Race, Racism and the Law 
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Employment Discrimination

United States Report on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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Vernellia R. Randall
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 Employment Discrimination. Improvements in economic conditions have recently reduced the national unemployment rate to its lowest level in 30 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Black Americans was 8.0 percent in 1999, compared to a national rate of 4.2 percent. Both figures have declined from the previous year (the national rate was 4.5 percent in 1998, the rate for Blacks was 8.9 percent). By comparison, the estimated unemployment rate for Hispanics in 1999 was 6.4 percent. The highest rate of unemployment is found among Native Americans on reservations (in some cases over 50 percent).

Despite strong legal protections safeguarding the right to free choice of employment and to just and fair conditions of employment, the exclusion of people from employment opportunities on racial and ethnic grounds remains a significant problem in the United States. Besides hiring, discrimination persists in the areas of training, promotion, tenure, layoff policies, and the work environment. Approximately 80,000 complaints of employment discrimination are filed annually with the EEOC; an additional 60,000 discrimination complaints are filed with state fair employment practices agencies. In recent years, the government has settled numerous cases involving allegations of racial discrimination in employment.

Some recent examples of EEOC cases that have resulted in significant settlements for plaintiffs are:

A $1.25 million settlement of a class action lawsuit against American Seafoods Company, a Seattle-based, major participant in the U.S. fishing industry. The suit charged the employer with subjecting eighteen Vietnamese-American workers to discriminatory working conditions based on their national origin.

Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Missouri. The suit alleged that the employer discriminated against sixty-two Filipino registered nurses in wages, assignments, and other terms and conditions of employment based on national origin.

A consent decree settling a lawsuit against American National Can Company. The suit alleged that the employer subjected Black employees to racial harassment, including racially offensive graffiti, name-calling and jokes. The employer is providing $275,000 to a class of ninety employees and is establishing a $100,000 Partnership Training Program, designed to improve employee relations and help employees enhance their problem solving skills. The Department of Labor promotes quality workplaces that are free of discrimination through a multi-faceted strategy that includes civil rights enforcement, public education and communication, and strategic partnerships and cooperation. The Department of Labor enforces laws that ban discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors in all aspects of employment, including compensation. The laws also require that federal contractors take pro-active steps to ensure that all individuals have equal employment opportunities. These laws help prevent pay discrimination by requiring contractors to conduct self-audits, which may bring to light otherwise unrecognized pay inequities.




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Last Updated:
Friday, October 05, 2001  

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