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Monday, December 31, 2007

Ex-Firefighter Awarded $1.17M In Forced Retirement

Black Ex-Firefighter Claims Retirement Was After Complaining About Harassment, Hazing
LOS ANGELES (CBS) ― A black former Pasadena firefighter was wrongfully forced into disability retirement after complaining about harassment and hazing by colleagues, a jury found Friday in awarding him $1.17 million.

A racially mixed Los Angeles Superior Court panel of eight women and four men, including a black female, deliberated for less than half a day before finding in favor of Carter Stephens.

A noticeably moved Stephens nodded and smiled at jurors as he heard the verdict. He later shook hands with each of them as they left the courtroom.

Stephens sued in November 2006 for wrongful termination and discrimination. According to the lawsuit, supervisors and co-workers harassed Stephens by leaving blood, urine, and feces on his bedding, putting mucous on his uniform and scrawling a swastika on his firefighter hood.

In 2001, Stephens worked at a station where he overheard another captain refer to him by the "N" word, according to his suit.

Stephens had joined the department in 1987 and the Pasadena Fire and Police Retirement Board approved his disability retirement against his wishes in February 2005, according to his court papers.

"I'm extremely happy," Stephens said later outside the courtroom. "A million bucks, I can start putting my life back together, I can go back to school."

Stephens testified during the trial that he has worked low-paying jobs since being retired, including a stint as a shoe salesman at Macy's.

Brent S. Buchsbaum, one of Stephens' lawyers, said that although Stephens was the victim of racial discrimination, the focus of his suit was on the retaliation he believed he suffered after complaining about the pranks and other actions against him.

Assistant City Attorney Hugh A. Halford said he was disappointed with the verdict and that it would be appealed. He declined further comment, but said during final arguments Thursday that the 55-year-old Stephens was out for cash, not justice.

In 2000 and 2001, Stephens underwent therapy for stress he experienced on the job because of the alleged harassment, the lawsuit stated.

Stephens injured his knee in June 2002, but his doctor told him the following year he was fit to return to work, according to the lawsuit.

However, a city doctor in April 2004 declared Stephens "unfit for duty at this time" and the city prepared a disability retirement application for him, according to the lawsuit.

According to Buchsbaum, the finding was not supported by any facts and was used by the city as justification for retiring Stephens.

Juror Louis Ceballos, a 57-year-old nightclub disc jockey from Glendale, said he initially decided to vote in favor of Stephens. He said he then reconsidered for a while because none of Stephens' bedding or clothing was brought into the courtroom, nor were there any photographs.

However, Ceballos said he eventually returned to his original position in favor of Stephens, in large part because of he believed the city's human resources director, Karyn Ezell, did not properly investigate his complaints.

"She should have taken him under her wing and found out what was going on," Ceballos said.

Ceballos said the jury was not swayed by and never talked about ne~s accounts of hazing and retaliation against other firefighters, including that of Tennie Pierce. Pierce claimed his Los Angeles Fire Department colleagues at the Westchester station fed him dog food.
Pierce sued the city of Los Angeles and later settled for $1.43 million. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa vetoed an earlier $2.7 million accord after seeing photographs of Pierce participating in hazing incidents himself.

Ceballos said that unlike Pierce, Stephens did not pull pranks on other firefighters.

(© 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Secret Service racism suit gets another day in court

Secret Service racism suit gets another day in court
Atlanta plaintiffs, others say promotions based on race, not merit

By REBECCA CARR
Cox News Service
Published on: 12/06/07

A long-running federal lawsuit that alleges systemic discrimination against African-Americans in the U.S. Secret Service — including the Atlanta field office — could take a new turn on Monday.

The class-action suit with sworn statements from 58 African-American agents from across the country alleging that "a racially hostile environment" exists at the agency has languished for seven years.

Secret Service agents watch from the top of a Centers for Disease Control building during a 2001 visit from President George W. Bush.

The government has been sanctioned twice for failing to produce evidence in a timely fashion and refusing to produce evidence as required under civil procedure rules, records show.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson has ordered the government to produce evidence more than 20 times — a number that far exceeds typical cases, legal experts say.

On Monday Robinson will hear arguments about whether to sanction the government yet again, this time for stating in sworn declarations that the service does not archive "unofficial" interpersonal e-mails when, in fact, it does archive them, according to court documents.

The delays have frustrated the plaintiffs, who allege that white agents routinely leapfrog over black agents despite higher scores on promotional exams, and black agents are sent undercover because it is assumed they talk the "street" language and where a white "good ol' boy network" prevails.

Cheryl L. Tyler, a former agent, said the Atlanta office was known as the "chocolate office" during the 1980s because 8 out of 75 agents were black.

Tyler shared an office with a white agent who called his child "dumb n-----" in her presence, according to her statement.

And white agents in the office openly talked about attending an annual whites-only "Good Ol' Boy Round Up" where law enforcement agents watched mock lynchings of blacks while eating their barbecue, Tyler said. In 1996, government investigators found that federal law enforcement agents from several agencies, including the service, attended the event, but none directly engaged in bad conduct.

The Secret Service has effectively blocked the 7-year-old case from moving forward by failing to release documents, testimony and communications, according to lawyers representing the plaintiffs, who seek to force the service to change its promotion system so that agents are promoted based on merit, not race and who they know.

Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the service, declined to respond to the plaintiff's allegations. He rejected the notion that the government has delayed the case by failing to respond to basic discovery motions.

"We have and will continue to approach all litigation in good faith," Zahren said. "We have always maintained that the only proper forum for resolution of legal and procedural disagreements between sides is in court."

300,000 documents turned over

Over the past seven years, the service has provided more than 300,000 documents in response to numerous motions filed by attorneys for the plaintiffs, Zahern said. In those documents, the government has tried, unsuccessfully, to get the case dismissed because "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact regarding plaintiff's claims concerning discriminatory testing, hiring, discipline and undercover assignments. " Court documents say revealing too much information would thwart the mission of the Secret Service, undermining national security.

Melissa Henke, part of a team at the Hogan & Hartson law firm representing the agents for free, said the service is attempting to keep basic information from being revealed in court.

The service is "hiding behind unsubstantiated allegations that engaging in the civil discovery process will somehow undermine the Secret Service mission," Henke said.

What does undermine the mission, Henke said, is allowing an "environment of unfairness to pervade the agency."

In some cases, this has resulted in unqualified people being promoted above the more qualified African-American agents, she said. In other cases, some of the most qualified African-American agents have been driven out of the Secret Service due to racism and the lack of advancement.

Overt racism is not as apparent today as it was when the lawsuit was filed in 2000, said Yvette Summerour, an African-American supervisor in the Atlanta field office and a plaintiff in the case.

But it took Summerour 16 years to get promoted to her current rank of GS-14, one level behind the highest level of civil service. That is about twice as long as it takes a typical white agent, black agents say. Other agents interviewed dispute that figure.

Despite finally getting what she wanted — a promotion and a job back in Atlanta where her whole family lives — Summerour continues to fight.

When she gets low and wants to just quit, Summerour thinks back to her time as an agent assigned to cover Chelsea Clinton.

On a trip with Chelsea and Hillary Clinton to Senegal, they visited the island known as the Door of No Return, a place where captured Africans were physically separated from their families and sent to America to become slaves. Summerour's emotions took over. She cried on the job — a taboo in the upright world of the service. Back at the hotel, Hillary Clinton sought her out and asked how she was doing.

Summerour told her she just needed to put what happened behind her.

Clinton, Summerour said, turned toward her. "Don't you ever forget because if you forget, it can happen again."

And that is why, Summerour says, she won't give up the legal fight. She is home. She finally has her promotion. But she looks at the young African-Americans coming up the ranks and doesn't want it to happen to them.

"Make no mistake, if it takes another 8 years, if it takes until after I retire, I will see this through," she said.

30 years of discrimination?

In sworn statements filed with the court, black agents allege more than three decades of discriminatory practices. They say that while they now number about 10 percent of the service's estimated 2,500 agents, a "white man's network" keeps them from reaching the upper rungs of management. When the lawsuit was first filed in 2000 by veteran civil rights lawyer John Relman, the number of blacks in the top tier was said to be 4.2 percent. The service disputes those figures in legal documents.
The service declined to confirm those figures or to say how many blacks it has on its force today and how many of them are in senior management positions.

So far, the alleged discrimination has failed to undermine the mission of Secret Service Agent Reginald G. Moore, an Atlanta native who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Moore finds himself leading the service's African-American agents who want to end discrimination that he believes kept him from being promoted at least 140 times. In most cases the agent promoted was white, had less experience and a lower score on the promotions exam, he said.

But on a June day in 1999, Moore walked into the White House Joint Operation Center with the confident air of a man about to be promoted. Moore had recently completed his fifth high-risk mission overseas guarding then-President Clinton, long-considered a must to advance to the next level.

He had the acting supervisor title, complete with office, car and the keys to the entire White House complex. He had scored 97.03 out of 100 on the service's promotion exam. His evaluation glowed, stating that he "completes each and every assignment with the tact, diplomacy and professionalism consistent with the highest traditions of the Secret Service."

Everyone said the job would be his. Except it wasn't. As Moore entered the center that warm day, an agent looked up from his desk. The promotions list had been posted. "Sorry, just heard," he said. A white agent, who had scored about the same on the exam — 97.27 out of 100 — got the job even though he never served on the presidential detail.

