Monday, December 31, 2007

A Disturbing Trend in Law School Diversity

A new website dedicated to improving minority representation at US law schools has been launched. "Lawyering in a Digital Age" is a product of a collaboration between the Society of American Law Schools (SALT) and the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at the Columbia University School of Law. The website's statistics show that:

*Over the past 15 years, African Americans and Mexican Americans have been applying to law schools in relatively constant numbers.
* These African American and Mexican American applicants are doing better than ever on the leading indicators used by Law Schools to determine admissibility: undergraduate grade point average and LSAT scores.
*The size of law school classes and law schools has increased.
*The percentage representation of both groups has actually trended downward since 1992. In real numbers, there were fewer African American and Mexican American first year law students in the Fall, 2005 class (3595 combined) than existed in Fall, 1992 (3937).

To see the related statistics and charts supporting these conclusions, go to:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

EEOC's Stuart Ishimaru Confirmed for Second Term; DOL's Radzely also confirmed

EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru was confirmed by the US Senate for a second term ending July 1, 2012. Stuart J. Ishimaru was initially sworn in on November 17, 2003, as a Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to serve the remainder of a term expiring July 1, 2007. Mr. Ishimaru was nominated by President George W. Bush on October 14 and confirmed by the full U.S. Senate on October 31, 2003. As a member of the Commission, he participates with the other Commissioners on all matters which come before it, including the development and approval of enforcement policies, authorization of litigation, issuance of Commissioner's charges of discrimination, and performance of such other functions as may be authorized by law, regulation, or order.

Commissioner Ishimaru spoke at the 32nd Annual Conference of the American Association for Affirmative Action in Tampa, Florida. AAAA welcomes Commissioner Ishimaru's re-confirmation for a second term.

Department of Labor's Howard Radzely was also confirmed on December 19, 2007 to serve as Deputy Secretary of Labor. Prior to serving as the Acting Deputy Secretary and Deputy Secretary, Mr. Radzely served for over 3 years as the Solicitor of Labor, the chief legal officer in the Department, having been confirmed as Solicitor on December 9, 2003. Mr. Radzely first joined the Department on June 4, 2001, as the Deputy Solicitor of Labor. He served as both the Deputy Solicitor and Acting Solicitor from June of 2001 until January of 2002. He also served as Acting Solicitor from January of 2003 until his confirmation.

Forgotten Step Toward Freedom

The New York Times
December 30, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Forgotten Step Toward Freedom

WE Americans live in a society awash in historical celebrations. The last few years have witnessed commemorations of the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase (2003) and the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II (2005). Looming on the horizon are the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (2009) and the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the Civil War (2011). But one significant milestone has gone strangely unnoticed: the 200th anniversary of Jan. 1, 1808, when the importation of slaves into the United States was prohibited.
This neglect stands in striking contrast to the many scholarly and public events in Britain that marked the 2007 bicentennial of that country’s banning of the slave trade. There were historical conferences, museum exhibits, even a high-budget film, “Amazing Grace,” about William Wilberforce, the leader of the parliamentary crusade that resulted in abolition.
What explains this divergence? Throughout the 1780s, the horrors of the Middle Passage were widely publicized on both sides of the Atlantic and by 1792 the British Parliament stood on the verge of banning the trade. But when war broke out with revolutionary France, the idea was shelved. Final prohibition came in 1807 and it proved a major step toward the abolition of slavery in the empire.
The British campaign against the African slave trade not only launched the modern concern for human rights as an international principle, but today offers a usable past for a society increasingly aware of its multiracial character. It remains a historic chapter of which Britons of all origins can be proud.
In the United States, however, slavery not only survived the end of the African trade but embarked on an era of unprecedented expansion. Americans have had to look elsewhere for memories that ameliorate our racial discontents, which helps explain our recent focus on the 19th-century Underground Railroad as an example (widely commemorated and often exaggerated) of blacks and whites working together in a common cause.
Nonetheless, the abolition of the slave trade to the United States is well worth remembering. Only a small fraction (perhaps 5 percent) of the estimated 11 million Africans brought to the New World in the four centuries of the slave trade were destined for the area that became the United States. But in the Colonial era, Southern planters regularly purchased imported slaves, and merchants in New York and New England profited handsomely from the trade.
The American Revolution threw the slave trade and slavery itself into crisis. In the run-up to war, Congress banned the importation of slaves as part of a broader nonimportation policy. During the War of Independence, tens of thousands of slaves escaped to British lines. Many accompanied the British out of the country when peace arrived.
Inspired by the ideals of the Revolution, most of the newly independent American states banned the slave trade. But importation resumed to South Carolina and Georgia, which had been occupied by the British during the war and lost the largest number of slaves.
The slave trade was a major source of disagreement at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. South Carolina’s delegates were determined to protect slavery, and they had a powerful impact on the final document. They originated the three-fifths clause (giving the South extra representation in Congress by counting part of its slave population) and threatened disunion if the slave trade were banned, as other states demanded.
The result was a compromise barring Congress from prohibiting the importation of slaves until 1808. Some Anti-Federalists, as opponents of ratification were called, cited the slave trade clause as a reason why the Constitution should be rejected, claiming it brought shame upon the new nation.
The outbreak of the slave revolution in Haiti in the early 1790s sent shock waves of fear throughout the American South and led to new state laws barring the importation of slaves. But in 1803, as cotton cultivation spread, South Carolina reopened the trade. The Legislature of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory also allowed the importation of slaves. From 1803 to 1808, between 75,000 and 100,000 Africans entered the United States.
By this time, the international slave trade was widely recognized as a crime against humanity. In 1807, Congress prohibited the importation of slaves from abroad, to take effect the next New Year’s Day, the first date allowed by the Constitution.
For years thereafter, free African-Americans celebrated Jan. 1 as an alternative to July 4, when, in their view, patriotic orators hypocritically proclaimed the slave-owning United States a land of liberty.
[To read the entire article, go to: ]

What Ever Happened to Affirmative Action Opponent Clint Bolick?

