OP-ED: ECONOMY: Racial Discrimination in U.S. Workplace – Rights & Wrongs

Many Latinos have expressed feeling  discriminated against in the U.S. workplace, both on the job and before they even get an interview. Photo (c) HuffPost 2017Many Latinos have expressed feeling discriminated against in the U.S. workplace, both on the job and before they even get an interview. Photo (c) HuffPost 2017

Looking for work is an arduous task. You send out resumes, sometimes unsure if you are really even interested in the job. You’ll come across interviews where you realize you have made a mistake applying, or where you simply don’t “click” with the interviewer. It’s time-consuming and oftentimes incredibly frustrating. It takes a lot of hit and miss to end up in a job that makes you happy.

What if all of that effort and pursuit of suitable employment is sabotaged simply by the first or last name on your resume? If your name is “Diego Garcia,” no one is going to think you are Irish. Many Latinos have expressed feeling that they are being discriminated against in the U.S. workplace, both on the job and before they even get an interview.

According to research conducted by CNN and a Kaistwer Family Foundation poll on race in America, 57% of Hispanics say discrimination against them is the root of many of the problems they face today. 15% of Hispanics surveyed said they had been discriminated against or treated unfairly at work because of their race or ethnicity as recently as the last month. Further, 20% of Hispanics felt they had been denied a job they were qualified for simply because of their race or ethnicity.

All in a Name?

Photo (c) Unique 2017

Names which were considered “ethnic” or “black” needed to send 15 resumes to get called back. Photo (c) Unique 2017

Job applicants with “white sounding” names enjoyed a 10% call back rate.

Names which were considered “ethnic” or “black” needed to send 15 resumes to get called back.

This would suggest a 50% increase in call backs for seemingly white applicants.

Separate, but Not Equal

Photo (c) Interview Guru 2017

A Hispanic employee who previously worked at Quietflex surmised that on average, Hispanic employees made $80 per day, while Vietnamese employees made $110 per day while working fewer hours. Photo (c) Interview Guru 2017

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Faculty Research associates Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan conducted an experiment where they sent out resumes to prospective employers in Chicago and Boston. All of the information on the resumes was the same except for the name of the applicant. Almost 5,000 resumes were sent out, highlighting varying degrees of skills and experiences to apply for a wide range of positions.

Quietflex, a factory in Texas that manufactures ducts for air conditioners, was the subject of a discrimination lawsuit which contended that workers there were segregated by race. In one department where components for the ducts are made, all but four of the 60 workers are Vietnamese. This is referred to as “Department 910.”

In another department that finishes the ducts, every one of the 80 employees is of Hispanic origin. Employees complain the work is harder, more dangerous and less lucrative. Many tried to transfer to Department 910 but were refused.

Quietflex claimed it had a solid record of hiring immigrant workers and treating them well. Over 90% of their employees are immigrants. They denied any pay disparities based on race. Employees are paid $10-14 per hour depending on duties and experience.

Hispanic employees contend they have to work harder while getting paid less than their Vietnamese counterparts. A Hispanic employee who previously worked at Quietflex surmised that on average, Hispanic employees made $80 per day, while Vietnamese employees made $110 per day while working fewer hours. After an investigation, the employment commission concurred with these findings.

Elsewhere, a bakery in Connecticut by the name of Chef Solutions was under fire for threatening to deport Hispanic workers if they voted to unionize.

Decoster Farms in Iowa agreed to a $1.5 million settlement after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued on behalf of Hispanic workers. Five Mexican employees claimed they were raped and subjected to abuse by superiors in an egg-producing plant.

Defend Your Rights

Photo (c) Bloomberg 2017

on’t go into an interview suspicious of racism or discrimination. However, keep your wits about you, and know what potential employers can and cannot do. Photo (c) Bloomberg 2017

So what can you do to protect yourself? Work is hard enough without having to deal with discrimination based on what you look like or the sound of your name. You want to be a valued employee, but you don’t want to be victimized either.

When applying for a job, always give your prospective employer the benefit of the doubt. Don’t go into an interview suspicious of racism or discrimination. However, keep your wits about you, and know what potential employers can and cannot do.

Employers can ask you if you are a U.S. citizen, but they are not legally allowed to ask if you were born in the United States. You can defer politely if asked, and simply repeat where you live. You do not have to submit to being photographed until you are hired. You do not have to answer any questions about your age, religion or disability, other than if it relates to how an employer can accommodate you.

Proving Discrimination

Photo (c) IStock 2017

Employers tolerating racist jokes or racist behavior in the workplace is considered abuse and is illegal. Photo (c) IStock 2017

Proving discrimination in the workplace can be difficult. You must show you were subjected to something negative or abusive because of your race.

If your workplace has units which seem segregated based on race, this may be discrimination. If Hispanic employees work in the back while white employees work in the front, this is also possible evidence of discrimination. Other races making more money or climbing the ladder more quickly than their Hispanic counterparts screams racial discrimination. An employer showing a preference for certain races to answer the phone is suspect behavior. Employers tolerating racist jokes or racist behavior in the workplace is considered abuse and is illegal.

If you feel you are being discriminated against, bring it up to your immediate supervisor first. As a further step, if needed, you can go to that person’s superior. If this does not remedy your situation, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ask them to investigate your situation.

They will need to establish factors such as the following:

  • You are qualified for your job and performing well.
  • You were denied a job, or benefit of the job, that others of a different race enjoy.
  • Your company refused to promote you and found an applicant of a different race with fewer qualifications than you.

Your employer will have a chance to defend their actions. They will be given the opportunity to show their decisions were business-based and not discriminatory. Your performance reviews, work record, etc. will be pursued and used as supporting evidence. Ultimately, it is you and the EEOC who has to prove discrimination. The last step is hiring a private attorney.

If you are miserable at work or working among people you feel are discriminating against you based on race, it could even be time to reevaluate your choice of employment. Everyone deserves to work in a place where they feel respected and valued. That being said, fighting for your rights is essential, and calling attention to discrimination is so important, especially in America’s current political culture. Everything we can do to end prejudice is a step in the right direction.