Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race and color (among other things), but complaints of discrimination are on the rise, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been taking action to track the root causes of this discrimination and has begun to do more about it. Back in 2008, the EEOC put forth the E-RACE Initiative, which stands for Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment. The EEOC website explains that:
“The E-RACE Initiative is designed to improve EEOC’s efforts to ensure workplaces are free of race and color discrimination. Specifically, the EEOC will identify issues, criteria and barriers that contribute to race and color discrimination, explore strategies to improve the administrative processing and the litigation of race and color discrimination claims, and enhance public awareness of race and color discrimination in employment.”[i]
What is the E-RACE Initiative?
E-RACE began in 2008 with a set of five goals to be achieved by 2013. While this timeframe has passed, the goals are still ongoing and are worth looking at for any organization looking to ensure it avoids discrimination in all work practices. According to EEOC’s website on E-RACE[ii], here are the five original goals of the program:
- Improve data collection and data analysis in order to identify, track, investigate, and prosecute allegations of discrimination;
- Improve quality and consistency in EEOC’s charge processing and litigation program, and improve federal sector systems;
- Develop strategies, legal theories, and training modules to address emerging issues of race and color discrimination;
- Enhance visibility of EEOC’s enforcement efforts in eradicating race and color discrimination; and
- Engage the public, employers, and stakeholders to promote voluntary compliance to eradicate race and color discrimination.
As you can see, this is a very ambitious program that continues to this day. The initiatives implemented back in 2008 have far-reaching implications and seek to address the fact that complaints to the EEOC about race and color discrimination have been on the rise for years. The EEOC needs to understand the reasons behind this and needs to address the more insidious forms of discrimination that exist in the workplace.
It’s important to note that discrimination based on race or color can take many forms, and the most prominent issues change over time—hence the need for good data tracking. In recent years, the EEOC has been focusing a lot on disparate impact cases—situations in which a policy or practice disproportionately affects one group, even if that was not the original intent of the policy or practice. An example of this is asking all applicants whether they have an arrest record. Employers that had this question on their application in the past may have had a good intention—protecting their workforce from new hires who may cause problems—but the end result was problematic. First off, an arrest does not equal conviction (false arrests happen), so that’s a problem already, and second, asking about arrests and using this information as a disqualifier has a disparate impact on any group that is more likely to be arrested, as is the case for some racial or minority groups. This is just one example of the types of discrimination the EEOC has uncovered and is acting against.
For reasons like this—and many others—racial discrimination has not been abated by Title VII, and complaints of racial and color discrimination continue to make up a large proportion of the complaints received by the EEOC. Its work on tracking and reducing discrimination continues to be of importance for all employers to ensure fair treatment in the workforce. The E-RACE Initiative and its five goals are taking an important step in reducing racial discrimination; hopefully they will continue to do so.
*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.