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education
JBHE Weekly Bulletin, December 27, 2007

A decade ago Clint Bolick was widely seen as the New Right’s point man in efforts to roll back affirmative action in higher education. But in recent years Bolick has kept a low profile on issues of concern to higher education. Instead Bolick turned his attention to the issue of school choice in K-12 education as president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice.
Now Bolick has resurfaced as the director of the Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix. In this role Bolick recently issued a policy brief in support of the effort to place a public referendum on the November 2008 ballot in Arizona which would ban any racial preference in admissions, employment, or contracting at state-operated universities in the state.
In the Bolick policy paper he identifies programs at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University, which he believes would be unlawful should the initiative be enacted by voters this coming fall. Among these programs are the Minority Engineering Program, minority student recruitment programs, and the Bridges to Biomedical Careers program at Arizona State University. At the University of Arizona, Bolick says that the Minority Access to Research Careers, the librarian recruitment program, and the Minority Health Disparities Research Opportunities program would have to be eliminated or revised so that no racial group would have a participation preference.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Affirmative action for immigrants (Norway)

The Norwegian government will implement a program of moderate immigrant hiring quotas at 12 state services.

The test program will include the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), the Directorate of Public Construction and Property, the Norwegian State Housing Bank and nine other state operations, Aftenposten reports.
The moderate quotas will give "positive special treatment" to immigrants when they have approximately the same qualifications as other applicants.
"Moderate quotas are a reasonably strong tool," said Minister of Government Administration and Reform Heidi Grande Røys.
"This applies primarily to those immigrants who have the greatest problems entering the job market. We are not talking about Swedes," Røys said, and pointed out that even though immigrant unemployment is dropping, the gap between jobless Norwegians and out of work immigrants remains large.
[To view the entire article, go to:]

Tracking Bias or Guilt by Association?

Inside Higher Education
Dec. 19
Tracking Bias or Guilt by Association?

If a professor is a member of a church that holds anti-gay views, and isn’t forthright about those views, does that make the professor’s vote against the tenure bid of a gay professor suspect?
That is one of the questions explored in an unusual lawsuit against the University of Michigan — filed nearly three years ago but thus far bogged down in preliminary motions. State courts have twice rejected requests by Michigan to have the case dismissed and a third request was scheduled to be heard this week, but postponed. The professor, Peter Hammer, won a majority of votes of the faculty of the law school in his case. But the 18-12 margin was two shy of the two-thirds requirement to win tenure, so he lost his job, and now is a professor of law at Wayne State University. He says he was the first male faculty member rejected by the faculty for tenure in 40 years.
Like lots of tenure disputes, this one has many facets — debates on Hammer’s scholarship, disputes on deadlines and technical parts of the tenure and grievance process at Michigan. And as is the case with many tenure lawsuits, the university says that it and its employees cannot respond to specific questions about the case. The university does, however, say that the quality of Hammer’s scholarship cost him his tenure bid, not his sexual orientation, and the university’s briefs cite critics of his scholarship, just as supporters of the tenure bid cited praise. (Many documents about the case are available on a Web site maintained by the gay organization of the Wayne State law school, the OUTlaws.)
Some parts of the tenure suit — however it is eventually resolved — have raised new legal theories with potential ramification beyond Hammer and Michigan. To Hammer, these factors point to the vulnerability of gay faculty members to bias and the need for more protections and more legal approaches to fight discrimination. But some experts on tenure and higher education are worried that these arguments — whatever the veracity of Hammer’s claims — pose dangers to the tenure process.
Hammer’s suit is based on contract law, not discrimination law; there are no federal or Michigan laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation on which he could sue. His suit is based on the idea that he was assured when accepting the job at Michigan (and turning down other offers) of the university’s commitment to equity for gay employees, as outlined in the faculty handbook and various university policies. Hammer’s legal specialties are health policy and Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia. So while he was out to colleagues, his teaching and scholarship did not focus on gay issues.
One part of Michigan’s defense that Hammer said raises questions about the university’s commitment to equity (and that the university has withdrawn) was to argue that the statements in university policies barring bias against gay people couldn’t be enforced in court. When Hammer and his lawyers saw that argument, Hammer approached the gay faculty group at Michigan and said he showed them that under this legal theory of the university’s, gay employees had no real rights against bias.
R. Van Harrison, a professor of medical education at Michigan and coordinator of the University of Michigan LGBT Faculty Alliance, confirmed that after Hammer told the group about the legal argument being made, gay faculty members had meetings with senior administrators at Michigan, who then agreed to withdraw that stance.
An argument made by Hammer is also attracting attention. He examined the records and backgrounds of some of the faculty members who voted against him. In several cases (enough to affect the outcome of the vote), he argues that the professors’ comments or writings or affiliations raise questions about their fairness — especially because in the discovery process he maintains that they were not forthright about their beliefs. For example, one professor is a member of a church that will not admit gay people unless they promise to “reform their ways,” according to court documents. Yet the professor, according to depositions and statements provided by Hammer’s lawyer, denied knowing his church’s views on gay people, even though they are identifiable from links on the church’s Web site, and the professor teaches Sunday school there. In another case, a professor’s opposition to same-sex marriage is cited. Another faculty member wrote of gay people as a “pariah group.”
In discovery, Hammer’s lawyers asked these and other professors questions about hot-button social issues (not only on gay rights, but abortion in some cases) to document what Hammer considers to be a pattern of people with conservative social values misrepresenting their own views. (In all of these cases, the professors have said that they voted against Hammer because they didn’t think his scholarship rose to the necessary level of excellence and not because Hammer is gay, and the university backs these professors.)
[To read the entire article, go to:]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


WASHINGTON – Reed L. Russell has been sworn in as Legal Counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), overseeing internal and external policy guidance for the nation’s premier civil rights agency. Russell, most recently counsel with the Washington office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, was appointed last month by President Bush.
“We are delighted to welcome Reed Russell as EEOC's Legal Counsel,” Chair Naomi C. Earp said. “Reed's professional background, which encompasses legal, military and business experience, renders him uniquely suited to address existing and emerging employment law issues and trends. I would also like to thank Peggy Mastroianni for her diligent work as Acting Legal Counsel during the past four years.”
The EEOC’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) serves as the principal advisor to the Commission on enforcement matters. OLC represents the Commission in defensive litigation and administrative hearings. OLC prepares Commission decisions on charges for which there is no precedent. OLC writes regulations, conducts outreach and education efforts, and coordinates all federal issues affecting equal employment opportunity.
“EEOC’s OLC office is involved in analyzing and shaping policy on the cutting-edge EEO issues that affect employers and employees across the country every day,” Russell said. “Getting to help shape such policy and work with so many experts on EEO law was an opportunity I could not pass up.”
For the past eight years, Russell practiced employment law at Akin, primarily litigating wage and hour and some employment discrimination class actions, as well as handling individual employment discrimination cases and counseling employers on employment practices.
Russell served in the Army Reserves and the National Guard, including an active duty tour in Iraq from June 2005 until March 2006, where he was an advisor to Iraqi Special Police in Ramadi and later Baghdad. He was class valedictorian at Catholic Law School in 1999, and graduated from Wake Forest University in 1991 with a bachelor’s in business administration.
Russell and his wife have two young sons, and expect to welcome a baby daughter from South Korea in the spring of 2008.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

The American Dream, or a Nightmare for Black America?