Moore was ordered to train the new supervisor and report to work in Dallas, a move that require uprooting his pregnant wife and daughter. It was a turning point for Moore, an agent who had worked his way up through the service's ranks after graduating from the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.

He hired Relman and filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination against the some 200 black agents in the service in 2000. Seven years later, Moore is still fighting, despite winning a promotion to the highest level of the service, a GS-15.
Moore stays because he wants to ensure that the hiring and promotion policies are permanently changed to make it fair for black and minority agents in the future.
"I want to be sure that the good ol' boy network doesn't stop a black agent in the future," Moore said.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

EEOC Turns Attention to Asian American Workers

By Stephen Barr
Wednesday, October 24, 2007; Page D04

Concerned that federal agencies are not paying adequate attention to their Asian American employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has set up a working group to study how they are treated and promoted across the government.

The group will try to pull together a report by next year that examines allegations of discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who work in the federal government, how they are treated when it comes to promotions and whether they are reluctant to file discrimination complaints.

"Our work will begin with testing perceptions and gathering the realities Asian Pacific Americans face in the federal workplace," Naomi C. Earp, chairman of the EEOC, said.

Of the 2.6 million employees in the federal sector, 5.9 percent are Asian Americans, according to data collected by the EEOC. The Office of Personnel Management has described the overall representation of Asian Americans in the federal workplace as generally satisfactory when measured against the broader national workforce.

But relatively few Asian Americans make it into the highest ranks of the government -- 146 out of 6,349 career members of the Senior Executive Service, according to a congressional audit released in May.

That raises the question of whether Asian Americans face a " 'bamboo ceiling,' " said Gazal Modhera, who will head the working group.

Modhera met yesterday with federal executives to roll out a survey to collect information from agencies on how they staff, finance and organize programs for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, compared with other minority groups.

She said the working group will use the survey to help gauge anecdotal accounts from Asian Americans. Some say they are being denied time off to attend conferences or to take advantage of training opportunities, Modhera said. Others have noted that their agencies do not sponsor activities or programs for them to the extent that they do for other groups, such as African Americans, Hispanics and gays.

The EEOC's survey will ask agencies to provide information on who manages diversity programs, which committees oversee diversity initiatives, what activities are sponsored and whether they have identified issues and problems that lead to an under-representation of Asian Americans in the government.

In addition to looking at possible workplace barriers encountered by Asian Americans, the EEOC also is interested in why this group appears reticent to file discrimination complaints against their agencies.

A survey by the Gallup Organization in 2005 found that 31 percent of Asian Americans thought they had been discriminated against, but EEOC records show that only 2 percent of Asian Americans file discrimination complaints, regardless of whether they work in the federal or the private sector.

Most of the federal Asian American complaints cited race or national origin as the basis for harassment or for the denial of promotions, EEOC records show.

Members of the working group include Suzan Aramaki of the Commerce Department, Linda Bradford-Washington of the Housing and Urban Development Department, Sherrie Davis of the National Institutes of Health, Robert Jew of the National Archives and Records Administration, Farook Sait of the Agriculture Department, James Su of the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, and Sharon Wong of the Asian American Government Executives Network. All are leaders in civil rights, diversity management or equal employment opportunity at their agencies or groups.

"We want to break through and get to what are the issues," Modhera said.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Learning the Rules for Raises

You've been working hard earning praise from your boss and co-workers. So when will those kind words translate into more money? To find out, start by arming yourself with facts -- about how your company works and the strength of the labor market.

A Complex Equation

U.S. companies will increase their overall salary budgets by 3.9 percent in 2008, the same as in 2007, according to the WorldatWork Salary Budget Survey. The salary budget is the total amount of money a company has for merit increases or cost of living adjustments.

How large a raise you can expect -- and when -- can depend on many factors beyond whether you're performing well: your company's culture, its financial performance, and how much you make compared with your peers, for example.

Get Details from the Boss

It's always a good idea to have a general talk with your boss about how and when raises are handed out. "Good bosses would be very open to having that conversation," said Gail Ginder, a leadership coach in Healdsburg, California. Ask what it takes to get a raise, when decisions on raises are made, and how you can find out if you're on track.

"They really need to find out what it is they can expect," Ginder said. Even changing bosses within one company can mean a different set of criteria, if the company gives managers a lot of latitude in awarding increases. If your boss doesn't know, someone in human resources should be able to answer your questions.

Every Employer Is Unique

Bear in mind, though, that some companies are more organized than others when it comes to pay increases. Some simply give everyone average raises, said Shari Dunn, managing principal of CompAnalysis, a compensation and HR consulting firm in Oakland, California. Others are trying to move away from giving everyone an annual increase and instead look at whether you're being paid what the market says your work is worth.

At many companies, raises depend on a mix of your performance and how much you make compared with others doing the same job. You may find that if you're nearing the top of the pay bracket for your position, you'll need to earn a promotion to get a raise.

For example, Dunn said, an average performer who is paid an average salary for employees at that level would get an average raise, but an average performer who was paid near the top of the company's range for his or her job would likely get less. A top performer who is paid less than others in the same job could be in line for a larger-than-average raise.

"The linkage to performance is sometimes tenuous," Dunn said.

Demonstrate Your Value

While you're asking your boss to explain how raise decisions are made, should you also ask for a raise? Again, it's important to know how your employer operates.

Large, traditional companies and government agencies often use clearly defined processes to determine raises, and asking for more money mid-year will just make you seem out of place. On the other hand, more entrepreneurial companies may be more open to requests for raises -- as long as they're backed up by solid data about your performance and what it's worth, not just a list of things you'd like to buy if you had more money.

"Employers like ambitious employees, especially if they're good performers," Dunn said.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wal-Mart Workers Win $62 Million

By MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press Writer
Wed Oct 3, 11:56 AM

PHILADELPHIA - Wal-Mart workers in Pennsylvania who previously won a $78.5 million class-action award for working off the clock will share an additional $62.3 million in damages, a judge ruled Wednesday.

About 125,000 people will receive $500 each in damages under a state law invoked when a company, without cause, withholds pay for more than 30 days.

A Philadelphia jury last year awarded the workers the exact amount they had sought, rejecting Wal-Mart's claim that some people chose to work through breaks or that a few minutes of extra work here and there was insignificant.

"Just as highly paid executives' promised equity interests or put options or percentage of sale proceeds are protected fringe benefits and wage supplements, so too the monetary equivalents of 'paid break' time cashiers and other employees were prohibited from taking are protected fringe benefits and wage supplements," Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Mark Bernstein wrote.

Similar suits charging that Wal-Mart violated state wage laws are in play across the country.

A California trial ended with a $172 million verdict that Wal-Mart is appealing while the Bentonville, Ark.-based company settled a Colorado suit for $50 million.
A trial opened last week in Minnesota while suits are pending in New Jersey and several other states.

The Pennsylvania class-action suit involves 187,000 current and former employees who worked at Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs from March 1998 through May 2006. The initial $78.5 million award represented the wages lost by those workers.

A smaller number _ about 125,000 _ qualified for the damage award Wednesday. The others were excluded by legal time limits and are seeking interest on the back wages.
"The law in its majesty applies equally to highly paid executives and minimum wage clerks," Bernstein wrote.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Donovan credited Bernstein for recognizing in Wednesday's ruling "that ordinary workers are entitled to the same protection under the law as executives."

His clients have not yet received any money and likely won't for some time if the company appeals. The payments for lost wages are expected to range from about $50 to a few thousand dollars, depending on employment history.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company discourages employees from working off the clock and disciplines managers who permit it.

"Many employees testified that they skipped rest breaks by choice. While we discourage that practice, employers should not be penalized when employees do that on their own," said the spokeswoman, Sharon Weber.

Wal-Mart shares rose 56 cents to $45.43 Wednesday in midday trading.

Knicks Trial Ends With $11.6M Jury Award

Knicks Trial Ends With $11.6M Jury Award

Former New York Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders exits Manhattan feder...
By TOM HAYS, AP
NEW YORK

In an end to a salacious three-week trial, a jury ordered the owners of the New York Knicks to pay $11.6 million to a former team executive who endured crude insults and unwanted advances from coach Isiah Thomas.

The jury of four women and three men found Thomas and Madison Square Garden sexually harassed Anucha Browne Sanders, but it decided only MSG and chairman James Dolan should pay for harassing and firing Browne Sanders from her $260,000-a-year job out of spite.

The result: The Garden owes $6 million for condoning a hostile work environment and $2.6 million for retaliation. Dolan owes $3 million. Though Thomas is off the hook for any damages, he leaves the case with a tarnished image.

Outside court, a beaming Browne Sanders insisted her victory was more about sending a message than the money.

"What I did here, I did for every working woman in America," she said. "And that includes everyone who gets up and goes to work in the morning, everyone working in a corporate environment."

Earlier, Thomas emerged from the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan with his trademark smile but flashed anger as he reasserted his innocence amid a crush of reporters and cameras.

"I'm extremely disappointed that the jury did not see the facts in this case," he said. "I will appeal this, and I remain confident in the man that I am and what I stand for and the family that I have."

MSG said it will appeal, also denying wrongdoing in a case widely viewed as a public relations disaster for a franchise struggling to regain credibility. The team hasn't won a playoff game since Thomas was signed as president in December 2003 and has wasted millions this decade on a series of free-agent busts.

The verdict also amounts to another blemish on the resume of Thomas, a two-time NBA champion whose post-playing career has been marked by one failure after another.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league's policies "do not encompass civil litigation."

