Employment Discrimination still exists, and in record numbers: Black workers in Memphis deliberately exposed to radioactive waste by white manager

Have you ever been discriminated against at your place of employment? Ok, I’ll go first and say that I have, and it was on the basis of race. I won’t go into details, but just know that I did something about it, and I was quite pleased with the outcome. But this is 2010 and we’re post-racial now, right? Surely everyone has caught on by now, and those numbers have declined. Well, in a recent piece by my man Kevin Myles of The Wichita NAACP Blog, this isn’t exactly true:
Employment discrimination charges were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2009 at near record levels. According to the EEOC’s annual report, the agency received 93,277 private sector discrimination charges in 2009, the second highest number in 20 years. The Performance and Accountability Report FY 2009 (PAR)  noted that the number of private sector charges is projected to exceed 100,000 by the end of fiscal year 2010.Most notably:
According to the EEOC’s fiscal year data, which ended Sept. 30, 2009, three types of discrimination complaints increased over the last year. Disability complaints increased by 10 percent, from 19,453 to 21,451. National origin complaints increased 5 percent, from 10,601 to 11,134. Religious discrimination claims increased 3 percent, from 3,273 to 3,386.

The number of charges alleging age-based discrimination reached the second-highest level ever – 22,778 compared to the 2008 record high of 24,582.

Continuing a decade-long trend, the most frequently filed charges with the EEOC in 2009 were complaints alleging discrimination based on race-based discrimination (36 percent), retaliation (36 percent), and sex-based discrimination (30 percent).

But more interesting and far more illuminating are the statistics on findings of reasonable cause. According to EEOC data released on their website, very few cases ever see the light of day.

Of the 68,710 complaints that were filed on the basis of violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights act, only 188 resulted in lawsuits. (That’s 0.27%)I guess the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove,” holds true. Fortunately for 23 black men employed here in the city of Memphis, they were able to, as we say in the hood, show and prove via this EEOC press releasel:

A company that processes radioactive waste in Memphis has agreed to pay $650,000 to settle claims it subjected African-American employees to a variety of discriminatory practices, including exposure to higher levels of radiation than those faced by white workers.

Under a consent decree settling a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the firm formerly known as RACE — now doing business as Studsvik — will pay the money to 23 black employees. It also will take steps to prevent harassment and discriminatory practices.

The Studsvik Memphis Processing Facility, at 2550 Channel on Presidents Island, processes for disposal low-level radioactive waste from hospitals, research labs and nuclear power plants. Sweden-based Studsvik purchased the RACE operation in 2006, a year after the Memphis City Council killed the firm’s controversial plans to operate a radioactive-waste incinerator. RACE is an acronym for Radiological Assistance, Consulting and Engineering.

The EEOC suit claimed that black employees were subjected to racial slurs, poorer work conditions, retaliatory measures and lower pay than comparably trained white workers.

It also alleged that black workers were assigned to work in the shop with radioactive waste while white employees worked elsewhere. The dosimeters that recorded the workers’ radiation exposure were manipulated to mask the true levels, the suit said.

Carson Owen, senior trial attorney for the EEOC, said the possible exposure to excessive radiation represented the most troubling aspect of the discrimination charges.

“I’ve been here (with the EEOC) 30 years, and I’ve never heard allegations of race discrimination that I consider this serious — because of the health risk,” he said.Ok, first off, wasn’t that some shit that the name of the original company was R.A.C.E. (Radiological Assistance Consulting and Engineering)? Wasn’t that some covert, psy-op conspiracy, grassy knoll type stuff? Forget about the $20 bill and the 9/11 connection; that stuff right there was deeper than Atlantis, son! Here’s more from The Institute for Southern Studies:
Courtney Britton, the lead worker in the shop, and other African-American employees were also subjected to racist comments by white supervisors. The complaint said that Britton’s boss referred to him and other black employees with the N-word and other derogatory slurs such as “boy.” When he finally complained about the racial harassment, Britton was suspended for 15 days and then laid off.

“Mr. Britton and other African-American employees endured the abuse because they needed to work to support their families,” said Attorney Faye Williams of the EEOC’s Memphis district, which covers Tennessee, Arkansas and northern Mississippi.

Besides providing for the payment of $650,000 to 23 African-American employees, the three-year consent decree issued in the case also prohibits Studsvik from discriminating against or assigning employees based on their race and from retaliating against workers who assert their rights. In addition, Studsvik agreed to adopt an anti-discrimination policy and provide mandatory training about the policy to employees.I don’t know about you, but I think $650,000 is a small amount even though it was discovered that the level of radioactive exposure was not high enough to be a health risk. I’m sorry, but I can’t trust that, and I think their compensation should have been higher. All in all folks, you too can be subjected to discrimination at your place of employment for any number of reasons.

It’s important to document these incidents and file the necessary claims so as to put businesses and companies in check. No need to lose your cool, just let the legal system work for you, even with our new heightened sense of post-racialness. Hopefully this information doesn’t discourage you if you’re one of the many unemployed people of color out there. Again, just be sure to hold these people accountable – that’s why there are laws against discrimination.