Racial Discrimination In The Workplace

“Race discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because he/she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race (such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features)" (1). After passing The Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson was certain racial discrimination and acts of segregation would discontinue. “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer-

To fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

To limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" (1).

Modern day, race-based discrimination is an ongoing, substantial issue that society tends to overlook daily. In some cases racial discrimination in the workplace has only gotten worse. “In 2004 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported almost 28,000 race discrimination charges with an increase of 125 percent from 1994 to 2004." (2). Organizations that differentiate employees by race, despite the law, risk losing financial support, a decrease in notoriety, preposterous fines and lawsuits, and the incorrigible outcome of demoralization in the workplace.

“Rumors and truths circulate throughout the business community, and potential applicants spread the word about business purported to engage in discriminatory employment practices. Allegations of discrimination can even affect the relationship between a company and its suppliers and vendors. All of this takes a toll on an organization’s business reputation, its ability to recruit talent, and, ultimately, its profitability." (3) Employers who fail to exemplify non-discriminatory actions in a workplace are likely to suffer from a financial loss. “Racial discrimination in business divides company loyalties, affects workplace productivity and can be an embarrassing issue for your company that interferes with your business." (2). Already labeled amoral and dissipated, the corrupt business will begin to lose equal opportunity clientele, resulting in financial cutbacks.

Preposterous fines and lawsuits are common after an employer displays racial partiality. Three examples of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 being tried and executed are in the cases of Gonzalez v. Abercrombie and Fitch, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Walgreens Co., and Bowles v. Osmose Utilities Services, INC. In June 2003, a class action lawsuit was filed against Abercrombie and Fitch on behalf of nine young adults of color. They were refused sales jobs or terminated based on their race and ethnicity (5). President of Litigation for MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), Thomas A. Saenz stated, “The company has systematically cultivated an all-white ‘A&F look’ and then faulted Latino, African American, and Asian American applicants, potential recruits and employees for failing to fit this racially exclusive image" (5). When people of non-white race would apply to work for Abercrombie and Fitch, managers would suggest they work in the stock room or in a non-sales position. All plaintiffs were highly qualified applicants, who were denied jobs due to their race or ethnicity (5). “In 2005, Abercrombie and Fitch was required to pay $50 million, less attorneys’ fees and costs, to Latino, African American, Asian American and female applicants who charged the company with discrimination. The settlement also requires the company to institute a range of policies and programs to promote diversity among its workforce and to prevent discrimination based on race or gender" (6). In 2007, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a class lawsuit against Walgreens Company for employment discrimination. Thousands of African American workers came forth with allegations of Walgreens performing racial bias. These workers stated that Walgreens assigned managers, management trainees, and pharmacists to low-performing stores and to stores in African American communities because of their race. They were also denied promotional opportunities based on race, which is a violation of federal law. The litigation was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the U.S. District of Illinois, after the first attempt to reach a voluntary settlement with Walgreens. (1). Following a fairness hearing, the court ruled that the consent decree, of over $24 million, one of the largest monetary settlements in a race case by the EEOC, was fair, reasonable, and adequate. In March 2006, Orris Bowles filed a race discrimination case against Osmose Utilities Services, INC. Bowles was hired by Steve Fisher, an Osmose foreman, to work on Fisher’s utility pole treatment crew. Soon after Bowles started working on the crew, Fisher began making racial insults towards Bowles and other African American crewmembers. “On one occasion, Bowles ground his teeth so hard that he broke one; and the harassment that he suffered caused him to drink more heavily and led to domestic upheavals. After a bench trial, the district court found in favor of Bowles and awarded him $20,000 in compensatory damages and $80,000 in punitive damages"(7). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made laws to protect employees against unethical actions in the workplace. It provides an equal and opportunistic atmosphere for people to work in. These are only a few case examples of racial discrimination in the work place. Incidents occur every day that are not reported. Statistics show that racial discrimination in the workplace is an ongoing problem that has only gotten worse with time.

The incorrigible outcome of operating an unethical business is the largest problem a prejudice business experience. Demoralizing a workplace taints the overall attitude of other employees, resulting in negative actions and poor work productivity. “The crippling effects of workplace discrimination include poor work culture and a demoralized work force, a debilitating effect on the individual, negative fall out for the society and reduced profits for the organization"(8). Discrimination can cause employees to feel perplexed. It could cause cliques to form, making teamwork and group functions relatively impossible. Studies show that job satisfaction is at its lowest when employees experience discrimination. Workers tend to lose focus and start procrastinating. Discrimination does not only affect the individual, it has a negative impact on the entire staff. Time used resolving racial issues could be better spent improving the operations of the business. The loss of staff focus results in loss of productivity. Employees who feel discriminated against usually find employment elsewhere, costing the business lost time while searching for a replacement. The company has to train replacements and deal with setbacks due to lack of productivity of a new employee. Various studies have found that racial discrimination could cause psychological problems and higher stress levels. These psychological problems include depression, less satisfaction in life, and high levels of anxiety. There have even been reports of stress levels being so high that the individual was hospitalized. Racial discrimination could also cause hypertension, insomnia, headaches, and chest pains along with other various mental and physical problems. Individuals not hired because of discrimination may react in a violent nature due to anger from the situation. They feel inadequate and could harm those around. There have been various reports of domestic violence as well as killing sprees due to discrimination.

Organizations that differentiate their employees by race risk losing customers, patrons, and financial support, a likely decrease in notoriety, chance outrageous fines and lawsuits, and living with the incorrigible outcome of demoralization in the workplace. Often the party accused of discrimination tries to cover up their wrong doings by blaming the employee’s job loss on budget cuts. When unethical behavior is going on in the workplace, companies face the loss of financial support from the community in which their business is located. Word travels fast and customers do not take racial discrimination lightly. Companies pride themselves on creating raving fans of their business. Unethical behavior, such as racial discrimination, is frowned upon and will prevent customers from coming back. Organizations that differentiate employees based on race risk lawsuits and large fines. Companies have shelled out millions of dollars to employees that have felt that they were treated unfairly due to race. Lawsuits based on racial discrimination cause the company to lose notoriety and respect from their customers. Not only will the company lose the good name they have worked hard to build, it costs them time and money as well. Racial discrimination in the workplace makes for an unhealthy work environment. Other employees fear that some form of employment discrimination may happen to them. Employees may become depressed and fearful of losing their job, causing them to have high levels of personal anxiety. Employees should feel comfortable in the workplace. Unethical behavior in the workplace will result in a decrease in the company’s morale. Approximately 34,000 claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against bigoted companies in 2008. Mindy Weinstein, attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, states why she believes race is still an ongoing issue in working environments, “There's a new generation of workers today who were not raised in the civil rights movement, who may not have been aware of the laws that came about because of that time. We think it's largely a reflection of what's going on in society as a whole" (9). In an attempt to prevent racial issues with future employees, companies should begin new employee orientation with a zero tolerance discrimination policy that results in termination if violated. Antidiscrimination Policy should be included in employee handbooks, all employees should be trained in ways to prevent race discrimination in the workplace, and obtain employers should obtain and provide educational resources about racial discrimination to their employees (1). Promoting teamwork and group activities will shift the focus to a more contiguous like setting, allowing co-workers to mingle, getting to know one another personally, generating a healthy, non-discriminating staff. It is evident that racial discrimination hinders every aspect of the workplace. In summary, racial discrimination in the workplace can be avoided if employers will abide by the law, provide proper training for all of their employees, encourage a non-discriminating work environment and apply a zero tolerance discrimination policy to all aspects of their operation.