Jurors, who needed roughly two days to decide on the allegations but only about an hour to determine damages, declined to talk about the verdict or how they came to their decision.

In a lawsuit filed last January, the 44-year-old Browne Sanders sought $10 million in punitive damages, but the jury was free to deviate from that figure. The verdict also means the judge will determine and award compensatory damages in the coming weeks.

The harassment verdict was expected after the jury sent a note to the judge Monday indicating it believed Thomas, the Garden and Dolan sexually harassed Browne Sanders, a married mother of three and former vice president for marketing.

Browne Sanders is currently an associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at the University of Buffalo.

"All of us in the Division of Athletics are thrilled to know that Anucha has been vindicated and that both her and her family have wrapped up this very difficult ordeal," the university said in a statement. "We look forward to seeing her soon and, most of all, are elated that she can move on with her life and career."

The jurors had heard Browne Sanders testify that Thomas, after arriving as new team president, routinely addressed her as "bitch" and "ho" in outbursts over marketing commitments. He later did an abrupt about-face, declaring his love and suggesting an "off-site" liaison, she said.

Thomas, while admitting to using foul language around the plaintiff, insisted he never directed it toward her.

Degrading a woman in the workplace "is never OK," said Thomas, a married father of two. "It is never appropriate."

Dolan and a string of other executives also took the witness stand to deny they tolerated or witnessed sexual harassment. They testified Browne Sanders was fired because she was incompetent on budget matters, and because she later sought to undermine an internal inquiry into her allegations against Thomas.

The trial also made headlines with its testimony about an admitted tryst involving star Knicks guard Stephon Marbury and an MSG intern, an encounter the plaintiffs' attorneys argued demonstrated the organization's frat house mentality.

At the Knicks training camp in South Carolina on Tuesday, Marbury and other players said it was time for the team to move past the off-court controversy. Thomas was expected to arrive Wednesday.

"It's a tough situation and the only thing we can do now is go forward," Marbury said.

Forward Malik Rose predicted the team would rally behind Dolan and Thomas.
"We all know what kind of guy 'Mr. D' is," he said before the jury awarded punitive damages. "We all know what kind of guy Isiah is and how they treat us. I'm sure all you guys agree this is a first-class organization."

MSG is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp., based in Bethpage, N.Y., and Dolan is Cablevision's CEO. Shares fell 35 cents, or 1 percent, to $34.71 in afternoon trading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why Aren't More Black Women Getting Promoted?

By Jennifer Millman

© DiversityInc 2007 ® All rights reserved. No article on this site can be reproduced by any means, print, electronic or any other, without prior written permission of the publisher.

Date Posted: July 27, 2007

Black women aspire to corporate leadership, but they don't feel that hard work and a positive outlook will pay off, finds a new League of Black Women survey. Many feel persistent stereotypes are stifling their talent and potential, and poor utilization of their skill sets and education relegates them to dead-end jobs, which leads to lower engagement and fewer meaningful connections at work.

A few highlights from the survey of black women:

Nearly 80 percent think racial attitudes diminish their ability to be effective leaders Only 57 percent feel they can reach their potential in spite of these barriers Only 20 percent are "very satisfied" with their overall lives, which is based on the quality of their personal and professional relationships, especially with each other, having black-female executive role models and opportunities for career development Sixty-two percent say they give more of themselves at work when they feel valued for who they are, which many feel doesn't happen often enough.

Recent data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission underscores these concerns. Black women remain woefully underrepresented in corporate America, particularly at the management level. They account for 16 percent of the female private-industry work force├»¿½more than Latinas or Asian women├»¿½but just 9 percent of officials and managers, the lowest ratio of work force to management of all women of color.

By comparison, 24 percent of the female work forces among the Top 10 Companies for African Americans are black, compared with 19 percent of The 2007 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity®. Eighteen percent of the women promoted in management are black, compared with 13 percent for the Top 50.

The national survey, conducted in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton from 2005 to 2007, identifies proactive ways companies can increase retention among black women by providing advancement and networking opportunities and promoting authenticity.

Which Federal Agencies Fail at Diversity? EEOC Tells All

By Jennifer Millman

© DiversityInc 2007 ® All rights reserved. No article on this site can be reproduced by any means, print, electronic or any other, without prior written permission of the publisher.

Date Posted: August 07, 2007

Federal law requires "each agency shall maintain a continuing affirmative program to promote equal opportunity and to identify and eliminate discriminatory practices and policies," reports the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but according to the agency's latest report, that doesn't appear to be happening.

People of color represented a third of the federal work force in 2006, which is on par with U.S. demographics and The 2007 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity®. Their representation at the management level, however, tells another story.

If you have an e-mail that ends in .gov, you can get a free subscription to DiversityInc.

DiversityInc reported on the dearth of people of color in federal management jobs last year, and on the lacking number of people with severe disabilities, such as deafness, blindness and paralysis.

(See also: EEOC Report: Few People of Color in Federal Management Jobs and The Government's Failed Promise: Why the Feds Can't Keep People With Disabilities, from the October 2006 issue of DiversityInc magazine)

Accountability stems from measurement, as the DiversityInc Top 50 companies know. Their successful best practices provide a valuable resource to government agencies on how to do better in this arena. The government took a step forward by appointing its first chief diversity officer, Barry Wells, at the Department of State, but much work has yet to be done. Read a profile of Barry Wells in the April 2007 issue of DiversityInc magazine on the business case for affirmative action.

The EEOC's annual report, which was released in late June using 2006 data, summarizes EEO activities in federal government and includes work-force profiles of 49 agencies with 500 or more employees broken down by pay level and demographic group. The full EEOC report is available here.

Here are some of the highlights:

Blacks remain above their popular representation in the federal work force, accounting for just more than 18 percent, which has remained stagnant for the last decade. This doesn't translate to the senior pay level, however, where blacks only are 6.5 percent of the work force—down 0.2 percent from 1997. The participation rate of black men also has gone down when compared with women Latinos remain underrepresented at all levels of the federal work force, accounting for 3.7 percent of the senior pay level (up nearly 1 percent since 1997) and 7.7 percent of the total federal work force. This lacking representation is particularly concerning because Latinos are the fastest-growing population in the United States, yet their representation in federal government is up only 0.7 percent from last year, when national attention was drawn to these numbers Individuals with targeted disabilities have been declining as a percentage of the federal work force since 1997 and now account for 0.94 percent of the overall work force and 0.46 percent of senior-pay-level staff Asians are more represented in the senior-level work force than they are in the general population and are more represented in the federal work force overall than their representation in the general population would suggest Women have made minimal progress at the senior pay level since 1997, despite accounting for about 43 percent of the total federal work force Clear pay disparities also exist, particularly along racial/ethnic lines. Government-wide, the average pay grade in the general-schedule system, which is comprised of federal managers and supervisors and accounts for more than 54 percent of the federal work force, was 10.0.

Friday, July 13, 2007

IRS Now Authorized to Reward Whistleblowers

Thomas Poulin - Copyright ©2007

On February 2, 2007, The Internal Revenue Service named Stephen A. Whitlock as director of its new Whistleblower Office, where he will be responsible for administering the program designed to receive information that helps uncover tax cheating and to provide appropriate rewards to whistleblowers. In late December, President Bush signed the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 which includes reforms aimed at strengthening tax fraud detection. The new law contains whistleblower reward provisions similar to the federal False Claims Act. The IRS is authorized to pay rewards to whistleblowers for informing the IRS of underpayments of tax and bringing to trial and punishing persons guilty of violating the internal revenue laws. Amounts are paid based on a percentage of the tax, fines, and penalties actually collected by the government based on the information provided by the whistleblower.

The law rewards individuals who provide information regarding violations of the tax laws to the government that involve an individual whose gross income exceeds $200,000 for any taxable year, which includes tax, penalties, and interest of over $2 million.

The whistleblower reward is between 15% and 30% of the amount actually collected by the government, including penalties, interest, additions to tax and additional amounts if the IRS moves forward with an administrative or judicial action based on information brought to the IRS’s attention by an individual, or reaches a settlement. The reward depends on how substantial the whistleblower's contributions were to the IRS action. Under certain specified circumstances, the provision permits awards of lesser amounts. The new law also allows payment of the whistleblower’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

The law also creates a Whistleblower Office within the IRS to administer the reward program. The government estimates that the new law will raise $32 million over five years and $182 million over ten years.

Lawyers at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. are currently representing whistleblowers and investigating claims on behalf of whistleblowers who allege underpayments to and fraud on the government. If you wish to consult with a lawyer who handles whistleblower cases, please call Tom Poulin at 202.736.2748.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ex-'Grey's' Star Cites Racism for Firing

By Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington said racism was a factor in his firing from the hit ABC series after he twice used an anti-gay slur.

Washington, who initially used the epithet during an onset clash with a co-star, told Newsweek magazine that "someone heard the booming voice of a black man and got really scared and that was the beginning of the end for me."

He tried to make amends by expressing remorse and volunteering to enter a counseling program to understand how the confrontation got out of hand, he told Newsweek.

"My mistake was believing that I would get the support from my network and all of my cast mates across the board. My mistake was believing I could correct a wrong with honesty and sincerity," he said in the interview posted online Thursday.

"My mistake was thinking black people get second chances. I was wrong on all fronts," he said.

His unwillingness to act like a submissive black at work was part of the problem, Washington said.

"Well, it didn't help me on the set that I was a black man who wasn't a mush-mouth Negro walking around with his head in his hands all the time. I didn't speak like I'd just left the plantation and that can be a problem for people sometime," he said.

