The Book is written from the candid perspective of a father that tried to be a good role model to his young daughter but stumbles along the way. You can purchase a copy at: www.smashwords.com, www.amazon.com, www.kindle.com or www.lulu.com.
Bank of America to pay $335M in settlement with DOJ over discriminatory lending practices.
By Nedra Pickler, Associated Press
Bank of America agreed to pay $335 million to resolve allegations that its Countrywide unit engaged in a widespread pattern of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers on home loans.
The settlement with the U.S. Justice Department was filed Tuesday with the Central District court of California and is subject to court approval. The DOJ says it’s the largest settlement in history over residential fair lending practices.
According to the DOJ’s complaint, Countrywide charged over 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees and interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers with a similar credit profile. The complaint says that these borrowers were charged higher fees and rates because of their race or national origin rather than any other objective criteria.
“These institutions should make judgments based on applicants’ creditworthiness, not on the color of their skin,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “With today’s settlement, the federal government will ensure that the more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were discriminated against by Countrywide will be entitled to compensation.”
Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. bought the nation’s largest subprime lender, Countrywide Financial Corp., in 2008.
Dan Frahm, a Bank of America spokesman, said in a statement that the bank does not practice lending based on race.
“We discontinued Countrywide products and practices that were not in keeping with our commitment and will continue to resolve and put behind us the remaining Countrywide issues,” Frahm said.
The United States’ complaint says that Countrywide was aware that the fees and interest rates that its loan officers were charging discriminated against African-American and Hispanic borrowers, but failed to impose meaningful limits or guidelines to stop it.
By steering borrowers into subprime loans from 2004 to 2007, the complaint alleges, Countrywide harmed those qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers. Subprime loans generally carried costlier terms, such as prepayment penalties and significantly higher adjustable interest rates that increased suddenly after two or three years, making the payments unaffordable and leaving the borrowers at a much higher risk of foreclosure.
“Countrywide’s actions contributed to the housing crisis, hurt entire communities, and denied families access to the American dream,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
The settlement amount will be used to compensate victims of Countrywide’s discriminatory mortgage loans from 2004 through 2007, when Countrywide originated millions of residential mortgage loans as the nation’s largest single-family mortgage lenders.
5 Termination Mistakes Employers Could Easily Avoid0Posted on: 12-19-2011 by: workplaceweekly
While employers can take advantage of employment at will, discharging an employee sometimes comes with a price. Giving the current enlighten work environment and the easy with which information is shared, coupled with the enforcement power of regulatory agencies. Employers can easily avoid liability by taking warning from the following common mistakes before discharging an employee.
Discharging an employee with no specific act of misconduct connected with the work
The mistake usually happens when the employer, suddenly, fires the employee without considering whether the employee has received the number of warnings that the policy manual says that employees can expect or whether the employer will be able to prove the misconduct in question. A discharged employee can always file discrimination suit, and unemployment claim, and the burden of proof will now rest on the employer in other not to be liable.
Refusing to discuss problem with the employee before termination
In the face of a lawsuit or claim, there is always the possibility that the employee will point out something that will make the employer realize that discharge might not be appropriate. Hence, it will be a mistake to fire someone without discussing the problem leading to termination and without giving the employee a chance to explain his or her side of the story.
Firing an employee without reasonable warning
The onus of proof will always rest on the employer to show that either the employee did something that was so bad, he had to have known he would be fired without prior warning, or that the employee had somehow been placed on prior notice that he could lose his job for such a reason. “Prior notice” would come from a policy expressly warning of discharge or from a written warning to the effect that a certain action or lack of action would result in dismissal.
Ignoring company termination policy
In face of discrimination suit, unemployment insurance claim, an employer must show that the employee either know or should have known that his/her job was on the line for the reason in question. That will be impossible to show, if the employer fires the employee without giving the employee the benefit of progressive disciplinary process the company usually follows. The point is that the employer should try its best to do what it says it will do. If employees have been led to believe that certain steps will occur prior to termination, follow those steps, to avoid liability.
Take no action when an employee complain
While not all complains are valid, nothing stirs the compassion of enforcing agencies when they hear a legitimate grievance, whose employer either took no effective action to address the grievance rather retaliated against the employee. Complaints usually do not come out of the air. Employers should Listen, investigate, act, and document their actions. Employers that are responsive to employee concerns are confident in the face of lawsuit, and also generally have fewer worries about employee turnover and unions coming in. See OSHA versus Whole Foods Market case in this link as an example.
By Jane Mundy
Sacramento, CA: Sexual harassment casts a wide net of damage in the workplace. It can cause psychological and physical damage, and it can create a hostile workplace—all of which are violations of the California Labor Law.
