American Money: Workplace Discrimination

Handling racial bias in the office.

Posted: 06/04/2013 02:45 PM EDT

It’s no secret that racial bias continues to impact the job market.

Black unemployment is still double the national rate, and research has shown that, even when controlled for factors like education and experience, Black job seekers still face hiring discrimination. For example, one study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that “Black” sounding names resulted in fewer job callbacks. 

But what may be a surprise to many people is that Black workers also face widespread bias even in the federal government, according to a recently released EEOC report.

The EEOC report shows that major obstacles continue to hold African-Americans back in the federal workforce due to poor enforcement of equal opportunity regulations, lack of mentors and networks, unconscious bias, educational requirements and other factors. 

Many of the problems that the EEOC report addresses are complex systemic issues that require significant investments of time and resources to address. When it comes to enforcing an equal opportunity workplace, the responsibility must start at the top. Employers should follow the EEOC report’s guidelines by providing more training, targeting their recruitment pool, and directly tying workplace performance with EEOC compliance.

Worried that you’ve been the victim of workplace discrimination? For clarification on what does and doesn’t constitute workplace race discrimination, the nonprofit organization Workplace Fairness offers an overview on their website. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly states that it’s against the law to discriminate based on race, but defining and proving discrimination is often difficult.

Keep in mind that many discrimination suits run on for years without resolution. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to try to resolve the issue internally through your employer’s human resources department.

If you decide to go ahead and formally press charges against your employer, you can file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC with the help of an attorney, or you can also have another organization or individual file on your behalf if you want to protect your identity. You can also get free legal services through the Employment Justice Center.

Build up your case by documenting every incident of perceived discrimination, marking down the time, place, the parties involved, and any third-party witnesses. Incidents may include offhand remarks, jokes, gestures and slurs. They may also include company practices that do not have discriminatory motive behind them but which have the practical effect of discrimination anyway. Remember: the complaint must be filed within 180 days of the violation.

It’s time to end workplace discrimination. Everyone deserves the opportunity to work hard, earn a living and provide for themselves and their families.

Dedrick Muhammad is the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs. To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks. 

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(Photo: Hal Bergman / Getty Images)

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