toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

October 09, 2007

blatant racial discrimination

Patty is a proud black woman, 39, married with four children who was overlooked for promotion after working as a customer service officer for the same company for ten years.

"I believe that racial discrimination accounted for a white woman being given promotion over me," claims Patty. "I had been with the company longer than she had and after all of that time it's abominable that I am still at the bottom of the ranks."

"It's true that other black women have received promotions, " concedes Patty, "but not as many promotions are given to black women as they are to white women. It's blatant racial discrimination as far as I'm concerned."

"Workplaces, like schools and most organizations, are microcosms of the macrocosm - what is happening in the world outside is reflected within the workplace, " says Patty, "and when you're working in a team environment, like I do, you get to see the dark side of people - the racial hatred especially."

"It doesn't take much to get vilified at work," says Patty. "If it's not color it's religion or something else. Different skin colors, cultures and religions are always in the news as targets of hate in workplaces."

"By far the most common form of hate in workplaces is racial discrimination, " says Patty.

"If you pass an interview for a position and get a job, there is no automatic assurance that everyone in that workplace is going to be as free of prejudice as the people who hired you."

"Also, if you have been in a job for a long time, there is no automatic assurance that the new people coming in - above or below you in the pecking order - are going to be as free of prejudice as the people you formerly worked with."

"Yes, of course," laughs Patty, "there are laws in all civilized countries that decree racial discrimination to be unlawful, and yes of course most companies adhere to strict guidelines in this respect - but race hate still happens."

"You can't stop people hating other people for some reason or another and if racial discrimination were not so prevalent there would be no need for such laws, right?"

"Mostly, we expect to be fairly treated at work," says Patty, "but when we are not then in the case of racial discrimination we have legal redress."

"I went that route and I didn't have to prove I was better qualified than a white woman for the promotion."

"At the hearing I also claimed racial harassment in the form of my supervisor 'staring' at me, giving me more work than white employees, assigning me to demeaning tasks not given to white employees, singling me out for criticism, not giving me training for higher level jobs and denying me wage increases."

"After ten years with an employer you would expect better treatment than the sort of treatment I got," says Patty, "and my husband and I believed that I had a very good case against my employer."

"I was claiming not just promotion discrimination but also racial harassment, " says Patty, "and we were furious when my case was dismissed."

"I was told that most, if not all, of my claims of 'racial harassment' have been experienced by just about every working person - of every color - and that they constitute a common problem of antagonism between a supervisor and an employee."

"I was told that I could not attribute this harassment solely to the color of my skin, " says Patty, "although it could well have been the situation for all the judge knew."

"I have since been transferred to another team - mainly black," says Patty, "so I don't have to put up with the discrimination I experienced before."

"But, the whole issue still upsets me, " sighs Patty. "Any type of discrimination is abhorrent in the workplace, and employers could do a great deal to prevent racial and other types of discrimination raising their ugly heads by providing very clear guidelines in relation to hiring, firing and promotion practices - and having regular reminders for staff of their obligations to others."

"We may sign a document stating that we understand - and are committed to - certain values when we start a job," says Patty, "but rarely if ever is our understanding and commitment checked on a regular basis."

"It may be all very well for the laws of the land - the macrocosm - to support racial harmony," says Patty, "but not all microcosms - workplaces or small groups - are going to reflect these values. Instead, they reflect what is really going on in the streets."

"When women are thrown together and expected to work in teams," says Patty, "the first thing people are going to notice is the color of your skin, right?"

"You're in their face every day and sooner or later someone is going to drop their guard and let their racism and prejudices fly," says Patty. "If high profile people like Mel Gibson and Kramer can't keep their hatred for Jews or Blacks under wraps, then how are ordinary people expected to do so?"

"I thank God for a loving husband and happy children," says Patty. "Without a happy and supportive family I would never have survived all that misery on my own."

Patty's story first appeared as racism cover-up at work and is reprinted with permission.

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