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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.














Sunday, January 14, 2007

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The Appearance of Justice

Dec. 18, 2006
By Syndicated Columnist Cathy Harris
One of America’s deep, dark secrets is “workplace abuse.” Victims of discrimination are speaking out from all over the country.

There is a growing workplace battleground where a record number of employees are being fired, demoted and otherwise punished for speaking out against discrimination and harassment such as sexism, sexual harassment, sex and race discrimination, stalking, intimidation and other acts of workplace abuse.

We need to prepare to expose it. These abusive workplace managers (bully management) have no incentives to stop their abusive and hostile acts against their employees.

When one feels that they were treated unfairly in the workplace, the only choice they have is to file an “EEO complaint” also called a “discrimination complaint” also known as “workplace abuse.”

In the federal government, many know first-hand that the federal government, the EEOC (
www.eeoc.gov), the Office of Special Counsel (www.osc.gov), the Merit System Protection Board (www.mspb.gov) and the National Labor Relations Board (www.nlrb.gov) were all designed to provide the appearance of justice.

They were designed to “control” the federal government’s exposure to criticism by their employees. Without them, the federal government would appear to the world to be hypocrites. It might affect the federal government’s ability to “control” foreign and domestic policies.

The current laws were written to protect employees from workplace abuses, but the judges (EEOC, MSPB, and Federal Court) - ALL interpret the laws as if they were written to protect the agencies.

EEOC has clearly failed its mission to protect employees in the workplace. It does not work and needs to be abolished and replaced with something that will work.

Many victims are unsure of their options. Once educated on their options, many can make more sound decisions on what steps to take.

Everyone must understand how the system works. When victims find out there is no justice by filing an EEOC complaint, they lose some of their spirit to continue to fight. It’s a rude awakening but for many, it’s all the more reason they must continue to fight. Once you file one complaint, whether you filed it on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age - your life goes under a microscope. You will end up filing more complaints referred to as “retaliation complaints” especially if you work for the federal government. In other words, the reprisals will be so severe once you file one complaint, that your managers will alienate you away from your co-workers and even use them to carry out selfish acts of harassment against you. You are left with no other choice but to file another complaint.

The goal of abusive managers is to “break the spirit” of good, hard working, honest employees. When you break the spirit of people – you are left with a person who can’t think for themselves. Take for instance the alarming statistics of black women who work on the federal level. One out of every 20 black women (if not less) - 1) have been on stress leave, 2) is on stress leave, 3) or is contemplating going on stress leave. Why the disparities? After filing an EEOC complaint, chances are whether you are a male but especially a female – you will end up on UNPAID stress leave because of the retaliation. Other repercussions for filing a discrimination complaint is: 1) filing for bankruptcy because there is little or no income to pay your mortgage, 2) getting divorced because of the mental and financial pressure on your spouse and family, 3) loss of good health and life insurance because you are off from work for over a year, 4) loss of your health and spirit, and 5) for many becoming homeless.

As Corporate America moves increasingly more towards diversity, they would have to learn to treat people with dignity. They must embrace fair hiring not only because it is the right thing to do also because it’s good business.

Over the last decade the names of major companies sued for discrimination read like a “Who’s Who” of American business. Just to name a few: Coca Cola - $192 million settlement; Texaco - $176 million settlement; Denny’s - $42 million settlement; Adams Mark - $8 million settlement; Shoney’s - $132 million settlement; Los Angeles County Police Department - $100 million settlement (largest settlement in its history for racial and gender discrimination); AstraAB, a pharmaceutical company - $9.8 million (sexual harassment class action); Sheet Metal Workers International Union - $2.6 million.
African American Microsoft employees are seeking class-action status for a $5 billion racial bias lawsuit against the computer software giant claiming that the company had a “plantation mentality.” In 1999 government statistics showed that only 2.6 percent of Microsoft's 21,429 employees, and only 1.6 percent of the company's 5,155 managers, were black. African American employees were repeatedly passed over for promotions, paid less than white employees, and subjected to harassment and retaliation when they complained.

Burger King, the nation’s number 2 fast food chain, has been socked with a $103 million lawsuit on race, age and disability discrimination.