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted December 17, 2007.

Thirty years after the civil rights era, middle-class African-American families face a grim reality: their kids are far more likely to experience downward mobility in today's economy than they are to move up.

For both black and white families, America's vaunted upward mobility is largely a myth, and research suggests that Americans actually enjoy less upward mobility than people in many other wealthy countries. (I discussed this phenomenon at some length in a recent article.) But the outlook is different for white and black families.
A new study by Julia Isaacs, a Fellow with the Brookings Institution, paints a dark picture for black families, and especially for the large group of African-Americans who moved up and into the middle class following the hard-fought gains of the 1950s and 1960s.
Isaacs looked at a unique set of data, one that allowed her to compare the incomes of people in their 30s in 2004 with their parents' generation in the mid-'70s (this allowed her to compare people at the same general stage in their careers -- apples and apples).
While white men's incomes have been stagnant for the past three decades -- for both white and black families, most of the increase in family income was a result of women entering the workforce rather than wages increasing -- the current generation of 30-something black men actually earn, on average, 12 percent less than their fathers did in the mid-1970s.
That trend toward downward mobility has an enormous impact on the black middle class. While children of middle-class whites tend to do better than their parents did at the same age, a majority of middle-class African American children do worse than theirs, both in income and in terms of their position on the nation's economic ladder. According to Isaacs, "only 31 percent of black children born to parents in the middle of the income distribution have family income greater than their parents, compared to 68 percent of white children from the same income bracket."
The key findings from the study are truly eye-opening:
Startlingly, almost half (45 percent) of black children whose parents were solidly middle class end up falling to the bottom of the income distribution, compared to only 16 percent of white children.
Achieving middle-income status does not appear to protect black children from future economic adversity the same way it protects white children.
Black children from poor families have poorer prospects than white children from such families. More than half (54 percent) of black children born to parents in the bottom quintile stay in the bottom, compared to 31 percent of white children.
Given these dynamics, it should come as no surprise that the black/white income gap has risen, not fallen, in the decades since legal, institutional racism ended in America. In 1974, black families earned, on average, almost two-thirds of what whites did; by 2004, that number had fallen to 58 percent.
But looking at income alone misses a crucial part of the story. The differences in accumulated wealth -- in net worth -- are far greater than the differences in income, and that impacts black families' prospects of moving up in a big way. In Being Black, Living in the Red, Dalton Conley, Director of NYU's Center for Advanced Social Science Research, showed that white families, on average, had eight times the accumulated wealth of black families who earned the same, and that remained true even when you adjust for education levels and savings rates. It is, as Conley told me in an interview last year, "the legacy of racial inequality from generations past."
Crucial to understanding how that impacts economic mobility is the concept of "intergenerational assistance." That's just a fancy way of saying that your chances to advance economically are very much impacted by whether your family can help with tuition payments, or a down payment on a house or with seed-money to start a business. Conley compares two hypothetical kids -- one from a family with some money and the other without. Both are born with the same level of intelligence, both are ambitious and both work hard in school. In a true meritocracy, the two would enjoy the same opportunity to get ahead. But the fact that one might graduate from college free and clear while the other is burdened with $50,000 in debt makes a huge difference in terms of their long-term earnings prospects.
[To read the entire story, go to:]

BLS Report: Get Ready for a Smaller, More Diverse Workforce

Workforce Management
December 13, 2007

The Hispanic workforce will climb by 30 percent by 2016, while nurses make up the largest increase of any occupational group tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Anthony Olvera’s career prospects are promising. He is young, Hispanic and has five years of nursing experience—characteristics that bode well in an environment where the workforce is aging rapidly, there’s a dearth of skilled talent and diversity is on the rise.
Olvera’s demographics are a virtual mirror of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest workforce projections and predictions through 2016. The Hispanic workforce will climb by 30 percent by that year, while nurses make up the largest increase of any occupational group tracked by the BLS.
Overall, the civilian labor force will increase by 12.8 million, bringing the number of workers to 164.2 million by the middle of the next decade. While the figure appears to be a healthy increase, longtime HR executives may recall that 17.5 million workers entered the labor force between 1996 and 2006.
“It’s clear that the workforce growth rate is decelerating,” says Mitra Toossi, an economist at the BLS in Washington. Indeed, the current rate of growth is 8.5 percent, significantly less than the 13.1 percent rise in the previous decade.
What’s more, the portion of the population that is actively employed or seeking employment—known as the labor force participation rate—is declining and is expected to level off at 65.5 percent by 2016, Toossi notes. By comparison, workforce participation was at 67.1 percent in 1997.
Toossi attributes this to several factors, including an aging population.
“The reality is that as workers get older, they begin to drop out of the labor force,” Toossi says. “When that happens, participation rates take a hit.”
The number of workers 55 and older is expected to reach about 23 million in less than a decade. This represents a growth rate of 46.7 percent, which is almost 5.5 times the projections for the overall labor force.
Yet employers shouldn’t worry about an overnight exodus of workers, says Bob Morison, director of research at the BSG Concours Group, a consultancy based in Kingwood, Texas. Many baby boomers—people born between 1946 and 1964—intend to remain active, but it will be on their terms. In fact, some three-quarters of baby boomers say they plan to work at least part time in their retirement years, Morison says.
[To view the entire article, go to:]

Do Your Employees Consider Your Corporate Policies Racist?

