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EEOC Issues Guidelines to Fight Subtle Race Bias

April 20, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines Wednesday aimed at combating subtle forms of race discrimination, described as a persistent problem in the workplace.

The new compliance manual does not change existing job discrimination laws. It is written to give employers, employees and lawyers better guidance on emerging areas of racial bias, which currently make up one-third of EEOC complaints.

They include English-only language discrimination against immigrants, favoritism shown by minority employers for their own groups, and illegal exclusion of minority employees from advancement, networking and other job opportunities.

The manual also addresses harassment and retaliation, "glass ceilings" for groups based on stereotypes, and as well as cases in which discrimination may involve a multiple set of categories -- such as race, gender and disability -- and thus involve bias laws with varying standards for litigation.

"Issuing this chapter reaffirms the EEOC's commitment to the vigorous enforcement of Title VII's prohibitions against race and color discrimination in the workplace," EEOC Commissioner Stuart J. Ishimaru said at the agency's meeting Wednesday.

"We want to educate people so they know to complain, go to the EEOC and vindicate their rights," he said.

EEOC staff said the guidelines also encourage people to look beyond an employer's explanation for a job decision to see if bias is actually at work, as well as to determine whether there is a pattern of behavior that might point to systemic discrimination.

The guidelines come as workplace bias suits have been in the headlines. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is fighting the nation's largest employment lawsuit, which alleges that 1.6 million women currently and formerly employed by the retailer earned less than men and were bypassed for promotions.

The U.S. Supreme Court also has shown interest, hearing arguments this week on how much authority employers have in transferring workers who claim discrimination. Last term, the court expanded the scope of the Title IX gender equity law and loosened standards in alleging age bias.

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