Race bias guidelines published
Associated Press
Apr. 20, 2006

EEOC addresses workplace issues

Hope Yen

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines Wednesday aimed at combating subtle forms of race discrimination, 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 make up one-third of EEOC complaints.

They include English-only language discrimination against immigrants and incidents of discrimination in which minority employers favor their own groups as well as instances of illegal exclusion of minority employees from advancement, networking and other job opportunities.

The manual also addresses harassment and retaliation and "glass ceilings" for groups based on stereotypes 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 to win in court.

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

EEOC staff said that 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 forefront.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. currently is fighting the nation's largest employment lawsuit, which alleges that 1.6 million current and former women employees earned less than men and were bypassed for promotions.

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

Last year, fewer charges of discrimination against private employers were filed with the EEOC as part of a three-year downward trend the agency attributed in part to the economic slowdown.

Race bias remained the largest category of complaints, accounting for 35.5 percent of all filings.

EEOC field offices received 75,428 complaints in the 12 months that ended last Sept. 30, down from 79,432 in fiscal year 2004.