Workforce Management
December 2007

Reactions to recent (and not so recent) news events show that black and white Americans see things very differently. As businesspeople we must ask ourselves a very difficult and important question: Is it possible that a company’s policies are being viewed differently by different minority groups within its overall employee base? By Ann Carlsen

To begin to fathom the breadth and depth of the cultural and racial divide in America, you need look no further than three major news events involving athletes; two of them recent, and one which dominated the headlines just over a decade ago:
The 1995 murder trial of football star O.J. Simpson.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s guilty plea to dogfighting conspiracy charges
San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds’ breaking of Hank Aaron’s home-run record, amidst allegations of steroid use.
All tell us in no uncertain terms that we are, in many ways, a divided nation when it comes to how we view and perceive certain occurrences. Despite facts which have proved to be incontrovertible, blacks and whites viewed each of these events differently and hold vastly dissimilar opinions about the relative guilt and innocence of the individuals involved:
Following Simpson’s acquittal, while the majority of African Americans rejoiced, most whites felt shock and anger. U.S. News & World Report found in a survey taken immediately after the trial that 55 percent of all blacks felt Simpson was not guilty, while 62 percent of whites felt he committed the murders.
An ESPN/ABC News poll found that 74 percent of African Americans wanted Bonds to break Aaron’s record, compared with only 29 percent of whites. Forty-six percent of African Americans felt Bonds was treated unfairly by the media, compared with just 25 percent of whites. An overwhelming 85 percent of African Americans feel Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame, compared with just over half of all whites.
In a recent poll conducted on the Web site, 46 percent of African Americans responding said they believe that the Michael Vick case involves race, while only 14 percent of whites believe it does.
Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University, who helped construct the Vick survey for, says the results are not surprising. "Every time we have a controversy in America involving race, it’s always very clear that whites and blacks see it differently. The polls during Katrina, O.J. and many other tragedies showed similar trends," Watkins says.
These polling figures seem significant for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most compelling might be the quantitative differences between them. Whether these differences are ultimately a product of race or class, or a combination of both, this much seems clear: In America, whites and blacks view the world through the prism of personal and cultural experience and each group processes information very differently and forms opinions accordingly.
And given that as a backdrop, as businesspeople we must ask ourselves this very difficult and important question: Is it possible that a company’s policies are being viewed differently by different minority groups within its overall employee base?
And, most important, could your own company’s policies being deemed as racist and/or sexist by one or more of these groups?
The high cost of being viewed as a racist organization Having read to this point, it would be very easy to click to another Web page and go on believing that our companies are, as we’ve always believed them to be, racially neutral and culturally sensitive. And to some degree, with some companies, this may indeed be the case.
But what the polling data above tells us is that any two groups of people can look at the same set of facts, the same combination of circumstances, and perceive them entirely differently. And for a major corporation, that can be a dangerous and costly thing.
[To view the entire article, go to:]

Friday, December 14, 2007

ASHE Announces the formation of a new Institute on Equity Research Methods and Critical Policy Analysis

ASHE Institute on Equity Research Methods and Critical Policy Analysis
Lansing, MI – December 12, 2007

– ASHE is pleased to announce the formation of a new Institute on Equity Research Methods and Critical Policy Analysis. The institute will be a collaborative effort among the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, The Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California, the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston Law Center, and ASHE. The Ford Foundation is providing a one-year planning grant to establish the institute with the possibility of bestowing support for an additional five years.
The ASHE Institute on Equity Research Methods and Critical Policy Analysis is being created because of the historical and current inequalities that exist in higher education for minority populations. Specifically, the institute is targeting inequalities that exist for African Americans, Latina/os, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians. The institute was born out of the ASHE Equity Task Force led by Estela Mara Bensimon from the University of Southern California. As she states, “the current body of empirical and policy oriented knowledge contains a major weakness: it tends to ignore race, ethnicity, and language altogether or to interpret differences in educational outcomes to characteristics of minorities that set them apart, e.g., “high risk” or “underprepared.” The impetus for the creation of this institute is to ask the “race” question critically and knowledgeably.”
The institute will focus on addressing three urgent needs: (1) to support greater inclusion through the development of a core group of minority scholars with the knowledge and research methods to study questions of racial and ethnic equity in higher education; (2) to transform the agendas of higher education policy centers and give greater visibility to the needs and interests of minority communities; and (3) to develop greater recognition of minority experts in higher education and expand the network of minority scholars who are called on to shape policy agendas. Issues and events in higher education currently being discussed such as race-linked barriers to achievement and race conscious admissions are exemplary of the types of concerns that this institute will address.
Michael Olivas from the University of Houston Law Center states that “there is a tremendous need for training and support for junior faculty. The demands upon them for meeting the requirements for teaching and scholarship have increased, and the pressures for entrepreneurial grantsmanship and service are nothing short of extraordinary. These programs will provide the academic village that it takes to raise a contributing scholar and productive faculty member. In addition, there is a pressing need for minority voices to add to the discourse concerning higher education issues. In a small way, these efforts should help shape these developments.”
Sylvia Hurtado from the University of California at Los Angeles added that, “within recent years, ASHE has seen a steady increase of minority scholars and we would like to keep supporting their development as scholars. The Institute helps to acquaint them with publishing in the best journals and guides them to see other ways at studying equity in higher education.”
For more information on the Institute, contact the following individuals either by e-mail or phone: Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon at or(213) 740-5969, Sylvia Hurtado at or (213) 740-5969, Michael Olivas at or (713) 743-2100.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stanford launches Faculty Development Initiative to recruit best scholars of ethnicity and race

Stanford University has launched a five-year effort to appoint the best young scholars in the nation whose research focuses on the study of ethnicity and race.
The endeavor, known as the Faculty Development Initiative, involves marshaling new university resources and leadership to recruit and hire rising stars in the humanities and social sciences. It directly follows Provost John Etchemendy's commitment last spring to create 10 incremental faculty positions in the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE), which now consists of more than 100 affiliated faculty members from 15 departments and five schools.
In September, the center, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost, began the search to enhance "diversity" at Stanford, meaning both extending the range of fields of study at the university as well as the race, gender and sexual orientation of the faculty. "The tried and true methods of recruiting, hiring and retaining well-qualified and diverse faculty members have not been enough," Etchemendy said. "We must take a new, more vigorous approach to fostering diversity if we are to remain at the forefront of knowledge, creativity and public service."
The initiative leverages a gift of $2.5 million, matched by another $2 million in a grant from the Hewlett Foundation to the School of Humanities and Sciences. Through a variety of search strategies that will identify outstanding prospects—from advanced graduate students finishing their doctoral dissertations to assistant and newly tenured associate professors—Stanford is seeking the most promising talent in academia for appointment.
Al Camarillo, professor of history and the Miriam and Peter Haas Centennial Professor in Public Service, is leading the initiative. While acknowledging that the initiative is unprecedented in many ways, he noted that it also continues a Stanford tradition.
"When I was hired by Stanford at age 26, I was struck by the fact that so many of my colleagues in the History Department and elsewhere across the university had begun their careers at Stanford and had stayed for 10, 20, 30 or more years," Camarillo said. "It was made clear to me early on by my senior colleagues that Stanford was a place where you could advance your career, and with the support of abundant university resources make your mark in your field of expertise.
"The CCSRE's Faculty Development Initiative will weave this longstanding tradition of growing our own talent with the newer tradition of excellence in the study of race and ethnicity. In the end, this initiative will add immeasurably to Stanford's status as one of the leading universities in the nation in the study of race and ethnicity."
All social science and humanities departments were invited to participate in the Faculty Development Initiative. The Department of English was among the first to respond.
"We welcome the opportunity to bring new perspectives and new fields of inquiry into the Stanford community," said Ramón Saldívar, the Hoagland Family Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, chair of the English Department and professor of comparative literature. "This initiative is imperative if we are to engage creatively and innovatively the most pressing questions in the humanities in the 21st century."
[To read the entire article, go to:]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

