The Ties That Bind, part 2
By Jamie Charter, M.S., CPDM
"If you smile at me
I will understand
'Cause that is something
Everybody everywhere does in the same language"
(By David Crosby, Crosby, Stills and Nash)
The intent of this article series is to raise awareness about diversity and promote anti-discrimination and anti-harassment through understanding of our unique differences as people in the workplace.
We do not get to choose who ends up at the desk next to us. Therefore, with this in mind, it is essential that we develop tools to embrace each other's uniqueness, no matter what pre-existing viewpoints are held and stereotypes.
In the first component of this article series, The Ties that Bind, we discussed the Fair Employment Housing Act law (FEHA) that provides protection from harassment or discrimination in employment because of:
* Age (40 and over)
* Religious Creed
* Denial of Family and Medical Care Leave
* Disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS
* Marital Status
* Medical Condition (cancer and genetic characteristics)
* National Origin
* Sexual Orientation
Discriminatory practices according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), include:
* Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age;
* Retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
* Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities; and
* Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability.
Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.
This article, part 2, will focus on national origin.
What is National origin Discrimination?
Pursuant to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, individuals are protected against employment discrimination based on national origin, as well as race, color, religion and sex.
According to the EEOC, it is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant because of national origin.
No one can be denied equal employment opportunity because of the following:
Linguistic characteristics common to specific ethnic groups
Additionally, Equal employment opportunity cannot be denied because of marriage or association with persons of a national origin group; membership or association with specific ethnic promotion groups; Attendance or participation in school, churches, temples or mosques generally associated with a national origin group; Surname associated with a national origin group.
Harassment based on national origin is in violation of Title VII. Ethnic slurs, verbal or physical conduct because of an individual's nationality are considered harassment if these acts create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, unreasonably interfere with work performance or negatively impact an individual's employment opportunities.
Speak-English only Rule
An employer must show the necessity for conducting business when requiring employees to speaking English, only, at all times on the job in order to avoid a violation of Title VII. If it is the belief of the employer that the English-only rule is critical for business purposes, they must be clear with employees by telling them when they must speak English. Also, they need o communicate the consequences of violating the rule. If the employer did not notify employees of the speak-English -Only Rule, any negative employment decision based on breaking the rule will be considered evidence of discrimination.
It is incumbent upon an employer to show a legitimate and nondiscriminatory rationale for denying the employment opportunity because of the person's accent or speaking manner. Investigations into discrimination complaints will review the person's qualifications and whether their accent or speaking manner had a detrimental effect on job performance.
If applicants or employees are required to be fluent in English, this may violate Title VII if the sole purpose in adopting the rule was to exclude individuals of a particular national origin, and is not tied to job performance.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a $635,000 settlement of an employment discrimination lawsuit against Salomon Smith Barney (Salomon), a subsidiary of Citigroup and the nation's second largest retail brokerage firm. The suit, filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was brought by EEOC on behalf of 13 current or former employees of Salomon's Greenwich Street Data Center who were subjected to disparate treatment and harassment based on their race and/or national origin.
The suit, filed in September 2000, alleged that Salomon discriminated against five charging parties employed as computer operators due to their race and nationality African-American, Haitian, Nigerian, and West Indian as well as a class of other similarly-situated employees by subjecting them to repeated and offensive comments that created a hostile work environment. The suit also charged the global financial firm with paying the class of workers disparate wages, denying them salary increases, promotions, and equal opportunities for promotion because of their race and/or countries of origin.
SETTLEMENT AMOUNT: $635,000
What can be learned from this case? This employer agreed to take major steps to enhance the promotional opportunities of the four charging parties. Additionally, the Consent Decree, which is relevant to all workplaces, required this employer to:
* Continue to maintain a policy prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and a procedure for employees to report complaints of discrimination;
* Post a notice of its policies, practices, and intent not to discriminate against employees;
* Provide all managers and supervisors with equal employment opportunity training "As the nation becomes increasingly diverse, it is in employers' best interest to provide equal opportunities to all workers, regardless of their race or national origin, in order to attain and retain the best possible talent. "This case should remind every employer from Wall Street to Main Street that targeting groups of workers for discrimination not only violates the law, it also damages the corporate culture and hurts the bottom line by decreasing productivity and morale." -EEOC Commission Chairperson, Ida Castro.
Author, consultant and educator Jamie Charter has been providing employment and litigation consulting services for 23 years through Charter and Company employer resource consultants in Soquel, California.
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