"I had a person in human resources tell me after this thing played out that `some people' were afraid of me around the studio. I asked her why, because I'm a 6-foot-1, black man with dark skin and who doesn't go around saying `Yessah, massa sir' and `No sir, massa' to everyone?

"It's nuts when your presence alone can just scare people, and that made me a prime candidate to take the heat in a dysfunctional family," he said.

ABC declined comment Thursday. In its one public statement regarding Washington, issued in January, the network said his actions were "unacceptable."

Washington, who used the slur against co-star T.R. Knight during a confrontation with Patrick Dempsey, repeated the word backstage at the Golden Globes in January in denying the first incident. A public apology to Knight and others followed.

On the Net: www.abc.com

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Does Racial Discrimination Still Exist in the National Ball League?

On April 15, 2007 Major League Baseball celebrated the 60th year of Baseball integration with few African Americans left in the game. Since 1975 professional baseball’s African American population has declined from 28 to 8 percent. This figure represents the lowest percentage of us born black players in baseball since the sport was fully integrated in 1959. At this rate, it is predicted the NBL will have zero African American players by the year 2017.

Have we as African Americans come a long way in Major League Baseball since 1947?

With the integration of Baseball the Negro Baseball League was destroyed. Baseball use to be a favorite pass time for African American Families. It keep our minds off the daily hardships we faced, it brought a since of community, and family. In 1920, Andrew Foster formed the first Negro baseball league with 8 teams. In the first season, more than 400,000 fans attended Negro League games. Black churches had leagues and black businesses supported young players. However, when baseball began to recruit Negro players to increase their star power on the roster, the black community were greeted by segregated seating and chicken wire barriers.

The very fact that the in 1964 the Atlanta – Fulton County Stadium was built in the middle of a poor Black community called Summer Hill in which according to the 1965 Atlanta Constitution Article “ the stadium development had crowded ten thousand people into 354 acres.” During segregation blacks communities were strong because no matter what your social economic status, white Americans forced us to live in the same community. You could see great role models such as your doctor, your lawyer, and teacher living in the same community. When the government needed land to build the new stadiums guess whose community need to make the sacrifice and relocate? The African American community. What they ripped up was more than housing for sports entertainment, they ripped up a community. Your church, your b usiness, your friend, and your neighbor had to be removed in the name of progress. What we got in return was low paying minimum wage jobs. Today, we still suffer! According to an Atlanta Brave official at the Rolling Out Minority Women Business Seminar, the best opportunity for minorities with the Braves diversity program is a “cleaning contract for the Stadium.”

Even worse is the team recruiting efforts of African American players? “Professional baseball has abandoned African Americans, replacing them with brown and black faces from Latin America and Asia. MLB has set up baseball academies in several Latin American countries as part of its worldwide outreach, and players from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela now comprises nearly 20 percent of baseball teams.” Today, they have only one person of African decent Andruw Jones (born Willemstad, Netherlands) left on the team. Their excuse is there is not enough qualified African American players available, when in fact right in their back yard, you have the 2004 Redan high school graduate Chris Nelson who signed a $2.5 million dollar signing bonus with the Rockies in their No. 1 dra ft pick June 2004.

“Baseball is striking out with black fans turned off by the lack of black faces on the playing field and the high cost of tickets. At a typical minor league game with 2,000 or so fans, you might only see one or two black fans, and those are usually parents,” says Linda Nelson, (Chris Nelson mom) “on a good day for a theme event (church night), you might see 15 or 20 black fans”.

Don’t believe the Hype!

Commissioner Allen H. (Bud) Selig in 1998 authorized the creation of the Diverse Business Partners program, an initiative design to increase economic opportunities by focusing on the cultivation of partnerships with minority and women owned businesses; accompanied by a supplier diversity program for the construction of ball parks. The commissioner also mandates require that minorities be considered the most high-profile positions in each major league organization, including general manager and field manager. On Wednesday May 16, 2007, the Atlanta Braves changed ownership to Liberty Media. However, according to the press release there will be no changes on the Braves Roster or management team.

Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that Major League Baseball ownership has approved the sale of the Atlanta Braves to Liberty Media. "I am pleased to welcome Liberty Media as the owner of the Atlanta Braves," said Selig. "I am also excited that Terry McGuirk (Atlanta Braves Chairman and CEO) will remain in his role with the club, along with John Schuerholz, Mike Plant, Derek Schiller, Bobby Cox and others. At this press conference, there were no new announcements of his 1998 initiative to improve minority “high profile positions” on the Braves team.

What can be done about discriminatory policies in the Atlanta Braves Organization?

The Atlanta Braves need a strong Work Force, and Supplier Diversity program to ensure Minorities receive more than 1% of the available contracts. The Braves community outreach program should build strong community partnerships for batting practice fields and minor league training programs for youth in the Dekalb, Fulton, Clayton and Atlanta Public schools to ensure future recruitment of African American players. The Braves should list all of their current minority contracts for 2007 and establish a community review board to ensure fairness. The Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk should set a goal to have major improvements implemented by 2010.
Forward your concerns to: Beth Marshall Atlanta Braves 404-614-1336 beth.marshall@turner.com Or write to: ATLANTA BRAVES · P.O. Box 4064 · Atlanta, GA 30302-4064 · 404/522-7630

Thursday, May 17, 2007

EEOC Reaches out to Teens, Bias, Harassment Often Covered Up

By TAMMY JOYNER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A 16-year-old fast-food restaurant worker in rural Georgia is told she has to work late and is raped over two months by her boss.

A male manager at a Family Dollar store in Atlanta ridicules a 17-year-old for not being manly enough.

In Raleigh, teenage boys working at a Carmike Cinema are groped and pressured for sex by their male supervisor, a convicted sex offender.

Since 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has seen a pattern of workplace abuse involving these and other teenagers.

"They are one of the most vulnerable groups [of workers] out there," said Terrie Dandy, an outreach manager in the EEOC's Atlanta district office, which covers all of Georgia and parts of South Carolina.

Hundreds of teenagers file discrimination complaints each year with the federal agency and other state and local civil rights agencies, EEOC officials estimate. Last year alone, more than 40 percent of the cases were sex-related.

The number of cases filed by teenagers represent a fraction of the 7,767 sexual harassment charges filed nationwide last year with the EEOC. But they're no less problematic.

The EEOC is the federal agency that monitors and regulates a wide range of workplace problems such as race and age discrimination, as well as sexual harassment. Between 2001 and 2005, the agency prosecuted 105 lawsuits nationwide involving teen workers. Of those cases, 80 percent involved sexual harassment.

Atlanta EEOC officials received 32 charges from teen workers for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Of those charges, 14 were allegations of sexual harassment. Eight of those were against fast-food restaurants.

The problem is far more prevalent than reported cases suggest, EEOC and researchers say.

"We don't get everything," said Anthony Seals, a senior investigator with the EEOC. "A lot of these teens are really fearful. We've been told that if they told an adult they would be retaliated against."

Nationally, most of the charges are against employers in fast-food restaurants, retail and other service industries, places where most of the nation's nearly 6 million teen workers are employed.

While rape is among the worst abuse teens face on the job, it's rare. But it does happen.

"I was shocked," Seals said of his case three years ago involving the 16-year-old fast-food worker. The girl, who came to his office with her mother and a lawyer, was visibly pregnant. The baby's father? Her married boss, who was in his 30s. The girl said she was forced to stay late, and that's when her supervisor would rape her. The girl didn't say anything for a time because she was afraid of losing her job.

"You see a lot of TV [reports] where students have had sexual encounters with teachers," said Seals, who has a 16-year-old daughter. "But you don't think it would flow over into the workplace."

The congressional page scandal, the growing number of teachers preying on students and the national crackdown on online pedophiles have made the American public more aware of teens as sexual targets.

But little is said about what goes on when teenagers don uniforms and head to their jobs, often their first experience in the workplace.

Susan Fineran, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern Maine, has studied teen sexual harassment for the past decade, mostly among students. She now includes teen workers.

"Eighty to 90 percent of kids are out there working these days," she said. "This is a huge population of students basically being exposed to sexual assault or behaviors."

Her research has shown that even though teens work fewer hours than adults, they have just as high a chance of being sexually harassed.

"This is their first experience in the adult workplace for the most part," Fineran said. "Although they may have heard of sexual harassment and how it's bad in school, I'm not sure they're as educated about workplace sexual harassment and what to do about it if it happens to them."

128,000 students reached

In response, federal authorities two years ago created a program to tell middle school, high school and college students about their workplace rights.

Youth@Work Initiative was started by Naomi Earp, who was sworn in as chairman of the EEOC last week.

Shortly before coming to the agency, Earp heard about a 17-year-old girl in her suburb who had been sexually harassed on the job. The case stuck with Earp, mother of a teenager.

When she got to the EEOC, she was disturbed to learn the case was not an isolated incident. Field investigators were reporting increases in teens being sexually harassed at work.

In the two years since Youth@Work's inception, the EEOC has conducted 1,800 events reaching 128,000 students, their employers and teachers.

In Atlanta, for instance, EEOC officials say students regularly approach them after they speak about on-the-job sexual harassment. Some teens say they've been harassed; others are seeking advice on questionable behavior at their jobs. Some of the meetings lead to teens filing charges.

"Teens are very savvy in certain areas like fashion, technology and pop culture," said Lisa Schnall, an attorney adviser to EEOC Chair Earp. "They're a lot less savvy when it comes to their rights on the job."

