Racial Discrimination Cuts Both Ways | DCR Workforce Blog

Racial Discrimination Cuts Both Ways

Racial Discrimination Cuts Both WaysThis year, we have seen many high profile cases in which deadly actions were committed that were allegedly racially motivated. The fact remains that some communities around the world live in a state of high alert against intrusion from “unfriendly neighbors”, with a stash of weapons to aid in their self-defense. The Equal Rights Amendment and other legislation were enacted to ensure that the same attitudes cannot be carried over to the workplace. But, the number of laws against such discrimination is far outnumbered by the cases of discrimination, which are taken to court.

At the mention of discrimination, one immediately conjures up an image of the oppressor and the oppressed. Unfortunately, racial biases affect all groups. In an instance of racial discrimination, a white attorney named Dulin, who worked for Greenwood Leflore Hospital, was suddenly terminated by the Board of Commissioners. With 20 years of continuous service with the hospital, the attorney knew that the Chairman of the Board instructed that he be replaced by an Afro-American lawyer.  When Dulin took the matter to court in 2012 alleging racial discrimination, he was awarded $12,000 in back pay and $70,000 in compensatory damages. The Hospital appealed the excessive damages and the case was decided this week.

  • The Board’s contention was that the 86-year old Mr. Dulin’s performance was unsatisfactory and that he gave bad legal advice and tended to nod off during meetings.
  • Mr. Dulin questioned why this negative performance assessment was provided very much after the decision to terminate him was taken, and never before.
  • The remarks of the Chairman of the Board specifying the race to which Mr.Dulin’s successor must belong, were clearly racially discriminatory and interpreted as such by the courts.

While dismissing the appeal, the court also suggested that $150,000 would be a better number for the damages sustained. The court refused to reduce the award of $82,000..

To avoid getting embroiled in similar disputes, employers need to remember that they need to:

Exercise care to keep words and actions racially neutral.

  • Not ask workers/applicants for information about their race, unless as a part of efforts at affirmative action. Remember that the provision of such information is always voluntary.
  • Balance any affirmative action initiatives with protections against discrimination for other aspirants and employees who are not members of the targeted group.
  • Ensure that any negative feedback is recorded and documented before initiating any adverse action like firing a worker.
  • Institute workplace policies which reinforce these rights, and train all recruiters, hiring managers and supervisors to follow these policies and enforce them at all times.
  • Include non-employees (temporary workers) at the workplace by including anti-discriminatory policies in all contractual agreements with staffing suppliers and by holding them responsible for adherence.
  • Protect all workers from racial slurs, jokes, comments, cartoons, drawings, symbols, gestures and other physical or verbal conduct based on an individual’s race.
  • Note that refusing to hire anyone or firing anyone because they belong to a specific race is illegal.
  • Never ask a worker to only work with his or her own race, or man a position in a territory which predominantly houses people of that race.
  • Protect each worker’s right to report discriminatory treatment at the workplace, either to the management or to outside authorities like the EEOC.

The Title VI of the Civil Rights Act affords an inviolable right against discrimination to everyone and cannot be toyed with. Simply stated, no aspect of a person’s workplace experience, whether it be hiring, firing, pay scale, promotion, layoff, training, benefits or any other condition may be determined by a person’s race – either positively or negatively.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.