From Missouri to Arizona

The national newsmagazine on race and politics
By Mick Dumke
Nov/Dec 2007
“A significant degree of racism reared its head. I think for many years, whites have been upset by the tools used to fight the legacy of slavery and racism, and this became a tool to express that.”

WARD CONNERLY MAINTAINS he has simple reasons for campaigning to end affirmative action. “I’m not just fighting to end racial preferences—I’m fighting to alter the way people still see Black people as weak and lazy,” says Connerly, a Black real estate consultant who founded and chairs the anti-affirmative action American Civil Rights Institute. “People are rethinking race, and as they do, they’re having a hard time thinking that Black people whose ancestors overcame slavery can’t make it on their own. Because, let’s face it, at the end of the day, when we talk about affirmative action, we’re talking about Black people.”
Affirmative action supporters concede that during the last decade, Connerly has been successful at connecting with voters in California, Washington and Michigan as they’ve passed measures banning race- and gender-based “preference” programs. But they contend he’s done it by getting white citizens to act on their suspicions about the inferiority of people of color. “In Michigan, voters were being asked to give up a small modicum of white privilege, and they wouldn’t do it,” says Shanta Driver, national co-chair of By Any Means Necessary, a pro-affirmative action group known by its acronym BAMN. “They voted against integration.”
The debate over how and why California, Washington and especially Michigan voted to gut their affirmative action programs has intensified since Connerly announced last fall that he and his allies would be taking their crusade to as many as nine more states for the 2008 elections. While Connerly now says his team has narrowed the list to five—Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma—he still argues that it could be the last stand for affirmative action.
“I sense a certain resignation from many [affirmative action proponents] that they are going to lose,” Connerly says.His opponents agree that the stakes are high. “They’re basically trying to dismantle the work and progress of the last 50 or 60 years,” says the Rev. Gill Ford, director of the NAACP’s Region IV, which includes Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska.
But Ford and other affirmative action proponents are hardly conceding defeat. They’re forming coalitions and working with veterans of the previous ballot battles to devise new strategies to beat Connerly. The focus, they say, should be on making sure voters understand what this fight is really about: whether public agencies should take steps to combat ongoing racial discrimination or simply let it fester.
Connerly has been trying to kill affirmative action nationwide since 1995, when as a University of California regent he led colleagues in voting to end the system’s consideration of race in admissions. In 1996, amid rising anti-immigration sentiment, Connerly and former California governor Pete Wilson successfully campaigned for passage of Proposition 209, which banned “discrimination” and “preferential treatment” on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. At the time, it was reported that Connerly had earned more than $1 million through a state minority contracting program.
[To read the entire article, go to:]

Monday, December 10, 2007

EEOC Issues List of Significant Race/Color Cases

On December 3, 2007, the EEOC posted the following notice:

"In enforcing Title VII's prohibition of race and color discrimination, the EEOC has filed, resolved, and adjudicated a number of cases since 1964. Under the E-RACE Initiative, the Commission continues to be focused on the eradication of race and color discrimination from the 21st century workplace and is seeking to retool its enforcement efforts to address contemporary forms of overt, subtle and implicit bias."

The agency has posted on its website an "inexhaustive list" of significant EEOC private or federal sector cases from 2003 to present. According to the agency, these cases illustrate some of the common, novel, systemic and emerging issues in the realm of race and color discrimination.

To see the list of cases, go to:

