Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

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Introduction

Discrimination is not a new concept in the United States. However, despite the fact that people have been discriminated against for many reasons – gender, race, religion, sexuality – this does not give reason that people should simply stand for it. Great strides have been taken to combat discrimination in the workplace, but there are still steps to take and information to analyze in order to understand, diagnose, and cure the problem of racial discrimination.

Problem

One of the problems with racial discrimination in the workplace is the lack of promotion by managers and other supervisors based on the view that they have of race. To have had a job for years while working as hard as one can to move up, and simply not getting this opportunity based on race. The inability to move up the corporate ladder because of a human quality that cannot be controlled is not right. When an employee in this position asks about this lack of promotion, there always seems to be some excuse as to why it cannot be done. Although these could be solid reasons, it makes the hard-working employee feel as if they are being discriminated against if they see another employee of a different (the “dominant” color perhaps) is given a raise and/or a promotion. It is made worse if this person has less work experience, or was moved up from a lower position. When employers act in this unfair way, racial discrimination is the only possible explanation for the situation and it generates unhappy employees and can affect the quality of work that they do.

Statistics

Unfortunately, there is still a strong record of workplace discrimination in the United States today – in recent years, as well. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in a press release published in February of 2013, the department had received over 99,000 private-sector workplace discrimination charges during the 2012 fiscal year (which runs from October 1 until September 30). This number was, however, down from the fiscal year 2011. “The year-end data also show that retaliation (37,836), race (33,512) and sex discrimination (30,356), which includes allegations of sexual harassment and pregnancy were, respectively, the most frequently filed charges” (Press Release, 2013). One positive in this dark situation is that racial discrimination cases have gone down in numbers, but a few less is still a few too many.

In a recent case of racial discrimination, an employee at Coca Cola Refreshments USA Inc. filed a large complaint about racial discrimination against the company. The complaint was filed jointly by 16 current and former employees, all black or Hispanic. They claimed an “epidemic culture of racism” (Greenwald, 2012) that was caused by the company’s management; the complaining witnesses were located in Queens, New York. The published article about the case initially said that “black and Hispanic workers ‘are typically assigned to the most undesirable and physically dangerous positions, and to tasks that are outside of their job descriptions; meanwhile, the managers contravene the established seniority system by giving better jobs and more overtime hours to workers with less seniority than minority workers’” (Greenwald, 2012). The investigation into the issue found that the hours and overtime opportunities for white truck drivers were far superior to those of minority drivers. It also found that promotion opportunities were not given to minorities, but instead to whites, despite performance records or years of experience within the company.

Coca Cola has commented: “We have investigated, and will continue to investigate, all allegations of discrimination and harassment brought to our attention. We are confident that this matter will be resolved fairly and justly through the judicial system” (Greenwald, 2012) in their official statement about the case.

What is being done?

Some companies may be innocent in their discrimination if they are as large a corporation as Coca Cola. Something called ‘black paranoia’ is a term that has been coined in recent years because of the accusations of racial discrimination: isn’t that racial discrimination in itself? Some argue that middle-class African Americans move too fast in their accusations of racial discrimination. Dinesh D’Souza says that this ‘black paranoia is “‘dysfunctional aspect of black culture, a feature mainly of middle- class African American life’ and that this rage represents ‘the frustration of pursuing unearned privileges’” (Feagan, Early & McKinney, n.d.). But it begs the question: is it possible that all black people would cry wolf in order to get benefits? The answer is no because this is one of the racist ideas that continues this tradition.

The problems faced by African Americans in the workplace, as far as discrimination, are very real problems. Any confusion or malfeasance in a case of discrimination can be easily solved by launching a full investigation. There is no reason not to investigate simply because of the new concept of ‘black paranoia.’ This “perspective suggests that African Americans have mainly themselves to blame for mental health problems associated with their racial histories” (Feagin, et al, n.d.). Unfortunately, much of this supposed paranoia is a reality for many African Americans in the workplace and the need for employment law becomes essential.

African Americans that are working in a dominantly white workplace, historically, have felt frustration, anger, rage, and even anguish because they are not judged on their hard work or job performance, but on the color of their skin. This is an impossible challenge because no one can control how they are born, only how they use their skills to improve their life. Unfortunately, this rage and anguish are possibly expressed in their words or behavior at work – it is unnecessary stress for someone who is simply trying to maintain their life. Of Feagan et al.’s focus study, the following was said:

All the focus group respondents indicated in one way or another that they suffer substantial and recurring stress and frustration because of racially hostile workplaces. As one Midwestern respondent put it, her symptoms of stress do not happen ‘on weekends or after five o'clock.’ In the focus group interviews there is a consensus that much of their life-damaging stress at work does not come from the performance of the job itself but from hostile work environments (Feagan, et al, n.d.).