EEOC official Bernice Williams-Kimbrough said a big part of Youth@Work is aimed at helping employers deal with the issue.

"If they don't have trainers on staff, the EEOC is always available," said Williams-Kimbrough, EEOC district director in Atlanta.

The agency is working with the National Retail Federation, the National Restaurant Association and the National Education Association to address abuses.

"The burden of the business to train and keep training and keep monitoring is very high, and we take it seriously," said Ron Wolf, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, which has 3,000 members ranging from independents to national chains.

Wolf, a former training director for two food-service firms, said the industry does an "exceptional job of addressing sexual harassment, given the sheer volume of people we employ and the transient nature of the industry."

The agency has garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for teenagers in recent years. In Georgia, the five largest monetary benefits to teens totaled more than $49,000 during the last five years.

Wide range of offenses

The offenses teenagers report run the gamut, ranging from lewd comments and jokes to touching, pressure for sex or any other situation that creates a hostile work environment.

Just last month, a jury in New York awarded a group of women $585,000 in a sexual harassment suit the EEOC brought against their former employer, a national basement waterproofing company.

The 13 women, who were teenagers when the abuses occurred, endured crude remarks and were asked to dress provocatively and dance on tables for male co-workers. One 16-year-old girl was coerced into having her toes sucked by her male manager in front of her co-workers on her first day on the job.

Carmike Cinemas was ordered last year to pay $765,000 in a case involving 14 teenage boys. The Carmike case is unique, EEOC officials said, because cases of males sexually harassing other males are rarely reported, especially when the victim is a teenager.

Monetary awards are little consolation to Fineran, who fears that the abuses will have lasting effect.

"It can turn kids off to working," she said. It also makes parents reluctant to let their children experience the challenges of first jobs, what for past generations has been a rite of passage into adulthood.

Seals, who has worked on more than 200 sexual harassment cases, mostly of adults, in his six years at the EEOC, worries about that, too. Working with teen victims has made him ultraprotective of his daughter, who at 16 is old enough to work.

"She's not working, but she wants to," Seals said last week, while on his way to investigate a case of sexual abuse of a young convenience store worker.

"But I'm kind of cautious about where she works. I'm not too comfortable with her working at a fast-food restaurant."

EEOC Office Move is Part of Effort to Control Costs

By Amelia Gruber
agruber@govexec.com
May 3, 2007

A controversial Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plan to relocate its Washington headquarters is part of a broader effort to free up resources to tackle growing backlogs of employment discrimination complaints, the agency's chair told lawmakers Thursday.

EEOC faced an inventory of nearly 40,000 private sector charges at the end of fiscal 2006, a 19 percent increase over the previous year, said Naomi Earp, the agency's chair, in testimony before a Senate appropriations subcommittee. The inventory may reach 67,000 by the end of fiscal 2008, she said. Piles of hearing requests and appeals from federal employees also are growing, she testified.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, expressed concern that EEOC did not -- in its fiscal 2008 budget request for $327.7 million -- seek an increase in staff over the 2,381 full-time employees budgeted for 2007. The agency's budget has been essentially flat for the past five years and EEOC has lost at least 500 employees, most of them front-line workers responsible for investigating claims, Mikulski said.

Earp declined to discuss any staff levels beyond those sought in the Bush administration's budget request. Pressed by Mikulski, she pledged to supply the subcommittee with a backlog reduction strategy and goals. Earp outlined several measures to reduce inventories using existing resources, including enhanced training in addition to rent control.

Meanwhile, an upcoming office move that is part of the effort to rein in rent and is slated to affect about 500 employees at the agency's downtown Washington headquarters and field office has prompted an outcry from employees. In e-mails circulated last week, workers voiced concerns about the safety, accessibility and amenities at a more cost-effective site recommended by the General Services Administration.

Earp said in a memorandum Tuesday that she met with officials at GSA, the government's main property management arm, Monday to discuss these issues, and was told amenities should be in place by the time EEOC moves.

"Quite simply, our options are limited," Earp wrote. "The next best location shares the same issues as the best location."

EEOC employees say the site in question is a developing business district north of Massachusetts Ave. and the Capitol, known as the NoMa Corridor. Earp has not confirmed the location because a lease has yet to be signed, but she also has not countered the claims.

A Web site promoting NoMa calls it "one of the most exciting redevelopment areas in metropolitan Washington," noting that the section of the city is "already home to major corporations, prominent government agencies, stylish new retailers and professional service firms that have recognized the area's unlimited potential."

But in their e-mails, EEOC employees cited concerns that, though the area is being revitalized, it may not be developed enough to be safe by July 2008, which is when the agency's current lease at L and 18th streets N.W. in downtown Washington expires.

One message stated, "While the area may be classified as a 'prime commercial office district' by some pre-determined standard, the reality is that residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area do not consider it to be so. It is generally considered to be a wasteland of dance clubs, empty warehouses, hotels/motels and high crime."

The employee also said the new location would "diminish our presence as an agency and deter potential charging parties from physically contacting the agency."

In another e-mail, an EEOC employee and longtime Capitol Hill resident echoed the safety concerns, noting, "My fear is not idle, but comes from knowledge that the neighborhoods near the building are dangerous. I don't think I should have to face this type of fear as a part of working for the federal government."

Earp said in her memo that a lease should be signed within the next few weeks. She noted that rejecting the recommended site would initiate a lengthy process requiring EEOC to negotiate an extension of its current lease -- a proposition that would be costly even if the building owner agreed to the request.

"EEOC is defined not by our headquarters address but by our passion, determination and commitment to promoting equal employment opportunities," Earp wrote in the memo. "That said, I understand that this is an issue of extreme importance to you and I want to reassure you that I intend to make the move as smooth as possible."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Black Walgreen Employees File Class-Action

March 10, 2007

Fourteen current and former Walgreens employees from Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Texas, Indiana and Michigan have filed a nationwide race discrimination class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against Walgreen Company in Tucker et al. v. Walgreen Co., Case No. 05-CV-440-GPM.

The class action suit charges that Walgreens discriminates against its black employees in hiring, promotions, compensation and store assignments in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1966, 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

The lawsuit claims in part that Walgreens steers its black employees to work at stores located in areas that have predominantly black customers and/or lower income customers. Walgreens uses an internal store classification system of "peer groups" that categorizes stores based on race and income. The class action plaintiffs claim that black employees are systematically denied advancement opportunities because Walgreens steers them to the minority/lower income peer group stores. Earning opportunities and work conditions are materially worse in the stores where the black management employees are steered and segregated.

Walgreen Co., the nation's largest drugstore chain, reported sales in excess of $42.2 billion in 2005. The company operates more than 5,156 stores in 45 states and Puerto Rico.

“Every worker should have equal rights in the workplace. It is disappointing that a company as large as Walgreens continues to allow such racially biased practices to exist.” said plaintiffs’counsel, Tiffany Klosener of Foland Wickens Eisfelder Roper & Hofer.

"What is so stunning is that in 2005 black employees are not only suffering discrimination in seeking to advance their careers at Walgreens, but are facing segregation. The segregation is a throwback to a time that most of us thought was gone from American life.” added Kent Spriggs of Spriggs Law Firm in Tallahassee, Florida, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are represented by the law firms of Foland, Wickens, Eisfelder, Roper & Hofer, P.C. (Kansas City), Spriggs Law Firm (Tallahassee) and Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian (Oakland).

Mr. Spriggs, one of the most experienced class action attorneys in the country, authored the two-volume text Representing Plaintiffs in Title VII Actions.

A toll free number (1-877-397-2529) has been set up to learn more about the case.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Job Discrimination Filings Rise in 2006

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer

Thu Feb 1, 5:40 PM ET

Federal job discrimination complaints filed by workers against private employers rose in 2006 for the first time in four years.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday that complaints increased to 75,768 during the 2006 budget year from 75,428 the previous year.

Charges of discrimination had spiked in 2002 at 84,442, a seven-year high. Complaints gradually drifted down after that until last year.

"These figures tell us that discrimination remains a persistent problem in the 21st century workplace," said the commission chairwoman, Naomi Earp.

As in past years, allegations of discrimination based on race, sex or retaliation were the most frequent complaints, according to the commission, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws among private employers.

Allegations of race discrimination, with 27,238 charges, accounted for 35.9 percent of all filings last year.

Sex discrimination accounted for 23,247 complaints, or 30.7 percent of all filings last year. Charges based on retaliation rose to 22,555, or 29.8 percent of all complaints.

Discrimination complaints based on disability rose to 15,625, or 20.6 percent of all filings. Age discrimination came to 13,569 or 17.9 percent of all complaints filed in 2006. National origin complaints came to 8,327, or 11 percent of the total.

Religious discrimination complaints totaled 2,541, or 3.4 percent of all filings. Equal pay complaints were 663, or 0.9 percent of all filings.

The total exceeds 100 percent because individuals may allege more than one kind of discrimination in a complaint.

All categories saw complaints rise from 2005 with the exception of age and equal pay discrimination complaints.

In addition, there were 12,025 complaints of sexual harassment, with a record 15 percent filed by men. A record 4,901 pregnancy discrimination complaints were filed last year.

During 2006, 74,308 discrimination complaints were resolved; more than 22 percent with a favorable outcome for the individual who complained. A record of 8,201 cases were resolved through voluntary mediation. The commission obtained $274 million in compensation for those who complained of discrimination.

