Hiring & Recruiting

EEOC Finally Defines ‘Race’ and ‘Color’ in Connection With Discrimination Suits

Ever since 1964, discrimination based on race or color has been illegal. EEOC has finally told us what those terms mean, says HR Manager’s Legal Reporter.

The recent Supreme Court ruling that greatly expanded the definition of retaliation (Daily Advisor, 9/25/06), showed how important it is for HR people to keep track of happenings in the legal world.

Around our shop, that’s the key mission of the BLR newsletter, HR Manager’s Legal Reporter (HRMLR). We at Daily Advisor make it a point to read it every month, for two reasons:

First, it was BLR’s founding product, originally called Personnel Manager’s Legal Reporter, back in the day when nobody even knew what an “HR Manager” was. But more important, because it really gets into the legal aspects of HR and almost always tells us something we didn’t know.

Such is the case in HRMLR’s story on a recent informational publication put out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The subject was “race” and “color” in discrimination.

It’s widely known that the granddaddy of all workplace equality law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, bans discrimination on the basis of race or color. But until recently, EEOC had never clarified just what those terms meant. Now they have. And this will hopefully make it easier to correctly address issues of race and color should they come up in your workplace.

Here are some key points from the HR Manager’s Legal Reporter:

–“Race” discrimination is bias based on ancestry or on physical or cultural characteristics of a certain group. Facial features, hair texture, and skin color may be included in the list of characteristics on which you cannot discriminate, even though all members of the same race may not share the characteristics.

–“Color” discrimination is bias based on the darkness or lightness of skin tone, and can occur between people of the same race. An example given is an African-American who refuses to hire other African-Americans of a darker or lighter skin tone.

–Discrimination based on race or color is banned in every aspect of employment, including hiring, promotion, job assignment and training, and cannot be tolerated even if all the employees of a business, or its customers, prefer dealing with only specific races or colors.

–Recruitment procedures need to seek workplace diversity and avoid automatically rejecting applicants on factors such as arrest and conviction records. One example: Some ethnic and racial groups are disproportionately represented in arrest records. This should never be the sole basis for an employment decision.

–Employers’ records of employees’ race for affirmative action purposes should be on separate forms from the job application.

–Employers must create, train on, and enforce appropriate antiharassment policies to keep racial and all other forms of harassment out of the workplace.

–Employers are similarly charged with investigating any charges of discrimination, including, of course, race and color.

The EEOC’s complete guidance on race and color can be found in the EEOC Compliance Manual Section 15: Race and Color Discrimination. This is available at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/race-color.html.

To keep apprised of legal developments, both federal and in the states, affecting HR, we strongly recommend that you check out HR Manager’s Legal Reporter. You can see how wide-ranging this outstanding newsletter’s coverage is by clicking on the View Index link below and look at a sample issue by clicking on View Product Sample. But even better is to sign up for a no-risk trial, using the link below. For nearly 30 years, HR professionals have been raving about it. You just might want to join them.

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