Meeting of February 28, 2007, Washington D.C. to Launch E-Race Initiative
Good morning Madame Chair, Vice Chair, and Commissioners. My name is Anna Y. Park. I am the Regional Attorney for the Los Angeles District Office which covers Central and Southern California, Southern Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Wake Island. I am responsible for litigating cases on behalf of the Commission and the public interest. Our jurisdiction covers not only a vast geographic region, but is also densely populated, with over 24 million people in Southern California alone. I want to start by thanking you for allowing me the opportunity to discuss the issue of race and color and the impact it has today. It is sad to say that despite the passage of time, race discrimination remains alive and well.
The face of race and color discrimination is changing. We are no longer operating under a Black/White paradigm. The victims are young and old. The victims are of all races. The alleged perpetrators are no longer just White but are Black, Hispanic, or Asian. The employers are not only the small "mom and pop" stores but also the large Fortune 500 companies. Race discrimination has become more complex. By way of example, The Los Angeles District Office has resolved two cases where employers gave hiring preference to Hispanics while failing to hire qualified Black applicants.
In EEOC v. Zenith Insurance, a Black individual applied for a mailroom clerk position. The decision maker was a Hispanic female. He inquired several times about the position, and was told each time that the position was not available. He went to a temporary placement agency and the agency told him "I have the perfect job for you" and proceeded to send him to none other than the position with Zenith. After the Charging Party filed a charge with the EEOC, and after an extensive investigation, the EEOC found other Black applicants denied hire while preference was given to a Hispanic who was ultimately given the job. That case resolved for $180,000 for the class but also very broad and comprehensive injunctive relief remedies. The employer agreed to do aggressive recruitment of Blacks and minorities, training for over 7,000 of its employees, and hiring goals to ensure that minorities are hired into positions at Zenith.
In EEOC v. Farmer John, Hispanics were hired over qualified Black applicants for entry level warehouse positions. In that case, most of its recruitment was done by word of mouth. Decision makers were all Hispanic. For a period of 1 ½ years, over 679 employees were hired into entry level warehouse positions. Every single hire was Hispanic. Despite qualified Black applicants, Farmer John, failed to hire a single non-Hispanic employee. In fact, one class member had meatpacking experience from another state. Despite his experience, he was not even considered for hire. Another Black applicant was told to wait to be interviewed. After waiting for a few hours and seeing Hispanic applicants being interviewed and hired, he was told all the positions were filled and told to go home. As a result of EEOC's efforts, Farmer John entered into a four year consent decree wherein it paid $110,000 to seven claimants and instituted changes including audit reports reflecting its hiring practices, posting of a notice of violation, and training on EEO laws.
Another sad trend we are seeing is that very young people are experiencing discrimination, oftentimes the first job they may hold. I am honored to introduce to you today a brave young lady, Brittany Mooney who was, sadly, a victim of discrimination at a very young age of 16 years of age.
Ms. Mooney who is Black was at a small strip mall with her friend who is White. Her friend was applying for a position at Quiznos Sandwich shop. She went into the Quiznos store to get an application for her Caucasian friend. Ms. Mooney was told by the owner, Ms. Ho, an Asian, that there were no positions. Minutes later, her friend asked Ms. Mooney for the application but was told that there were none. Her friend was puzzled because she had picked one up earlier and needed a new one because she had made a mistake. Her friend went into the store and came out with an application; the very same application denied Ms. Mooney. Her friend's mother, who accompanied both girls, went into the store and confronted Ms. Ho and asked for an explanation as to why Ms. Mooney did not receive an application. The owner proceeded to say essentially, "I know what this is about." She proceeded to point to another employee who was Black and said, "I have a brown girl already." Clearly, the owner understood that race was an issue. Even though, in the end, the employer went out of business, the case was an important one to bring for several reasons: small employers must be held accountable for their actions. It was also important to set an example for young people that the EEOC will be there to serve the public interest by bringing cases on behalf of young people like Ms. Mooney. Ms. Mooney should be commended for taking the step to file a charge with an EEOC and seek to challenge the discriminatory practice. Even though she herself was not applying for the job, her first experience in the workforce was forever tainted by racism, something she should never have to experience. In Ms. Mooney's case, even the most innocent act of picking up an application for a friend, thrust upon Ms. Mooney the unfortunate reality of race discrimination.
The final point I want to stress is to not forget that women of color continue to suffer from what we would coin compound discrimination. We often see, for example, Hispanic women being subjected to the most egregious of harassment by other Hispanic men in the workforce, and the employer doing nothing to stop it. For example, in EEOC v. Caesars, women were forced to have sex operating out of a "sex" room. In EEOC v. Rivera Vineyard, where the Los Angeles District Office recovered over $1 million for farm worker women who were subjected to sex harassment, some women were actually raped in the fields by Hispanic male supervisors. In EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch, where the Los Angeles District Office and the Chicago District Office worked together to recover over $50 million for the company's failure to recruit, hire, promote, and retain minorities because they did not fit the "All American look" that defined Abercrombie. Unfortunately, that "Abercrombie look" was only defined as a White male. In the end, minority women, particularly Black and Hispanic women were the most impacted. The EEOC was instrumental in ensuring that special hiring goals were instituted in the Consent Decree to ensure hiring of not just women, but women of color.
We thank you, Madame Chair, for launching the E-RACE initiative because it is one that remains relevant today and ever more important with the ever changing demographics. As society attempts to downplay the significance of race, unfortunately the cases that are being litigated show that race discrimination is thriving. The EEOC remains vigilant to be color blind and to enforce Title VII until the day that race discrimination no longer exists. Until then, we remain ever vigilant to root out discrimination in the workplace.
Thank you Ms. Mooney and thank you Madame Chair, Vice Chair, and Commissioners.
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