___

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Whistleblower Wins Retaliation Claims: Unanimous Jury Awards Former FBI Agent $565,000.00 in Damages

http://www.whistleblowers.org

FBI WHISTLEBLOWER WINS RETALIATION CLAIMS

Unanimous Jury Verdict Awards Former Agent $565,000.00 in Damages

Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 5, 2007. In a historic ruling against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a federal court jury unanimously held that the FBI illegally retaliated against Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran FBI agent. The federal jury found that the FBI retaliated against Ms. Turner when it downgraded her performance reviews. She was awarded $60,000.00 in lost wages and $505,000.00 for damages to reputation and emotional distress caused by the FBI’s retaliation.

The case was previously heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, which had unanimously upheld the right of Jane Turner to go before a jury and state her claims. That decision can be found at Turner v. Ashcroft , 421 F.3d 688 (8th Cir. 2005).

Ms. Turner’s performance had been attacked by FBI managers after she filed a civil rights case and disclosed serious FBI misconduct in its handling of child abuse cases. In one case, Ms. Turner vigorously complained that the FBI had improperly classified the brutal rape of a two year old Native American child as a "motor vehicle accident." At the trial, government witnesses confirmed that Ms. Turner had successfully “dogged” the case for over one year and forced the government to re-open the prosecution. Her investigation led to a guilty plea by the rapist.

Among the FBI officials who participated in the retaliatory actions against Ms. Turner were James Burrus, the current Assistant Director of the FBI's Criminal Division and James Casey, a high level official in the FBI’s counterterrorism program.

Ms. Turner is the same FBI agent who also blew the whistle on FBI theft from Ground Zero (the 9/11 WorldTradeCenter crime scene). As a result of her disclosures the DOJ Office of Inspector General confirmed widespread FBI-takings from Ground Zero.

Stephen M. Kohn, one of Jane Turner’s attorneys, and the President of the National Whistleblower Center, issued the following statement: "The buck stopped here. Jane Turner is an American hero. She refused to be silent when her co-agents committed misconduct in a child rape case. She refused to be silent when her co-agents stole properly from Ground Zero. She paid the price and lost her job. The jury did the right thing and insured that justice will take place in her case. For eight years the FBI misused its performance review and inspection process to justify vicious retaliation against an award-winning agent.”

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Case Took 23 Years is the Largest Award for Employment Discrimination in the Civil Rights Act History

Class Action Sex Discrimination Case

March 23, 2000

Host Howard Berkes talks with Susan Brackshaw, lead attorney in the class action lawsuit on sex discrimination at USIA and Voice of America, about her victory yesterday. The Federal Government agreed to pay 508 Million dollars to 1,100 women who had alleged sex discrimination at the USIA and Voice of America. The case took 23 years to settle and is the largest award for an employment discrimination case in the Civil Rights Act History.

Race-based Discrimination Contributes to African-American Health Disparities

Science Daily — The experience of racial discrimination may be a key factor in explaining why African Americans have higher rates of obesity and suffer at higher rates from such diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders, according to UCLA researchers.

Repeated responses to such discrimination -- which include elevated blood pressure and heart rate -- can cause enormous stress on a person's mental and physical health, according to research scheduled to be published in Volume 58 of the Annual Review of Psychology.
Race-based discrimination may help explain why African Americans, despite gains in civil rights and targeted health programs, continue to have the highest rates of diabetes, cardiovascular heart disease, hypertension and stroke as compared to all other racial or ethnic groups in the United States.

"This is not to say that every African American has poor health," said Vickie Mays, the report's lead author, a UCLA professor of psychology and health services and director of the Center for Research, Education, Training and Strategic Communication on Minority Health Disparities. "However, African Americans -- as a group of people -- have not been able to gain as much ground as other ethnic groups. That's when you need to worry and look at missing factors that can explain these health disparities."

When a person experiences discrimination, the body develops a cognitive response in which it recognizes the discrimination as something that is bad and should be defended against, Mays said. She said this response occurs for the most part even if the person merely perceives that discrimination is a possibility.

Starting with the brain's recognition of discrimination, the body sets into motion a series of physiological responses to protect itself from these stressful negative experiences, Mays said. These physiological responses include biochemical reactions, hyper-vigilance and elevated blood pressure and heart rate. With many African Americans, these responses may occur so frequently that they eventually result in the physiological system not working correctly.

According to Mays, the experience of race-based discrimination for some African Americans is akin to the response a person's body mounts when it experiences significant life-threatening danger, such as fear for a person's life or of a possible attack. She said that if the body mounts a response to protect itself against a "life-threatening" experience on a regular basis, after awhile it is strained and overworked. Many of the chemicals that come to its rescue can damage systems in the body that are associated with disease and obesity.

According to the report's authors, there has been much focus on the emotional impact of discrimination. But other critical factors -- such as identifying how the brain recognizes and determines what racial discrimination is and how the body responds biochemically -- may help researchers understand why African Americans are not benefiting from protections against negative health outcomes in the same manner as whites.

Health disparities in African Americans may even be passed down from one generation to the next. For example, even middle- and upper-class African American women are at a higher risk of delivering pre-term babies as compared to other ethnic minority and white women of the same social class.

"What may be occurring is that despite having a great education and prenatal care, your body may be programmed to deliver early because of the stresses experienced by your mother during her pregnancy," Mays said. Research suggests that African American women produce a hormone activated in response to stress that is often associated as a time-clock for birth.

"This results in the placenta separating itself a little bit early and, that may be one of the reasons for a preterm delivery," Mays said.

Another key factor is that African Americans faced with constant discrimination may experience high levels of stress that cause an "allostatic load." The term refers to the cumulative wear and tear of stress as the body responds to an overload of challenges and demands.

When the stress challenge to the cardiovascular system is prolonged and excessive to the point of allostasis, the immune system is suppressed, blood pressure increases and, over time, atherosclerosis can develop, resulting in coronary vascular disease.

UCLA researchers will conduct further research on the link between race-based discrimination and health problems, including searching for possible solutions and coping methods for individuals.

"As we deal with skyrocketing rates of obesity and rising rates of diabetes in African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority groups, we need to think about the impact of race-based discrimination and how they respond to that stress," Mays said. "It may not be just a matter of telling a person to eat better or exercise. We may need to take a look at the person's environment and the race-based discrimination that that person is experiencing."

The report was co-authored by Susan D. Cochran, UCLA professor of epidemiology and statistics, and Namdi W. Barnes, a staff member of the Center for Research, Education, Training and Strategic Communication on Minority Health Disparities.

It was funded by the National Institute of Health's National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

More information about Mays' center is at http://www.MinorityHealthDisparities.org.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of California - Los Angeles.

FEMA's Almost All-White Leadership Plagued by Discrimination

DiversityInc Exclusive
By Yoji Cole

You read it here exclusively. Information obtained by DiversityInc reveals the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an organization plagued by racial inequities, which makes clear the reasons for its inability to relate to and provide for people of color, especially low-income blacks.

Information obtained by DiversityInc through a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request shows FEMA's leadership is almost entirely white and the federal agency has been subject to a disproportionate amount of discrimination claims.

Race became a salient factor in judging the effectiveness of FEMA's response after DiversityInc learned that of the organization's 19 senior staff members listed on its Web site, only one is a person of color and only five are women. The only person of color is the director of FEMA's Office of Civil Rights, Pauline C. Campbell, a black woman.

In addition, employee complaints citing race and gender bias at FEMA have increased dramatically in the past year, according to DiversityInc's findings.

Despite a Freedom of Information Act request from DiversityInc, FEMA still has not released the racial/ethnic demographics of its entire staff of approximately 2,000 employees. FEMA did tell DiversityInc that of its 10 regional directors, all are white.

Discrimination complaints are soaring at the agency. In the first three quarters of FY2005 (the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30), FEMA had more internal complaints based on race and sex than it had in 2003 and 2004 combined and more than it had in any year since 2000. The first three quarters of FY2005 saw race-based complaints more than double, from 12 in 2004 to 31 in 2005, according to data released to DiversityInc by FEMA.

The first three quarters of 2005 also saw complaints based on gender discrimination soar, up almost 400 percent, from 11 in 2004 to 43 in 2005. That also was an increase in complaints from 15 in 2003, 16 in 2002, 20 in 2001 and 17 in 2000.

The concept of diversity is prehistoric at FEMA, when compared with the in-depth and pervasive approach of companies on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. Take a look at FEMA's Web site, for example. The organization's diversity link, which should spotlight management programs, leadership, multicultural marketing and supplier diversity, doesn't do any of that. Instead, it only links to a year-long Calendar of Special Observance Programs, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, African-American History Month and Women's History Month. And, the organization's Equal Rights Officer Cadre mostly deals with complaints and resolution, according to FEMA's Web site.

Campbell, whose Equal Rights office should be providing and implementing diversity-management programs, such as employee-resource groups, mentoring programs and diversity training, did not return repeated calls from DiversityInc requesting an interview.

That Campbell is FEMA's only leader of color and that race, gender and sex complaints have increased indicates an organization whose leadership is ignorant of the benefit of having a staff that reflects the nation's demographics. FEMA lacks senior officials who are knowledgeable of culturally competent responses to victims and employees. Having leadership and staff of color becomes a life-and-death situation when it is FEMA, an organization providing relief through evacuation, food, money and medication.

This is of concern to black members of Congress as well, especially Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the U.S. House Committe on Homeland Security.