Mary dealt with sexual harassment from her boss for the past two years. About four months ago she couldn’t take it anymore so she called the California labor board to inquire about filing a California labor lawsuit against her employer. That call prompted her to quit her job and hire an attorney.
“On my third day of work, the owner of the company started to hit on me,” says Mary (not her real name). “He started harassing me by making comments like ‘You’re looking really hot today,’ or ‘There’s something wild about you,’ and he would just leer at me.
“That was bad enough and I just put up with it, fearing that I might lose my job if I told him to stop making lewd comments. Then he told me that my customers (I was in sales and worked on commission) wanted me sexually and I was only making sales because of that. It got to the point where I was afraid to bring customers to the office or even talk to customers because I felt too dumb to get a sale on my own. Either way he was putting me down. And as you can imagine, my self-esteem was virtually non-existent.”
Mary adds that on several occasions he harassed her in front of co-workers. While that in itself is demeaning, it can likely work in Mary’s favor—a dispatcher and office manager have promised to testify in court. And according to Mary, her office manager was sexually harassed.
Mary adds that she was also discriminated against. She was the first salesperson to be hired, but during her two years of employment, several men were hired, all of whom received a higher base salary and more commissions than Mary.
“I didn’t find out that I was discriminated against for a long time but I had my suspicions,” Mary explains. “One guy told me, when he was first hired, that he couldn’t afford health insurance for his family, but several months later he showed me a diamond ring that he bought for his wife. It was hurtful, to say the least, especially because I was the only salesperson meeting the quotas but getting less commission.”
After Mary phoned the California labor board and decided to seek help from a California labor law attorney, she wrote a resignation letter. “This guy harassed me for too long and I don’t want to be a victim anymore,” she says. “After I quit, it felt like I just got out of prison. But my self-esteem is still non-existent and I have anxiety attacks.”
Given the fact that Mary put up with sexual harassment for two years, her health problems could be a lot worse. And all too often, symptoms of sexual harassment are unrecognized. Last month myhealthnewsdaily listed these six side effects of sexual harassment (of course there are many more):
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Elevated blood pressure
• Sleep problems
• Neck pain
According to Amy Blackstone, a sociologist at the University of Maine, about 70 percent of women and 45 percent of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Not only are they working in a hostile environment, they are also at risk for physical and psychological health problems, and sometimes they can cause irreparable damage.
Some people may ask why Mary stayed at her job for two years, or why she didn’t confront the owner. Like so many in her situation, she was afraid of losing her job.
“You make the best of the situation and take it, what else can you do?” she says. “I was afraid, especially in these economic times, but this guy should be accountable and he has to stop. And it isn’t just me that he targeted; now that I have a lawyer we are considering a class-action suit against him.”
As for the discrimination issue, Mary says she doesn’t know how to figure out the monetary damages. “Who knows how much he was paying these guys, how much would I have made if I had the same opportunities as they had?” Mary’s labor law attorney can help.
Under federal law, the EEOC’s definition of sexual harassment is “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.” That definition also applies under California law.
A Case of Mistaken Diversity
By Robert Traver
Uh-oh. They think I’m gay.
Until that moment, my first on-campus interview was going well. Everything was by the book: In the dining room of the campus hotel, I had a light breakfast with the search-committee chair. A brief walk across the small campus and then I was in the department’s conference room. I shook hands with three men and three women who looked almost identical to each other: aged and ageless. The conference room was painted a dull gray. It smelled like a warehouse of Manila envelopes.
I sat down. The chair of the search committee explained the job. Without looking at her notes, she almost perfectly recited the position announcement. Then she affected that artificially informal tone that is the mainstay of interviews, urging candidates to relax and, knowing all the while, that they’re being closely, closely watched.
The last two candidates weren’t good matches, she said, so the department was “very interested” in me. She said that in a way that articulated the quotation marks. “We’re very glad to consider you as a candidate for this position. You’ve got a lot of experience, and you’d bring much-needed diversity to our faculty.”
Wait a minute. That didn’t make sense. What was “diverse” about me?
I am a pale, white, heterosexual male in my early 30s. My hair had just started to gray, and it was probably obvious that I had stopped working out in order to focus on getting a job. I looked just as unexceptional as the members of the search committee—only I was a tad younger. So I wasn’t diverse based on race or age. Then it hit me.
Keep smiling, was my next thought. The chair took a sip from her bottled water. She cleared her throat, double-checked her notes, and began a history of the college and the department.
I did my best to look attentive as I tried to figure out the dilemma I was in. What was I supposed to say? Was there anything to be said at all?
“If they think I’m gay, then gay I’ll be” was my first reaction. I desperately needed a job. Looking at my notes for that job search, I see that I applied for 137 openings that year. This interview was my only campus visit, and the odds were overwhelming that I would not receive another such interview elsewhere. The clock had stopped ticking: The lease on my apartment had lapsed. I was living on borrowed time, and I was running out of the last dose of borrowed, albeit federally subsidized, money.
