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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.

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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.