Tenure at MIT still largely a male domain

By Linda K. Wertheimer, Globe Staff December 6, 2007

Just one out of 25 faculty members granted tenure this year at MIT is female, a gender imbalance that appears to contrast with the university's decade-old effort to boost the status of women.
Women have been achieving tenure at a lower rater than men at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the past 10 years, according to an MIT analysis of junior faculty. Of the tenured faculty, 16 percent are women, up from 10.5 percent a decade ago, but still too big a gap, several professors said.
The point was brought home recently when the school's in-house newspaper published a portrait gallery of the faculty members granted tenure this year; among the sea of male faces was the lone woman.
"The truth is what we're looking for is 50 percent parity," said tenured professor Ruth Perry, who has taught literature at the university since 1972. "There has been a slacking off. People aren't paying enough attention."
MIT President Susan Hockfield, who became the university's first woman president in 2004, said the photo of just one woman was "unsettling," but not a sign of MIT backing off its pledge to hire more women and improve their tenure rate. Tenure, which provides professors life-time job protection as well as prestige, can take four to seven years to earn depending on their talent, experience, and field.
"We are absolutely committed to accelerating our progress, and we want to be able to show that progress every single year," Hockfield said. "But all of the variables that go into this mean some years, it's not going to look as good as we want it to look."
MIT's appointment this year of engineering professor Barbara Liskov as a new associate provost for faculty equity is an example of the university's commitment, Hockfield said.
The school emphasizes that the tenure data are preliminary because more faculty may win promotions during the remainder of the academic year. Between 1997 and now, the number of junior faculty women granted tenure has ranged from zero to eight a year, according to data provided by MIT at the Globe's request. The number of junior faculty men granted tenure ranged from 10 to 24 a year over the same period.
An MIT analysis of junior faculty who could have vied for tenure during the last decade found that 41 percent of 104 women were granted tenure, compared with 48 percent of the 372 men hired.
Liskov and Hockfield said the university will investigate impediments to women receiving tenure.
"It's very hard to know whether you're making progress or standing still," Liskov said. "One year is not really the issue. It's over time. I would like to see the rate for men and women be equal."
MIT set off a national examination of gender equity in higher education in 1999 when the university published a report on gender bias in its School of Science. The group, led by Nancy Hopkins, a tenured biology professor and longtime leader on gender equity issues at the university, said in the report that the school routinely underpaid, marginalized, and disrespected female faculty in numerous ways, including providing less lab and office space and giving them scant representation on hiring and funding committees.
At the urging of then President Charles Vest, who agreed with the report's findings, MIT created committees to study gender bias at each of its schools. In 2002, reports from those committees reached the same conclusion about their individual schools: gender bias was pervasive.
MIT passed policies designed to attract more female applicants and retain women faculty. Since 2001, for example, the school has automatically stopped the tenure clock for up to a year after a woman has her first child. In the past, if faculty members had not reached tenure by the seventh year at the school, they would lose out on the opportunity.
To achieve tenure, a junior faculty member has to win approval from several committees, starting with a group within the professor's department, then a school-wide committee, and finally a committee of all five of MIT schools' deans chaired by the university president.
Robert Brown, MIT's provost from 1998 to 2005 and now the president of Boston University, oversaw the bulk of MIT's work on women's issues. After the 2002 reports, he said, MIT wanted "to become the leader in mentoring young female faculty and monitoring the careers of tenured women, and working more aggressively to increase their numbers."
Universities nationwide, particularly those with a scientific focus like MIT, are struggling to achieve gender parity in tenure, said John Curtis, director of research and public policy at the American Association of University Professors.
The association's 2006 study on faculty gender equity reported that at doctoral universities, on average, a quarter of tenured faculty are women. MIT's rate is comparable to schools with a more scientific bent, like the California Institute of Technology, where 11 percent of tenured faculty last year were women, Curtis said. At Harvard, 20 percent of the tenured faculty were women.
"This is really slow progress, and it will take decades before women are on more equal footing with men," Curtis said.
Brown said he continues to believe that tenure rates for women will improve if universities hire more junior women faculty, and make it easier for them to juggle family responsibilities.
MIT has made strides in hiring more women, increasing their percentage on the faculty from 14.7 percent in 1998 to 19.3 percent today. And in the past two years, Hockfield said, roughly a third of the hires have been women.
MIT, though, is at a disadvantage because the bulk of its professors are in such male-dominated fields as computer science, physics, math, and other scientific disciplines, and fewer women are entering the pipeline for jobs in those areas. BU faces similar issues when it recruits for certain disciplines, Brown said.
Hopkins, an outspoken critic of former Harvard president Lawrence Summers for his remarks about women's ability in the sciences, said it was unnerving to see only one woman among the newly tenured professors featured in last month's Tech Talk newspaper.
"It's a shock. I don't have a thousand words as good as that picture," said Hopkins. "It's a good reminder. We learned a lot about this problem, but good will and time do not solve that problem."
Hopkins and other professors said that despite the latest figures, they want MIT to continue primarily promoting from within to improve tenure rates, rather than adopt other universities' practice of recruiting other colleges' stars to rapidly increase the proportion of tenured women.
[To read the entire article, go to:]

Court To Rule On Wal-Mart Transfer Of Worker with Disabilities

ADA WATCH NEWS from the National Coalition for Disability Rights
Court To Rule On Wal-Mart Transfer Of Worker with Disabilities

By Mark H. Anderson, Dow Jones Newswires
WASHINGTON - In a case involving Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the U.S. Supreme Court Friday said it will determine if a disabled employee, under federal disabilities law, gets preference over other employees for a vacant position even if they aren't the best qualified for the job.
The Wal-Mart case involves Pam Huber, a Wal-Mart warehouse worker in Clarksville, Ark., who injured her right arm and hand on the job. Huber worked as an order filler, a warehouse floor job pulling products from storage shelves, and requested a transfer to an open position as a router, a desk job.
Wal-Mart gave the position to a colleague with more seniority than Huber, however, and offered her a position at another company facility making significantly less money, court documents said.
Huber accepted the lesser-paying job and sued. A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of her. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis in May 2007 reversed that holding and ruled for Wal-Mart.
Attorneys for Huber, in the high court appeal, said Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules require employers to favor disabled employees under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal law on the rights of the disabled. "The Eighth Circuit not only disregarded the statutory text but also entirely ignored the EEOC's interpretation," the attorneys said, adding the ruling deepened a split on the issue in the federal appeals court circuits.
Wal-Mart, in court documents, said Huber's transfer was handled under standard company transfer policies where "vacant positions go to the most qualified applicant" and "Huber's disability had nothing to do with this decision."
Justice Stephen Breyer, who reported holding Wal-Mart stock in his most recent financial disclosure, recused himself from the case, opening the appeal up to a possible 4-4 tie.
The case is Huber v. Wal-Mart Stores, 07-480. Oral arguments will be held in the spring of 2008 and a decision is expected before July 2008.
ADA Watch is a project of the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR), and alliance of hundreds of national, state and local disability, civil rights and social justice organizations united to defend and strengthen the civil rights of children and adults with physical, mental, cognitive, sensory and developmental disabilities.
National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR)
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 900S Washington, DC 20004
Telephone: 202-661-4722