"I just spoke to Michael Chertoff [head of the Department of Homeland Security] about an hour ago and told him that I'd been in several meetings this weekend in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and I had not seen one African American who works for FEMA," Thompson told DiversityInc Monday.

"I was in New Orleans, in Jackson, Miss., in Hancock County, Miss., this weekend and at every meeting there were a number of FEMA representatives but not one was African American," Thompson said.

The dearth of leaders of color becomes even more alarming when a great many of the citizens FEMA is supposed to help are people of color and poor. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of New Orleans in 2000 was 485,000, of whom 326,000 (67 percent) were black, 136,000 white, and the remaining Asian American or Latino. Median incomes in New Orleans and the other affected areas are significantly lower than the national average. Based on poverty rate, Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation. Louisiana is the second poorest. The poverty rate in New Orleans prior to the storm was 23 percent, 76 percent higher than the national average of 13.1 percent. In Louisiana, blacks comprise 31.5 percent of the population but 69 percent of the children in poverty. Besides being poor, many families also lacked vehicles to get out of New Orleans. About 9 percent or 38,000 households in New Orleans did not have a vehicle available. Combined with low incomes and high poverty rates, it now appears that a significant number of families simply were not able to marshal the resources to evacuate and are now especially dependent on national relief efforts.

Which leader at FEMA understands the special needs of the people displaced by Katrina or how to relate to the victims—to best help them leave and to best help them rebuild their lives?

Thompson said he's already heard that black victims are not receiving equitable treatment from FEMA representatives. To make FEMA aware Friday, he sent a letter to FEMA's Acting Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response, R. David Paulison.

"I cannot ignore the anecdotal reports alleging inequitable treatment by Hurricane victims in their attempts to access immediate disaster relief services," wrote Thompson. "Actual or perceived inequity may hamper the ability of these Hurricane victims to have full access to all available federal benefits."

"Perceived inequity" is a key phrase in Thompson's letter. It is almost definite that perception cost lives in the early days of the recovery when gunshots were said to have stopped rescue and evacuation efforts. The perception was one of a city spiraling out of control as gangs of angry black people gathered unchecked, looting area stores. FEMA lacked leaders of color who could speak out against such perceptions.

Many of the residents in New Orleans were single mothers, and there is no indication that FEMA leaders thought that keeping black families together was important since many have been separated in shelters in different states. The perception: "As I saw the African Americans, mostly African-American families ripped apart, I could only think about slavery, families ripped apart, herded into what looked like concentration camps," said Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., on the rescue and relocation efforts. Her thoughts were shared by many black television viewers. FEMA lacked the leaders of color who could speak out and say that separating black families echoed slave-era atrocities.

Another perception is that there is no need to provide exceptional relief for poor black citizens. The perception: "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this—this is working very well for them," said Barbara Bush to television reporters at Houston's Astrodome. FEMA lacked a leader of color who could tell the media and the public that the organization did not share Mrs. Bush's point of view.

As a result, the following perception prevails among the nation's black communities: "George Bush doesn't care about black people," said Kanye West on an NBC telethon for hurricane relief.

FEMA's leadership is sorely lacking in representation of color, people who could have contradicted the negative perceptions of not only the black residents of New Orleans marooned at the city's Superdome but of itself and the administration.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Target Corp. Settles Discrimination Case With Federal Monitors

The Associated Press

Posted Friday, January 26, 2007 at 7:01 pm
PHILADELPHIA — Target Corp. will pay $775,000 to 14 black workers to settle discrimination complaints filed by federal civil rights monitors.

The Minneapolis-based retail giant must also train managers and supervisors at its store in Springfield, Pa., about the company’s equal employment opportunity policies, according to the settlement announced today by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The commission accused Target of violating federal civil rights regulations by “creating and condoning a racially hostile work environment” for a group of black workers at the suburban Philadelphia store beginning in July 2003, according to an agency press release.

The agency said Michael Hill, then training to become a manager, and 13 other workers were “subjected to racial harassment by a white store manager, and Hill resigned in Sept. 2004 due to “negative health effects of the discrimination” and a lack of response to his internal complaints.

Only one of the 14 workers still works for Target, commission attorney Terrence Cook said today.

Target, in a statement, said that allegations in Springfield were investigated promptly, but the company could not substantiate the claims.

“While Target vigorously continues to deny the EEOC’s allegations, the settlement was reached to resolve issues raised by the complaint without the time and expense of further contested litigation,” the company said.

Target said its Springfield store “has a diverse management team in place,” and vowed to reinforce policies and procedures there “to further prevent and report this kind of activity."

White Officer Gets $800,000 in Racial-Bias Suit

Saturday, January 27, 2007
Jim Nichols

A federal court jury awarded $800,000 to a white police officer Friday, finding the city of Cleveland racially discriminated against him after he shot a black youth.

Patrolman Edward Lentz Jr. won the verdict five years after he wounded 12-year-old Lorenzo Locklear to end a confrontation that began outside the home of Mayor-elect Jane Campbell's Shaker Square home.

During the ensuing city investigation, Lentz's bosses yanked him from patrol duty and detailed him to the police gymnasium for 652 days. That miserable duty, Lentz claimed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, lasted far longer than any given to a black officer involved in a shooting.

It was clearly punitive, Lentz contended, and made him a scapegoat to appease black community leaders protesting a string of incidents in which white officers shot black suspects.

The all-white, nine-member jury found the city deliberately and intentionally discriminated against Lentz, and did so as a re sult of an official "policy or custom." Jurors also found the city retaliated against Lentz by filing disciplinary charges to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when he complained during his protracted gym detail.

Lentz tearfully hugged family members and other supporters after the jury filed out of U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley's courtroom. He declined to comment. But lead attorney Edward Kramer said the jury sent a message that it's intolerable that the city capitulated to political pressures at the expense of an officer who, "if you scratched him, would bleed blue."

"This verdict has given him back his honor and reputation," Kramer said.

Assistant City Law Director Kevin Gibbons extended his hand to Lentz afterward. "Officer," he said solemnly, "I hope we can all get past this."

The city, however, isn't letting the matter pass. Mayor Frank Jackson said through a spokesman that Cleveland would "exhaust all legal remedies as it appeals the jury decision . . . and rejects the notion that any of the city's investigation policies discriminate against anyone for any reason."

The jury's findings are Lentz's latest vindication. City prosecutors charged him with felonious assault and falsification in 2002, but a grand jury declined to indict on the assault charge and a judge dismissed the other count. Then the city dismissed similar departmental charges.

Jury Awards $990,000 to 12 Florida Prison Nurses in Harassment Lawsuit

The Associated Press
January 27, 2007

PANAMA CITY, Florida - A jury has awarded nearly $1 million ($990,000) to 12 female nurses, concluding that Florida corrections officials condoned sexual harassment by male inmates, an attorney said.

The nurses claimed they had been harassed on their daily rounds since 1997, including while examining inmates and delivering medicine.

"It is a magnificent verdict that finally provides justice for these women, who have complained hard and loud for years with no one in the prison system listening or providing relief whatsoever," said Wes Pittman, an attorney for one of the nurses.

The nurses will share the award of $990,000, which a jury granted them Friday.

A message left on the cell phone of a Florida Department of Corrections spokesman was not immediately returned Saturday.

The nurses said the harassment happened at Washington Correctional Institution in Chipley, about 47 miles (75 kilometers) north of Panama City.

The women were among 28 nurses from four prisons who sued department for violations of human and civil rights. Three separate lawsuits against the Martin Correctional Institution, Glades Correctional Institution and Lake Correctional Institution are still pending, Pittman said.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

EEOC is Hobbled, Groups Contend Case Backlog Grows as Its Staff is Slashed, Critics Say

By Christopher LeeWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, June 14, 2006

With a shrinking workforce and a flagging budget, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is falling behind in enforcing federal civil rights laws in the workplace, labor union officials and civil rights advocates said yesterday.

The EEOC is expected to have a backlog of 47,516 charges of employment discrimination next fiscal year, up from an estimated 39,061 this year and 33,562 in 2005, say officials with the American Federation of Government Employees, citing federal figures. The agency logged 75,428 complaints in 2005 and more than 79,000 the previous year.

At the same time, President Bush's 2007 budget request for the agency is $323 million, $4 million less than it received this budget year. The agency's full-time staff, which numbers 2,343 employees, has shrunk by more than 19 percent since 2001, according to the Office of Personnel Management. A partial hiring freeze has kept the agency from filling many openings.

"The EEOC is in a state of crisis and is systematically being weakened from within to justify its elimination," Andrea E. Brooks, a national vice president for the government employees federation, said in a statement.

Nicholas M. Inzeo, director of the EEOC's Office of Field Programs, acknowledged that funding has been tight and that the agency has had to trim its staff as Bush and Congress have directed more money to national defense and homeland security.

"These are tight times for all agencies. It means that the belt gets tighter, and we understand that," Inzeo said. "We believe very strongly in what we do. And with the resources that we have, we can do a lot. We try to make every penny count."

The government employees federation represents 1,300 of the agency's employees. Brooks appeared at a news conference yesterday with officials from several other groups, including the National Organization for Women, Blacks in Government and the Alliance for Retired Americans, to call attention to what they say are serious funding and management problems at the agency. They hope to influence members of a House appropriations subcommittee who are scheduled to deliberate today on the agency's 2007 budget.

