott regularly engages in behaviors that would – in the real world – be construed as creating a hostile work environment.

When it comes to employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, prevention is often the best strategy. Employees harmed by workplace age, race, or sexual discrimination have options to get compensation and stop any unfair practices. But ideally, one should just enjoy working in a stress free, harassment free zone.

When job hunting, watch for the following red flags that could indicate a less than harmonious working environment.

1. Sloppy office/ poorly maintained premises. As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. If a place of potential employment is a pigsty beset by hazards such as litter, slippery floors, or even just a permeating bad smell, trust your gut and get out of there!

On July 22, a federal judge ruled in a prominent race discrimination case that the New York City Fire Department’s old written examinations were biased against minority applicants. Judge Nicolas Garaufis agreed with the Department of Justice, which argued that the exams given by the City from 1999 through 2007 were unfairly biased towards white candidates. The lawsuit bears striking similarities to the reverse discrimination lawsuit filed by New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci against the city of New Haven, Connecticut which captured national media attention due to the fact that one of the appellate judges to rule on the matter, Sonia Sotomayor, was selected as President Obama’s first U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Although the NYFD changed its employment practices in 2007 to recruit more minorities — indeed, the City spent over $2 million on a recruitment campaign to swell the numbers of minorities in the Fire Department — representatives of a Black Firefighters Association, the New York Vulcan Society, appeared less than impressed with the attempted fixing of racial discrimination within the ranks. According to a CNN report, the President of the Vulcan Society said of the Fire Department’s recent increases in diversity: “If you have abysmal numbers and you increase them slightly, don’t applaud yourself like you’ve done a great job.”

In the 21st century, cases of racial discrimination and retaliation on the job can lead to incredible social, moral, and legal complexities. That’s why it’s so important for potential claimants to retain the services of top-tier attorneys, like the representatives here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum. To find out more about the firm’s extensive and highly successful record at bringing racial discrimination and retaliation cases, head to www.jhllp.com or phone (212) 688-5640 for immediate assistance.

Two female Houston firefighters, Paula Keys and Jane Draycott, came forward on Thursday July, 9th with allegations of sexual and racial harassment at their workplace. Their claims have prompted a formal Federal Justice Department investigation and have the potential to bring down Houston’s fire chief.

The firefighters alleged that their peers (the majority of whom are white and male) have harassed them for years. According to the claimants’ attorney, perpetrators in the department turned off the water in the women’s showers and set off firecrackers in their bathroom. This already egregious and illegal harassment was child’s play compared with the latest, horrific incident, in which as-yet-unidentified perpetrators defaced and vandalized the women’s lockers. Someone scrawled the word “die” on firefighter Jane Draycott’s face and scrawled the word “dead” on a picture of her deceased teenage daughter. That this kind of sociopathic behavior could flourish could spell serious political problems for key leadership figures in the fire department.

In fact, the head of the Houston Black Firefighters Association excoriated the HFD for failing to provide “strong leadership” amidst the crisis. On the other hand, the head of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association has come out tentatively in support of the chief. Some in the regional media have noted parallels between this gender and race harassment case and the case of firefighter Frank Ricci of New Haven. In the Ricci case – which has recently become famous thanks to its association with President Obama’s Supreme Court justice nominee, Sonia Sotomayor — the plaintiffs alleged so-called “reverse” discrimination. In the Houston firefighters’ case, the matter involves more “traditional” discrimination against minorities and women. However this matter turns out, it will no doubt yield significant implications for racial and gender politics in the Houston region.

On June 22nd, a Federal District Judge decreed that the Hickory Hills Country Club in Illinois would have to pay a total of $690,000 to claimants in an ongoing dispute that includes charges of gender and race discrimination as well as retaliation. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought the suit against Hickory Hills on behalf of a class of claimants, including female employees and African-American job applicants who have been denied employment (allegedly) due to their race.

Timeline of the Case:

On October 24th, 2007, three female claimants filed a private suit against their employers for sex discrimination. The women claimed that they had been harassed and had been subjected to hostile work conditions. The defendants responded by countersuing the women in Illinois court, claiming that the women had breeched fiduciary duties and destroyed the banquet hall’s property. The EEOC investigated the defendant’s countersuit and found that not only did it have no grounds, but that it also violated the claimants’ federally protected rights to take action to combat workplace discrimination.

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