Wal-mart’s 1.6 million current and former women workers at their 3,473 stores are seeking class-action status which would make it the largest ever in the history of this country.

Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $54 million to settle claims that it underpaid and did not promote women. A few days later, aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. agreed to pay up to $72.5 million to settle similar allegations.

Remember class-action lawsuits change policies and procedures. This administration which is anti-union, anti-family and anti-people have done everything they could to weaken laws dealing with class-action lawsuits.

In some companies or agencies, abuse comes in forms of intimidation and harassment which not only pollutes the entire workforce but it affects the taxpayers as well. For instance in the case of the United States Customs Service where over 1300 African American women international travelers in Chicago had to come together to file a class-action lawsuit against U.S. Customs for abusive and illegal pat-downs and strip-searches. Eventually only eighty-seven (87) women received justice and were awarded $21,000 individually, out of a $2 million dollar settlement. This is a prime example of how unmanageable managers and employees and their policies and practices can also affect the public and taxpayers. To this day many of these women fear the government and are afraid to board airplanes.

Other cases where “workplace abuse” played a role in abuse against the public or taxpayers were the patrons vs. the Denny’s Restaurants, and the Adams Mark Hotels which was the largest racial discrimination settlement by the hotel chain ($8 million). Also, don’t forget about how IRS agents went on “Gestapo Type Raids” and carried out a rampage against good, hard working taxpayers. Many taxpayers ended up committing suicide because their homes, cars and other possessions were taken away from them illegally. Everyone should remember Jennifer Long, a whistleblower, who testified against the IRS abuses.

The rise in overtime lawsuits, filed under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) (
http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/flsa), has been described as the “nation’s fastest-growing legal battlefront between workers and their employers.”

Changes do occur as proven by Denny’s and Texaco who now have a “three strikes and you are out” policy for their supervisors. They are very serious about discrimination.

Many also feel that companies such as Texaco, Master Card International and Denny’s, are not backing away from their commitment to diversity. These corporations are continuing to invest in programs that will institute their understanding of the diverse workforces they employ.

Some companies welcome women, African Americans or gays, but are horrible at welcoming the disabled. If you don’t have an inclusive workforce, people know that. The word “a diverse market” gets out pretty fast. You have to “walk the walk.”

Many women and African Americans employees who experience blatant acts of sex and racial discrimination are the last hired and the first fired. These minorities are treated as if they are second and third class citizens in their own country. Article 5 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. But because of the current economy, this is exactly what’s taking place in workplaces all over the United States.

African Americans are being fired at an alarming rate, while other managers and employees bring in their relatives to replace them.

Eighty percent (80%) of complaints that enter into any civil rights office is “employment discrimination.” Women and African Americans should not and cannot afford to back away from the workplace. Not everyone can become an entrepreneur and open their own business so we must keep pushing forward to provide opportunities for people.

We can no longer turn a blind eye to these types of disparities. Something must now be done!

The answers are in the halls of Congress and unless the public/taxpayers take another look at “workplace abuse” and demand change, people will continue to become victims.

With Corporations continuing to downsize and many jobs being outsourced and sent overseas, there must be some type of public outcry that allows “workplace abuses” without constraints or checks and balances. We are left with no other choices but to take action and move forward to change the system. We can no longer afford to remain quiet.

Our kids must understand that even though there is an appearance of justice there is NO JUSTICE when you file a complaint in the workplace. They must learn that when they leave the comfort of their homes, there is something very sinister out there called “workplace abuse.” They must understand that they have no other choice but to open their own businesses.

If you are contemplating filing a discrimination complaint, protect yourself by learning your rights. Read the “Top Ten Tips on How To Fight Discrimination in the Workplace” at
http://www.discrimination101.com/TopTenTips.html

Cathy Harris is a discrimination consultant. She filed 10 EEO complaints including a sexually harassment before she retired from the federal government in July 2005. She is available for Lectures, Seminars and Workshops. She is the 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 Her other columns can be found at http://www.angelspress.com/columns.html
Copyright (c) Cathy Harris - 2007 - All Rights Reserved.