I tuned back in to the interview. It was clear that the chair was rambling. One of the committee members was doodling on a pad; another was squinting at my vitae. I couldn’t tell if he was scrutinizing it or if he was falling asleep.
In bringing up my (supposed) diversity, I understood that the chair was simultaneously encouraging me to “come out” and drop the pretense of straightness. But there was a problem. I could not figure out how to “act” gay. An arsenal of stereotypes came to mind. No, those would not do.
I thought more shrewdly. I didn’t necessarily have to act out the role that was given to me. If they think I’m gay, as long as I didn’t say anything to the contrary, they would continue to think so. If I didn’t say anything now, and they bought it and hired me, then they couldn’t fire me because of something I wasn’t.
I had to keep quiet, not only because I needed a job, but also because the only alternative was to confess my straightness, which would have damned me to looking like a closet case. Because it hadn’t been said directly—really, what is ever said directly during an interview?—my confession would inevitably be an awkward one. It would make the committee look foolish, and who hires a candidate who makes the committee look foolish? There was no way for either of us to recover.
As I kept thinking, the interview kept going. It seemed to go on without me. One of the senior professors disagreed with the institutional history that the head of the search committee was narrating. It was therefore his task, he said, to provide a history of his own. The committee turned inward. I listened and kept thinking.
There was a larger issue lurking behind my predicament: I didn’t know how to act, and I was tired of acting. Graduate school had more than satisfied any desire I had to act. Graduate students are, by default, actors: We pose; we experiment, we take the persona of the professor in seminar into the undergraduate classroom and play with it. We learn and then abide by a set of rules that are unnatural to us at the time. We ignore attractive students who are only a year or two younger than us, or at least we figure out other ways to flirt with them. We desperately try to act older. Often, only our desperation shows. A fellow graduate student tried to dye her hair so it matched the gray of her dissertation director. When that didn’t work, she bought a custom-made gray wig. I emulated my dissertation director so well that I knew when his sciatica would flare up. My back would ache, too.
What I had first faked became second nature. Then it became nature itself.
If I faked being gay, what would be the result? I might be employed, but then I would be the gay hire I wasn’t, with the obligations—overt or subtle, professional or personal—that come with that role. I would not know what to do if I were called on as a spokesman to “represent.” And if I didn’t represent, then there would be confusion, or worse, resentment.
It was the farthest thing from my mind that, had I been hired, I would have stolen a job better suited for someone else.
Their contrasting narratives of institutional history presented, the interview returned to me. I was asked the standard battery of questions. At the early lunch, the chair’s affected tone returned, this time with a vengeance. She asked me if I would like to teach classes that fulfilled “certain diversity requirements.” I said yes, but I didn’t elaborate or enthuse. Another committee member began to talk about housing, which led to the recommendation of realtors who knew the “alternative” parts of town. I nodded but did not inquire.
I was slowly becoming afraid of the questions they might ask, the helpful suggestions they might offer.
The remaining hours were routine: the job talk, the teaching demonstration, a brief dinner. Before I knew it, I was in the car I had rented, on my way back to the airport. Over all, I felt that the formal aspects of the interview went well, given that it was the first campus visit I had ever had.
But I knew that in those supposedly private, informal moments, I was lackluster. I wasn’t surprised when I received the phone call informing me that the committee had chosen another candidate. It had found, as the chair put it, “someone with more experience.” I was tempted to ask exactly what was meant by “experience,” but I was really too relieved to care.
More important, I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to reconsider all of this. I can’t say for sure that I would have declined the job if it had been offered to me.
A candidate comes to an interview with qualifications and with a repertoire of carefully developed enthusiasms and exaggerations. There is nothing wrong with that, and having sat on the other side of the table, search committees expect those enthusiasms and exaggerations.
But equally important, and something that I think we talk less openly about, is the committee that comes to the interview with perceptions about the candidate. Some of their perceptions are false and can be fixed during the interview. Others are set in stone and will damn the candidate. And if they don’t damn the candidate, those perceptions may return once the candidate takes the job to damn the entire university.
We all want academe to be more diverse than it is now We can encourage, in our students, an appreciation for diversity. We can sponsor diversity efforts. We can refashion old positions to attract diverse hires or invent new positions. But we must be careful—very careful—not to project that urge for diversity onto candidates. On the one hand, diverse hires may not want to represent whatever group a committee wants them to represent, and certainly new employees shouldn’t be coerced into doing so.
On the other hand, committees run the risk of seeing diversity where there is none, creating ethical blind spots for candidates and institutions. Seeing things that don’t exist is a blindness all its own.
Robert Traver is the pseudonym of a visiting professor in the humanities at a university in the Midwest.
