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33,500 Workplace Racial Discrimination Cases Were Filed in 2012

Workplace Racial Discrimination

In the United States, racial discrimination is against the law. It was the passing of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that provided legal protection against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color as well as national origin, sex, or religion. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. But the law does not always prevent discrimination from occurring.

The largest category for discrimination is race. Statistics show that African Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed and earn about 25 percent less than white employees. Recent field test experiments on resumes sent out for job applications revealed that resumes with white-sounding names received anywhere from 50 percent to two times greater call backs than those with African American-sounding names. "Equal Opportunity Employers" were equally guilty of discrimination, even though their ads stated otherwise.

Another survey showed that about one third of African Americans, as well as 20 percent of Hispanics and Asians, were denied promotions because of race or ethnicity. In other experiments conducted by sending testers out as job applicants, whites with a felony conviction fared just as well, if not better, than a black applicant with a clean record.

In 1997, the EEOC wanted to enforce the law by sending out their own testers to audit employment practices across the country with the purpose of detecting acts of discrimination. Unfortunately, Congress did not allow it, pointing to the practice as a waste of employer resources and calling it a form of entrapment, and the testing was eliminated. Unfortunately, it is difficult for employees to prove discrimination in hiring because employers can create many reasons to justify their choice in candidates.

However, discrimination charges filed with the EEOC show that more people are stepping forward to file complaints against discriminatory practices, as shown by the number of charges filed from 1997 to 2012. In the category of race discrimination, for example, the numbers have increased from 29,000 in 1997 to over 33,500 cases filed in 2012.

But enforcement is not the only solution. While many workplaces have become more diverse, more opportunities must exist for diverse employees in upper management positions. Education needs to come from the top down in companies to ensure that they are not just obeying the law but creating a rich, diverse workforce that will ensure the company is hiring the best employees based on talent, skills and experience, not on other factors. Until this happens, everyone in the workplace suffers.

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