The tragic and deadly events of this past summer and the intense focus on racially biased policing has caused many organizations to respond. From the National Football League, to  Apple, to Walgreens, organizations around the world issued statements supporting social justice and equal treatment under the law, with many in support of Black Lives Matter.

Some of those organizations have taken concrete steps to show their commitment. Others have been chided for taking advantage of the heartbreaking events to issue self-congratulatory statements about their values, without much of a follow-through. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) apparently falls into the former group.

SHRM is the largest professional association of human resources professionals. In June, 2020 SHRM surveyed 1,257 workers and 1,275 human resources managers in the United States about discrimination at work. The sobering conclusion of The Society for Human Resource Management survey is that, “there is clearly widespread disillusionment with organizational action on diversity, equity and inclusion that transcends racial lines.” 

Important findings from the survey include these eye-opening results:

  • 49% of Black HR professionals believe race or ethnicity discrimination exists in their workplace, compared with 13% of white professionals and 21% of all HR professionals with similar views.
  • Similar discrepancies exist in responses to age and gender discrimination questions, where 34% of Black HR professionals see discrimination, while 20% of white HR managers do not.
  • 61% of Black HR professionals see incivility (rude comments, slights, etc.) in their workplace, compared with 44% of white professionals and 47% of all HR professionals.
  • 68% of Black HR professionals agree with the statement, “My organization is not doing enough to provide opportunities for Black employees.” 35% of white, and 41% of all HR professionals agreed with the statement.

SHRM should be commended for both taking the initiative to ask the questions and the courage to transparently publish the results. There are many lessons for both HR and management to take from the survey, but what does it mean for workers?

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been fighting workplace discrimination for over 50 years, and apparently still has plenty of work to do. The process at the Federal level (states also have their own anti-discrimination laws) is that an aggrieved employee or candidate experiences discrimination; the person files a complaint with the EEOC; the EEOC tries to settle it with the employer; if unsuccessful, the EEOC issues a “right to sue” letter to the worker, who is then free to find an attorney and file a complaint in Federal court. 

An important aspect of the fight against workplace discrimination is therefore the private plaintiff’s bar. Although it may seem like there are lawyers everywhere offering advice about discrimination, in fact, only a very small percentage of instances of employment discrimination ever make it to a lawyer’s office, much less to court. The book Rights on Trial, by professors from Northwestern University and the University of Toronto, estimated that fewer than 1% of all cases of perceived racial discrimination are filed with the EEOC. Following the EEOC process, about 5,000 cases are filed annually in Federal court, leading the authors to estimate that only 0.13% of potential lawsuits ever occur.

Witnessed by the frank admissions of the SHRM HR professionals in the know, there is ongoing, regular employment discrimination throughout American business, and workers are enduring discrimination on a daily basis.  

Considering the marathon process that must be endured to achieve relief from discrimination or retaliation, and the restoration of a worker’s rights and position, injured workers should choose their attorney carefully. Most employment discrimination attorneys will take your case (after evaluation) on a contingent fee basis; this does not mean that they are all the same. Pelton Graham will honestly evaluate your case at no charge, and if we take it, we commit to pursue it to the very best possible outcome for you and your family. Our results, our clients, and our commitment to the community speak for themselves.

If you are concerned about discrimination on the job, you should act promptly to seek advice, both in order to take the burden off of your shoulders and because anti-discrimination laws have limitations periods which could act to bar your claim. Pelton Graham is here to help; contact us today for a no charge evaluation.