Job Discrimination Complaints Hit All-Time High
First Posted: 11/16/11 03:47 PM ET Updated: 11/16/11 06:03 PM ET
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stumble WASHINGTON — The federal agency responsible for investigating employment discrimination charges reported this week that the number of complaints coming from workers and job seekers has hit an all-time high.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received just shy of 100,000 charges from citizens during the 2011 fiscal year, the most logged in a single year in the agency’s 46-year history, according to a new report. The agency also managed to obtain a historic amount of monetary relief for alleged victims of job discrimination — $365 million, the most on record.
The EEOC handles cases involving hiring and pay discrimination based on age, race, sex, religion and disability, among other factors. Christine Nazer, an agency spokeswoman, says the EEOC hasn’t tried to account for the rise in complaints this year. “We really don’t know why our charges increase or decrease, as we haven’t conducted any studies,” she says.
But employment discrimination experts say the growing number of charges has everything to do with the sputtering economy. With unemployment hovering around 9 percent and 13.9 million American still out of work, some of the less scrupulous employers have more opportunities to discriminate in their hiring.
The EEOC’s numbers reflect the “severity of the economic downturn,” says Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for workers.
“At times like this, when job loss makes workers especially vulnerable, employers bent on breaking the law are even more likely to do so,” Owens told HuffPost in a statement. “The strong report the EEOC has released today underscores how critical it is for America’s workers that we maintain robust laws and regulations to ensure protection of basic labor standards.”
Employment discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC have generally been rising over the previous decade, with a pronounced spike during the weak economy of the last four years.
The tough job market has been particularly unforgiving for older workers, many of whom feel they’re the last to be hired due to their age. Jobless Americans over 55 years of age have been twice as likely as younger people to be out of work for 99 weeks or longer during the downturn. To cite just one example of alleged discrimination, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Texas Roadhouse restaurants in October, claiming the steakhouse chain has been biased against older applicants in their hiring.
Laurie McCann, a senior attorney with the AARP, the powerful lobby for seniors, said discrimination charges filed with the EEOC tend to “mirror what’s going on in the economy.”
One stat not included in the new report is the number of job seekers who’ve alleged discrimination because they’re unemployed. Many job seekers have been discriminated against simply because they’re already out of work, McCann said, with online job sites allowing employers the unemployed that they need not apply.
But that practice currently doesn’t break any federal laws, though President Barack Obama has proposed making such discrimination illegal for most employers.
There are currently 5.9 million Americans who’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Speaking specifically about age discrimination, McCann says the number of complaints probably won’t drop until the job market turns around.
“We don’t expect that to change until we really start to make inroads with the long-term unemployed,” she said
For more info go to www.diversityprogram.net
This latest incident of alleged child sexual abuse at Penn State University demonstrates a potential cover up. I believe Coach Joe Paterno should have done more to protect the child victims instead of coach Sandusky. What do you think?
I am a firm believer that if you do not like what you are doing with your life then do exactly what you like even if it means taking a risk. What are you waiting on? The only barriers that exist are the one’s that we percieve to be barriers. However, perceptions are not always reality! Believe in yourself and take action!
Here’s an article I found interesting- – Marshall Hennington, Ph.D. www.diversity-enterprises.com or www.juryconsulting.com. What do you think?
How to Create an Organizational Culture That Values Diversity
by Mitchell Holt
Diversity is more than just being willing to hire all types of employees. It is accepting, celebrating and valuing all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and age, according to a diversity article on the University of Florida website. Diversity in the workplace should start with supervisors, who, in turn, should foster an appreciation for diversity among employees. Building a organizational team that values diversity requires several steps.
Hire a diverse staff. Of course, you want to hire the best employee for each position, but patience can render the best staff with diverse backgrounds. You can’t expect your company or organization to value diversity if it doesn’t have a variety of cultures represented.
Take a weekend business retreat. This will give your staff a chance to get to know one another outside of work, and you might get some work done, too. Plan some team-building exercises, get-to-know-you games and enjoyable activities that encourage your staff members to talk to each other.
Attend a diversity workshop with your staff (See Resource 1). Some companies will approve funding for a diversity program and allow staffs to take a workday for the course. Diversity classes expose people to new ideas, encourage acceptance and may result in a higher level of productivity. Whether you take it online or invite a diversity expert to deliver an in-office course, diversity workshops can be beneficial to the office.
Appoint a diversity officer. A diversity officer–often part of human resources–takes several courses per year in diversity and catalyzes acceptance and cultural awareness in the company. The officer also handles culture-related issues and complaints and serves as the middle man between people who can’t resolve differences on their own. Many companies don’t have a budget for this position, but offering two extra weeks of paid vacation is often enough, especially if the position only requires a few hours per week.