Noticias / 11/13/2009

The Racial Inequality Gap in the Workplace



It is suggested that employers discriminate in hiring based on something as simple as your name.  A study titled “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” focused on looking at job discrimination during the hiring process on just that- your name


The authors found that applicants having a white sounding name will be twice as likely to get an interview as someone with a distinctly sounding African American name.  Employers and co-workers alike are more comfortable with someone of their own race. 


 “In the 60’s, you couldn’t get a job with long hair,” manager Fred Greear said. It all changes as you grow up.”

Greear understands the facts of racial discrimination all too well.  He grew up in a Southern community where he attended a largely populated African American school as one of the few White boys. 


 “The whole world has changed because of the TV and media.  People used to be afraid of each other, but communication changed all that.  It would be different if you went somewhere without communication.” 


 Organizations such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) were instated to prevent discrimination. 


A PEW Hispanic Center survey found that about 80 percent of Latinos believe that workplace discrimination is still a problem in California. 


“It has gone down a lot- a whole lot,” said Greear. It can be between employees too, not just between management and an employee.”  They may have reason to complain however.  Real earnings for white and black men in 2008 were about the same as they were in 1979.  Hispanic men, however, had their earning’s drop about 8 percent.


The population of Asian workers in Southern California in 2008 was the smallest compared to other racial groups at 5,266, but their weekly earnings were the highest at an average of $861.  White workers earned $742 on average, but had 16 percent more people employed than Asians.  “They’re relentless,” Greear said when asked about the wage gap.  “They work hard and they work as a family and we’re not used to working like that.”


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the year 2000, only 54 of the 355 investigated cases were found to have been discriminatory.  In comparison to 2006, where out of 436 cases investigated, 100 of them were considered to be discriminatory.  The numbers are a bit misleading though. There is actually a 2.21 percent drop in the number of cases found to be discriminatory. Affirmative action was the first measure to prevent employers from giving jobs out to someone less qualified to avoid hiring someone that isn’t white.  This executive order gave new opportunities for people of color or race to gain access to better jobs, promotions, and wages. 


“When you’re hiring, yes, we still need it [affirmative action] because there is without a doubt still a gender problem.  As far as other races though, they [the employer] don’t care whether you’re black or white or whatever.” California was the first to propose a referendum to get rid of our country’s reliability on affirmative action.  Proposition 209 banned the use of race and gender preferences in state university admissions, employment, and contracting.    


Opponents of the proposition believed it to be unconstitutional, clashing with the equal protection clause.  It was voted into law in 1996 and was later ruled constitutional.  A few other states have followed California’s lead in similar propositions.


Equal opportunity is what we’re fighting for and propositions like this are allowing employers to consider all their options rather than having to choose a less qualified person to fill the job because of measures like affirmative action. “You don’t pick people by what they look like,” Greear said.  “You pick ‘em according to the job.”

Tags:  Krista Daly Racial inequality

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