M.J. Andersen: A place for affirmative action

01:00 AM EST on Friday, December 7, 2007

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION was conceived as an exact approach to an inexact problem. How, in a nation dedicated to equal opportunity, were we to chip away at racial discrimination? In its evolving guises, affirmative action would be a methodical attempt to ensure that minorities had a fair shot, and over time, would enter all strata of society.
The question that always hovered, though, was “how long?”
When could race-conscious policies be abandoned? What state of affairs was going to be good enough?
The howl of pain embodied in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s recently published biography has given the “how long” question new force.
As a young man, Justice Thomas benefited from efforts to recruit minority students at Holy Cross and Yale Law School. Today though, he seethes over the notion of being seen as one who received special favors — seethes more over the notion that any black American, henceforth, ever should get a break based on race. If Clarence Thomas ruled the world, affirmative action would be abandoned yesterday, and his own personal history sponged clean.
Yet even as Justice Thomas profitably nurses his injuries, new evidence on the “not yet” side of the debate keeps emerging.
Most dramatic have been the events in Jena, La., where white students hung nooses at a favored school gathering spot. A subsequent brawl ended in attempted murder charges against six blacks. Cries of lopsided justice were raised, and thousands marched. But dozens of copycat noose incidents, from Terra Haute, Ind., to Punta Gorda, Fla., have made clear that old notions of racial superiority still lurk.
Dull statistics shed greater light. A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that middle-class blacks are far less likely than whites to hang onto their middle-class status. The study followed more than 2,000 children, ranging from birth to age 18, and compared their median family incomes in 1968 with where they stood in 2006. Of those reared in the middle fifth of families economically (the statistical middle class), far more blacks than whites fell on the income ladder. Among blacks, 69 percent were earning less than their middle-class parents; among whites, just 32 percent moved downward.
In a restructuring U.S. economy, a college degree has grown increasingly vital to economic success. But lately, we have been building an inherited meritocracy. Well-off white students have an overwhelming edge in being admitted, especially to top-tier schools. A growing income gap and skyrocketing tuitions have placed higher education increasingly out of reach for many students of color.
In the late 1990s, two retired college presidents, Derek Bok of Harvard and William Bowen of Princeton, studied the effect of race-sensitive policies on admissions to selective schools. Their conclusions, reported in The Shape of the River, were generally opposite those proclaimed in the Clarence Thomas School of Wounded Pride.
Overall, they found, black students were not harmed by being stigmatized, or by having been thrown in (as some skeptics saw it) over their heads.
They also performed well: The more selective the college, the more likely they were to graduate and succeed in their careers. Additionally, they were highly active in civic life.
Nor did blacks displace significant numbers of whites or Asians. Eliminating race-sensitive policies, Bok and Bowen found, would have increased those groups’ numbers by less than two percentage points. In fact, they discovered that recruited athletes often displaced more qualified applicants than minority students did.
Peter Schmidt, the author of the recently published Color and Money: How Rich White Kids are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action, asserts that 15 percent of freshmen at highly selective schools are whites who failed to meet the schools’ minimum admissions standards but who had money and connections that swayed admissions offices.
[To read the entire article, go to:]

Regents Select Finalist for Presidency of Texas A&M University

December 7, 2007
Dr. Elsa Murano Tapped to be President of Nation’s 6th Largest University
Contact: Tina Evans(979) 458-6023

College Station – The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) Board of Regents today voted to select Dr. Elsa Murano as the sole finalist for the position of president of Texas A&M University (TAMU). A noted researcher and academician, a former federal appointee and the current vice chancellor of agriculture of the A&M System, as well as the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M, Dr. Murano will be eligible to become president in 21 days.
“We conducted a nationwide search to find the best candidate for the presidency of Texas A&M University, and we discovered that individual in our own backyard,” said the chairman of the Board of Regents, Bill Jones. “Dr. Murano is a distinguished researcher and academic leader, a successful manager who has transformed agriculture across the A&M System and a visionary with the credentials to oversee a $1.2 billion annual enterprise like Texas A&M University.
“Dr. Murano understands all aspects of the presidency of this distinguished university,” said Jones. “She is a unifying force who can bring faculty, students and former students together behind the goals of academic excellence and research superiority. She has the trust and confidence of the Board of Regents.”
Dr. Murano, 48, was the first Hispanic-American and first woman to be named the vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M when hired in 2005. Prior to that, she was the first Hispanic-American to serve as undersecretary for food safety at the United States Department of Agriculture, a position she held from 2001 to 2004.
Dr. Murano’s academic career spans more than a quarter century. Since 2001, she has held the position of professor in the Texas A&M Department of Animal Science. From 1995 to 2001, she served as an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science, and as both the director and associate director of the Center for Food Safety at Texas A&M. From 1990 to 1995, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Preventive Medicine at Iowa State University. From 1984 to 1990 Dr. Murano served as a researcher and teaching assistant at Virginia Tech University. Prior to that she was a research laboratory technician at Florida International University from 1981 to 1983.
Dr. Murano received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Florida International University. She earned her master’s degree in anaerobic microbiology and Ph.D in food science and technology from Virginia Tech University.
“Dr. Murano is an excellent choice to lead Texas A&M University,” said Dr. Michael D. McKinney, chancellor of the A&M System. “She is a distinguished scholar, a highly regarded researcher who has been widely published, an expert in the field of agriculture and food safety, and a proven manager who has overseen 14 academic departments and the education of more than 6,000 students as the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.
“With her commitment to academic and research excellence, and her record of service both as a presidential appointee and a distinguished academician, I am thrilled that Dr. Murano is poised to lead Texas A&M University to greater heights,” Dr. McKinney said.
Dr. Murano has proven herself an adept leader of large organizations, overseeing 10,000 employees and an annual budget of $905 million as the highest-ranking food safety official in the U.S. government. In her current capacity, she has administered more than 30 academic programs impacting 5,000 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate and Ph.D. students. As the vice chancellor and dean of agriculture, and former director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, she has led a transformation of agricultural programs within the System to the benefit of students, peers and the vibrant agricultural community represented in 254 counties across Texas.
Under Dr. Murano’s guidance, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has seen an increase in undergraduate enrollment over the past two years, following a sharp decline prior to her arrival as dean. She has been extremely successful in working with Congress and federal agencies to secure additional funding for academics, research and extension programs across the A&M System, as well as with the Texas Legislature to support research initiatives by the Experiment Station’s 425 scientists and 13 research centers located across the state.
Dr. Murano is a first generation Hispanic-American, fleeing Cuba with her family at a young age in the early 1960s. Born in Havana, she and her family lived in several Latin American countries before moving to Miami, where she spent her formative years .
In 2005, Dr. Murano was inducted to the Alumni Hall of Fame of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. In 2002, she was recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics” by Hispanic Business Magazine. The recipient of multiple academic fellowships and the Sadie Hatfield Endowed Professorship at Texas A&M from 2000 to 2001, Dr. Murano’s work has been extensively published. She has received numerous research grants totaling more than $8.7 million, and has served in a half dozen academic service and professional societies, such as the American Society for Microbiology, the American Society for Testing Materials, the Association of Meat Science, the Institute of Food Technologists, the International Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians, and the Poultry Science Association.
“The breadth of her experience, the extent of her academic service and the success of the large colleges and agencies she has led made Dr. Murano a compelling choice for the board,” said vice chair John White. “Dr. Murano is an academic at heart, a leader who values input and someone who understands Aggie traditions and the university culture. I am excited that she will help write a new chapter of excellence for the state of Texas.”
Dr. Murano is married to Dr. Peter S. Murano and they reside in Bryan, Texas.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Job Security for 50-Plus at Stake in Bias Case

