Racial Discrimination vs Equal Opportunity
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
by Natalie Davis
Mr. William Clay
What do you think is the most reported form of workplace discrimination in today’s society? Given current social constructs, one might say ageism. Yes, America’s modern workforce is saturated with boomers, those born between 1946-1964, Generation X, those born between 1965-1980, and millennials, those born between 1981-1996. The cultural differences between these generations alone can be the cause of workplace friction. And yes, over the last few decades, reports of age discrimination have hit record highs. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Enforcement and Litigation statistics, between 1997- 2018, 422,866 age discrimination complaints were filed. Almost half a million age discrimination complaints, and it’s still not the most reported form of workplace discrimination.
Some may answer that sex discrimination is the most reported form of workplace discrimination. Coverage of popular social movements such as #MeToo and the fight for equal pay for men and women skyrocketed these last couple of years. Our society is no stranger to inequality amongst genders. In the 20th century, suffragettes fought for the right to vote for women. Now, in the 21st century, women are fighting for equal pay and reproductive rights. According to the EEOC Enforcement and Litigation statistics, between 1997- 2018, 570,360 sex discrimination complaints were filed. Over half a million sex discrimination complaints, and it’s still not the most reported form of workplace discrimination.
At this point, you may be asking yourself what exactly is the most reported form of workplace discrimination in our modern 21st century society. According to the EEOC Enforcement and Litigation statistics, between 1997- 2018, 710,512 racial discrimination complaints were filed. Racial discrimination is the leading workplace discrimination complaint in America. This unsettling information may come as a shock to most people, especially when you consider other facts and figures. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that in the 2016-2017 academic year, 10.5 percent of African Americans received a bachelor’s degree from a post-secondary institution. This percentage may seem like a small faction; however, it does not seem as small when you take under consideration that African Americans make up 13 percent of the population.
Minorities’ education and qualification can’t be the sole cause of workplace racial discrimination, especially when evidence supports that minorities are qualified and educated. How can society tackle racial discrimination to stomp it out for good?
Of course there are laws in place to protect minorities from racial discrimination in the workplace.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. There is also the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office which ensures compliancy with the laws, regulations, policies, and guidance that prohibit discrimination in the federal workplace. Then there are individuals who dedicate their time and work to research and address racial discrimination in the hopes of bringing about real change.
William Clay is a federal and state compliance consultant based in Pensacola, Fla. Clay’s doctoral research is in public administration and industrial and organizational psychology. Recently, his research has been focused on the inequality of public funding and contracts and the economic gap it creates for specific communities and minorities, in particular.
“Racial discrimination in the workforce is still prevalent,” Clay said.
Clay often attends county commission meetings, speaking directly with county commissioners, the county administrator and the county attorney. He reviews EEO-1 Reports, which are compliance surveys mandated by federal statute and regulations. The survey requires company employment data to be categorized by race or ethnicity, gender and job category. The EEO-1 Report is used by the agencies to collect data from private employers and government contractors about their female and minority workforce. The agencies also use the EEO-1 Report data to support civil rights enforcement and to analyze employment patterns, such as the representation of females and minorities within companies, industries or regions.
“I mostly look at the disparity between people of color when it comes down to public contracts as well as other public funding as it applies to getting white females and people of color equal opportunity to public contracts, goods and service contracts,” Clay said.
Clay mentioned that many entities don’t have good faith effort programs in place. A good faith effort program ensures that a contractor documents its good faith efforts toward meeting certified minority and female-owned business enterprise utilization plans.
“Without good faith effort programs, how will you be able to execute an equal opportunity,” Clay asked.
Statistics and data are just pieces of a larger puzzle. Clay also speaks with individuals who have first-hand experience with racial discrimination in the workplace. This qualitative research is another method to better understand equal opportunity, or the lack thereof, in the workplace.
Clay shares and communicates his quantitative and qualitative research and findings to local leaders, such as the county commissioners, in hopes that equal opportunity will be given to all.
The data supports the fact that racial discrimination is the leading workplace discrimination complaint in America. Of the 710,512 racial discrimination complaints that were filed between 1997- 2018, only 15 percent of the complaints received a favorable outcome to the charging party. These merit resolutions, or complaints with an outcome that is favorable to the charging party, are significantly lower than those of other complaints like sex and age discrimination.
Again, the question arises: how can society tackle racial discrimination to stomp it out for good? Starting a dialogue and having open, honest and informed conversations like William Clay is a step in the right direction if our society ever wants to see real change.
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