Critics say the agency was weakened by a reorganization last year that downsized several district offices, created offices in Las Vegas and Mobile, Ala., and redeployed some staff members, including managers, to enforcement, litigation, mediation and customer service positions. Inzeo responded by saying the agency is spending money on frontline staff members rather than on more supervisors and managers.

Critics are especially upset about a nationwide call center staffed by contract workers that opened in Lawrence, Kan., last year to field calls that previously had been routed to district offices.

"It's a huge waste of money," Gabrielle Martin, president of the government employees federation's national council of EEOC locals, said of the $4.9 million contract with Pearson Government Solutions. "It does a terrible job."

A draft study commissioned by the EEOC's inspector general that was published in April found that the call center handled one-fifth of the projected call volume and saved the agency six full-time positions, not the anticipated 21. The study by Job Performance Systems Inc. found that the contractors do not understand their role or the work of the agency. The call center "should be either significantly changed or discontinued," the study found.

Inzeo said the final report should reflect "extensive comments" made by agency officials. "A lot of the numbers inside that draft are internally inconsistent," he said. ". . . Our field employees are telling us that they are receiving 500,000 fewer calls a year because of the contact center. The report doesn't do the math that gets you there."

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Silent Epidemic: Sexual Abuse in the Workplace

Jan. 16, 2007

By Syndicated Columnist Cathy Harris

There is a silent epidemic in the workplace called “sexual workplace abuse.” It comes in the form of Sexism, Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. Women who experience this abuse may sometimes be the breadwinner of their households or a single parent.

With 42% of single parents, which are usually women, living below the poverty line, risking homelessness, we must identify the root of issues that affect women in the workplace. We must level the playing field.

Women have limited participation in the American society. They are still discriminated against in most aspects of society. They are discriminated against in housing, education and especially in the workplace.

There is a lack of sensitivity towards women’s plights in the workplace because employees are uneducated when it comes to handling these types of sensitive issues. Women are treated poorly by their colleagues and superiors simply because they are women. And many will end up walking away from the workplace, simply because they don’t understand their rights.

More women vote than men, so why does this silent epidemic continue to flourish in the workplace? Why have three not been enough sufficient laws designed to protect women in the workplace?

With an alarming number of women now ending up in jail and prisons, we must now look at connecting “sexual workplace abuse” and other disparities in the workplace to the present conditions in the community.

When women file discrimination complaints also called EEO complaints, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
will not protect them. EEO counselors will discourage them from filing or tell them that they filed the complaint too late. Once they file the complaint the retaliations and reprisals results in: 1) women being illegal terminated, 2) women being forced out on UNPAID stress leave, and 3) women who stay and work in the hostile work environments end up being severely depressed or suffering a nervous breakdown.

Depression is the number one barrier women face in the workplace. Many are on some type of anti-depressant. Working seems like an impossible task when you feel depressed.

According to surveys, untreated depression is a bigger obstacle to women’s professional success than other issues such as child and elder-care responsibilities, pregnancy and sexual harassment.

Some depression has been brought on by other acts of illegal stalking and intimidation both on and off the job. In federal law enforcement (Customs, Immigration, ATF, Secret Service, IRS, etc.) male superiors would even go as far as to obtain Internal Affairs Agents who are mostly white men to follow women around the neighborhood, sit outside their homes, and threaten their families - especially if the women were single parents. And of course you could not report these acts to local police departments because they were in cahoots with federal law enforcement managers and internal affairs agents.

Sexism and sex discrimination is widespread in the workplace. Minority women managers are paid less than their male counterparts and in most cases earn less than white women – even when they may have more education.

Black women are the most underrepresented group in management.

Women managers, in general, are underrepresented in most of the highest-paying industries. But with a growing number of managers now becoming women in Corporate America - over 98% of leadership books are written by men. So we must recognize that men and women lead differently and revise these books as soon as possible.

We must also recognize that it’s been men managers that have kept sensitivity, integrity, cultural diversity, Sexual Harassment and EEO training out of the workplace – similar to “the fox guarding the hen house…”

When women are forced off the job, many turn to prostitution or sell drugs. Many single parents will end up living with men they don’t necessary want to be with – just to provide for their families. Sometimes this type of cohabitation ends up in domestic violence where these women are maimed or killed.

We know that harassment all too often goes unreported for a variety of reasons such as self-blame or threats of blackmail by coworkers or employers.

What it boils down to in many cases is a sense of powerlessness that we experience in the workplace, and our acceptance of a certain level of inability to control our careers and professional destinies. This sense of powerlessness is particularly troubling when research has shown that individuals with graduate education - experience more harassment than do persons with less than a high school diploma.

The message is when you try to obtain power through education; the harassment in general becomes worse.

Sexual Harassment is very pervasive and occurs today at an alarming rate. Statistics show that anywhere from 42 to 90 percent of women will experience some form of sexual harassment during their employed lives. But the statistics do not fully tell the story of the anguish of women who have been told in various ways on the first day of a job that sexual favors are expected; or the story of women who were sexually assaulted by men with whom they continued to work.

In federal law enforcement where sexual harassment is rampant throughout the agencies, women are constantly hounded for sex and many times will become the victims of “sexual assaults” at the hands of male co-workers and superiors as a result of “bully management.”

Male managers caught sexual harassing women are sometimes forced to transfer to the southern border ports where working conditions are not up to everyday standards. That’s why “border ports” are breeding grounds for “sexual harassment” and “sexual assaults” of women and children who enter into this country.

Some acts of sexual harassment includes: Sexist or stereotypical remarks about a person’s clothing, body, appearance or activities; harassing or abusive remarks regarding a person’s sexual activities or gender, religion, national origin, race, color, disability, sexual orientation, parental status, genetic information, or age; jokes, stories, remarks or discussions relating to the bases mentioned above; descriptions of sexual acts; posting graphic or offensive pictures; deliberately touching, pinching, patting, or giving inappropriate looks to another person; pressure for dates or sexual activity; unwelcome telephone calls, letters, electronic mail, etc. of a harassing nature; demands for sexual favors.

Remember the harasser can be anyone - a supervisor, peer, non-employee, or a contractor. Your job is liable under the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) law when it knew or should have known of the conduct, unless the agency can demonstrate that it took quick and appropriate action.

We also know what happens when we “tell.” We know that when harassment is reported the common reaction is disbelief or worse. Women who “tell” lose their jobs. Women even reported that those who reported acts of harassment not only lost their jobs, but they were accused of stealing and charges were brought against them.

Women who “tell” become emotionally wasted. Sometimes it takes months after a complaint or lawsuit was filed to begin feeling alive again.

Women who “tell” are not always supported by other women. This reaction only represents attempts to distance ourselves from the pain of the harassment experience.

What we are learning about harassment requires recognizing it when we encounter it. We are learning painfully that there is no shield of protection for us. Since that shield has failed us many fear reporting the acts and others feel it would do no good.

This silent epidemic result in less than 5 percent of women victims files claims of harassment. But a recent report states that that number could be even smaller. The law needs to be more responsive to the reality of our experiences.

As we are learning, enforcing the law along won’t terminate the problem. What we are seeking is equality of treatment in the workplace.

Sexual harassment reinforces the stereotypical idea that women are objects, which undermines their basic human rights.

Yet other employees and the courts downplay the seriousness of the behavior (seeing it as normal sexual attraction between people) or commenting on the sensitivity of the victim.

These unwanted advances do not cease, which prompts many to question whether these advances derive from genuine interest in the person, or a need to feel powerful.

Many women are angry because this awful thing called harassment exists in a harsh and demeaning way. Many believe it is criminal and should be punished as such. It is a form of violence against women as well as a form of economic coercion, and our experiences suggest that it won’t just go away.

We are angry because for a brief moment we believed that if the law allowed for women to be hired in the workplace, and if we worked hard like our male counterparts, equality would be achieved. Now we are realizing this is not true.

The reality is that this sense of inequality is to keep women in their place in the workplace.

How do we capture our rage and turn it into positive energy? Positive energy would be the power of women working together, whether it is in the political arena, in the context of a lawsuit, in community service or assisting women to become entrepreneurs.

When a woman is beaten or raped, either physically or mentally, these are human rights violations! We must seek to bring human rights home and guarantee the rights of all people especially women.

This “mental terrorism” against women must be halted at all costs!

Making the workplace a safer, more productive place for ourselves and our daughters should be a priority for all of us.

Definitions:

sex discrimination: discrimination based on sex and especially against women

sexism: discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women; attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.

sexual harassment: the making of unwanted and offensive sexual advances or of sexually offensive remarks or acts, especially by one in a superior or supervisory position or when acquiescence to such behavior is a condition of continued employment, promotion, or satisfactory evaluation.

sexual misconduct: conduct geared toward a sexual nature.

sexual predator: a person who’s behavior is controlled by sexual behavior a majority of the time; one that victimizes, plunders, or destroys, especially for one’s own gain.

Cathy Harris is available for Lectures, Seminars and Workshops. She is former 27- year Senior Customs Inspector/Officer who filed 10 EEO Complaints including a Sexual Harassment. She is the mother of two daughters and author of new series book “How To Take Control of Your Own Life” (
www.HowToTakeControl.com) and upcoming series book “Discrimination 101” (www.Discrimination101.com. She can be contacted through your company at Angels Press, P.O. Box 870849, Stone Mountain, GA 30087, Phone: (800) 797-8663, Fax: (678) 254-5018, Website: www.angelspress.com, info@angelspress.com You can read Cathy’s other columns at www.angelspress.com/columns.html .

Copyright (c) Cathy Harris - 2007. All Rights Reserved.