Like the focus group tells, a hostile work environment creates a lot of stress for an employee. In the current economy, it is still difficult to find a decent job or even any job. So, of course, it is nearly impossible for an employee to perform well at their job if it is both hard to do and they have to deal with racial discrimination.

The article also mentions that some participants in the focus group said that they had general feelings of anger, and of frustration. Others had specific examples of why they felt so much anger at work and frustration in dealing with a hostile work environment. “A common source of anger is white use of racist epithets or similar derogatory references, which can trigger painful individual and collective memories” (Feagan, et al, n.d.). As mentions, there are people that have to work stressful jobs in order to maintain their lives. However, how should they feel with this stressful job is also combined with people who purposely make racist remarks, or suggest that a person is a walking stereotype?

Quality in Manufacturing

According to John Evans, competition is changing and the need for new talent, because of changing business practices, will increase. Organizations, because of this change, will need to update their workplaces accordingly. In the competition for hard-working employee talent, there is absolutely no room for racial discrimination. “Organizations will need to make a greater investment in training and education, and place a greater emphasis on professional certifications, which will evolve based on organizations’ demands for demonstrated competency from its employees” (Evans, p. 15, 2014). There are many aspects that make up a successful and quality work environment. Three important aspects are performance, reliability, and perceived quality (Evans, p. 15, 2014). These things can be affected deeply by a mark of racial discrimination by management and other employees at a company.

The performance of a business and its employees can be defined as “a product’s primary operating characteristics” (Evans, p. 15, 2014). Employee performance within a company such as Coca Cola Refreshments Inc. or any other food service is vital to the successful running of the company itself. The truck drivers are an important step between the production plant and the customers that purchase the product at the stores. The employees that bottle and mix the product are also crucial. As stated earlier, in the focus study about racial discrimination in the workplace, those who feel as if they are being discriminated against because of race are often going through their shift at work frustrated, angry, or depressed. This is not the description of a happy, productive employee. A hostile work environment is connected directly to the performance of the employees and any production processes.

A company’s overall reliability is defined as “the probability of a product’s surviving over a specified period of time under stated conditions of use” (Evans, p. 15, 2014). It is not easy to trust that a company delivers a great product if they have a history of employee discrimination. As mentioned, employee happiness and the feelings generated within a hostile work environment affect how a person performs at work. There is no room for racial discrimination within a company of hard-working employees that have the opportunity to be rewarded for all of their hard work.

The perception of a company’s image by its customers is nearly crucial and can be severely damaged by a serious case of racial discrimination within the company. Perceived quality can be defined as “subjective assessment resulting from image, advertising, or brand names” (Evans, p. 15, 2014). This concept is related to the other two because they form a sort of a triangle that, with happy employees, is free of discrimination and full of great job performance, objective management, and a consistently good product.

Results

As far as benefits, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that there have been monetary and non-monetary victories from these cases of racial discrimination. More than 23,000 people have received these benefits over the 2012 fiscal year. These reinforcements include “mediation, settlements, conciliations, and withdrawals with benefits… the number of charges resolved through successful conciliation, the last step in the EEOC administrative process prior to litigation, increased by 18 percent over 2011” (Press Release, 2013). A positive aspect reported during this fiscal year is that discrimination cases have been receiving primarily good results in court.

Conclusion

Discrimination is never an acceptable tool for employers to use against their employees. A large part of a company’s success is how they treat all kegs in the machine – including that employee that they may not like for an unsavory reason. People have fought and died for the cause of racial equality, but unfortunately, it is not yet something that the United States has outgrown.

References

Evans, J. (2014). Part 1: Foundations of Quality and Performance Excellence. In Quality & Performance Excellence, 7th edition: pp. 1-148. Cengage Learning.

Feagin, J.R., Early, K.E. & McKinney, K.D. (N.d.). Racial Discrimination in the Workplace: The Social Generation of Anger and Rage. Race, Racism, and the Law. Retrieved from http://racism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=294:afram02j-01&catid=62&Itemid=233&showall=&limitstart=3

Greenwald, J. (2012). Coca-Cola Unit Sued for Alleged Racial Discrimination. Workforce. Retrieved from http://www.workforce.com/articles/coca-cola-unit-sued-for-alleged-racial-discrimination.

Press Release. (2013). EOC Reports Nearly 100,000 Job Bias Charges in Fiscal Year 2012. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-28-13.cfm