By Allison Stevens - Washington Bureau Chief
Run Date: 12/04/07

Represented by her lawyer, Ellen Mendelsohn asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to ease the burden of proof for victims of age discrimination by allowing the "me too" evidence of other workers with similar complaints.But in the oral arguments Monday the justices did little to raise Mendelsohn's hopes.Chief Justice John Roberts and other justices suggested that allowing "me too" evidence could glut the court system with a preponderance of testimony."We'll have trials that last 1,000 years," warned Justice Stephen Breyer.Mendelsohn, a former midlevel manager at a Sprint subsidiary in Kansas City, Mo., lost her job in 2002 at age 51, when she was the oldest manager in her unit. She sued, alleging unfair treatment because of her age, and sought to bring evidence from fellow employees with similar complaints. Sprint argued that testimony from other witnesses would be irrelevant because it involved supervisors who were not involved in Mendelsohn's suit.A district judge refused to admit the "me too" evidence, but an appellate court judge disagreed and ordered a new trial. Sprint appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case last June so it could provide guidance on the issue to lower courts.More Men File ComplaintsAge discrimination is certainly not only a women's rights concern.In a book published in 2001 on the topic, "Age Discrimination in the American Workplace: Old at a Young Age," Raymond Gregory, a retired attorney who specialized in the issue in his New York practice, writes that nearly two-thirds of all age-discrimination cases in 1997 were brought by men.But even though women may file fewer complaints, Gregory says women start complaining of discrimination at younger ages.Loss of employment, meanwhile, can be harder on women, says Erica Williams, study director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a think tank in Washington, D.C.The combination of women earning less throughout their lifetimes, having less in the way of pensions or retirement accounts and having a longer life expectancy means that women in older age are more likely to be poor or disabled, to live alone, to rely on a single income or to depend on public service programs, says Williams.Important Implications for Women"All of that has important implications for older women who are trying to secure some employment in their retirement-age years," Williams said. "If they're also facing age discrimination, they may not be able to get a job to help them supplement Social Security benefits or what little retirement income they have."Women begin to report age discrimination at age 40, a full decade before men begin to complain about it, Gregory said in an interview. And women are filing complaints in greater numbers as they pick up parity in the workplace.Anti-ageism activists say both sexes battle the perception that midlife and older people are less productive and less able to keep up with technological advances in the workplace than younger workers.But while men are seen as more distinguished and experienced as they age, Nicole Porter, an assistant law professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio who specializes in employment discrimination, says women are more often regarded as obsolete. "We think of them as staying home to bake cookies. We have a hard time perceiving them as tough businesswomen or tough litigators, or whatever they may be."Such stereotypes put midlife and older women at greater risk for age discrimination when applying for jobs, Porter said.
[To read the entire article, go to:

Worker Fired After Revealing He Previously Had ‘Superbug’

Workforce Management
News in Brief
November 28, 2007

A Florida man who was fired November 2 may be the first American employee to lose his job for having had a drug-resistant bacterial infection that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the U.S. each year.
The events that led to Morris Yomtov’s firing began innocently enough as office banter regarding news reports that the deadly “superbug” methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, was responsible for nearly 19,000 deaths in 2005, more than double reported by researchers five years earlier. That mortality rate, published in the October 16 Journal of the American Medical Association, surpasses the number of annual deaths attributed to HIV/AIDS or homicide.
Yomtov, a 66-year-old retiree, took a job as an account executive with CPT of South Florida, a small Miami-based IT services company, last summer to help pay his property taxes. He mentioned to co-workers that he had acquired a MRSA infection two years ago while clearing brush left in his yard after Hurricane Wilma.
“So I say, ‘It’s really a nasty thing.’ I say, ‘I came very close to having my hand amputated,’ ” Yomtov says. “An hour later the owner of the company says pack your bags and leave. He says, ‘You couldn’t have had it two years ago because it didn’t exist two years ago.’ ”
MRSA, which is most commonly acquired in hospitals but has also been seen in schoolchildren and athletes, was first discovered in England in 1961.
Yomtov says his boss was concerned that Yomtov could infect co-workers. Later, Yomtov was told he had to produce a written note from his doctor saying he was not infected before he could return to work.
Yomtov’s supervisor at CPT, Barry Hess, did not respond to requests for comment. A secretary at CPT confirmed Yomtov was formerly employed by the company.
Teresa Smith de Cherif, who recently completed her fellowship in infectious diseases at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Miami, was one of the first physicians to treat Yomtov, who is an Air Force veteran. After several courses of antibiotics, the infection cleared and Yomtov’s swollen left hand returned to normal.
She says she told Yomtov’s boss over the phone and in writing that he was fine and should be able to work. Nonetheless, Yomtov says, on Friday, November 2, a vice president at CPT told him he was fired.“He just said, ‘Don’t come Monday,’ ” Yomtov says.
Yomtov has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but Kelly-Ann Cartwright, an attorney specializing in employment law in the Miami office of Holland and Knight, says his case may be limited. Florida is an “at-will” state, meaning employers can fire employees without having to show why. [To view the entire article, go to: ]

Monday, December 3, 2007


Agency Highlights ‘Best Practices’ for Employers to Prevent Job Discrimination

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an extensive fact sheet on the application of federal anti-discrimination laws to employer tests and other selection procedures to screen applicants for hire and employees for promotion. The new technical assistance document is available on the agency’s web site at
The fact sheet describes common types of employer administered tests and selection procedures used in the 21st century workplace, including cognitive tests, personality tests, medical examinations, credit checks, and criminal background checks. The document also focuses on “best practices” for employers to follow when using employment tests and other screening devices, and cites recent EEOC enforcement actions. Discriminatory employment tests and selection procedures are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act -- which are all enforced by the EEOC.
“This fact sheet will help employers voluntarily comply with EEOC-enforced statutes, as companies seek lawful and efficient ways to screen large numbers of applicants,” said Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp. “Tests and other selection tools can be an effective means of making employment decisions, as long as they are not used to screen out individuals in a discriminatory way.”
The EEOC has observed an increase in employment testing due in part to post 9-11 security concerns and issues related to workplace violence, safety, and liability. In addition, the large-scale adoption of online job applications has motivated employers to seek efficient ways to screen big applicant pools in a non-subjective way.
Charges of job discrimination filed with the EEOC raising issues of employment testing and exclusions based on criminal background checks, credit reports, and other screening tools have trended upward from 26 in Fiscal Year 2003 to 141 in FY 2006. On May 16, 2007, the Commission held a public meeting at agency Headquarters in which expert panelists addressed legal issues related to the use of employment tests and other screening devices.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at