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Tough Times Made Tougher by Workplace Discrimination and Violence

November 18, 2009

Employer discrimination cases are on the rise, according to reports from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). From 2007, discrimination claims are up 28%, and retaliation claims up 22%. According to one EEOC lawyer, “Our lobby is full every day, and mailed-in charges (of discrimination) are increasing even more.”

Economic downturns often bring a rise in workplace violence and discrimination. Acting EEOC Chair Stuart Ishimaru told an audience in Alabama last week, “Quite often in tough economic times like these, women and people of color are made out to be scape­goats by people looking for someone to blame.”

Racism, gender discrimination and sexual harassment (against men as well as women), anti-Semitism and other complaints highlight several recent lawsuits. Last week, former editor Sandra Guzman sued the tabloid New York Post for discrimination, after she was fired following her denouncing the Post for printing a cartoon depicting President Obama as a chimp. Guzman’s complaint describes rampant sexism and racism in the right-wing paper’s newsroom, and describes foul sexual harassment by senior editor Col Allan. In other recent cases:

  • Dell agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle a class-action gender discrimination complaint alleging the company discriminated in promoting and paying women.
  • Nordstroms agreed to pay nearly $300,000 to settle claims of racial discrimination by ten former employees who claimed a manager made racist remarks and retaliated against Black and Hispanic staff who complained.
  • Minnesota frozen food maker Schwans is fighting gender discrimination claims by a former management trainee who claims she suffered sexual harassment and was told she could not graduate from the company’s management training program.
  • Polluter Massey Energy agreed to pay $8.75 million to more than 200 former miners who claimed age discrimination when the company refused to keep them on after buying a competing mining operation.
  • Administaff and a Maryland cable company were named in a discrimination lawsuit brought by two brothers who allege a supervisor harassed them with anti-Semitic taunts, defacing their car with a swastika, and physical attacks, including pushing one man into a trash bin while calling the act, “throw the Jew in the dumpster.” (a riff on Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie Borat, in which Borat sings “throw the Jew down the well” to the amusement of patrons at a country and western bar)
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