Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ireland considers plan for financial punishments for universities that fail to meet specified targets.

Irish universities would risk losing part of their funding if they fail to tackle gender inequality under proposed reforms to improve women’s promotion chances in academe.

As part of plans put forward by an expert group commissioned by the Republic of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, all higher education institutions would face financial penalties if they did not meet targets on gender equality agreed with the funding body.

Institutions would also be unable to apply for research funding if they failed to achieve at least a Silver Athena SWAN award (given for gender equity) within seven years, the group has recommended.

Read the full story from Inside Higher Ed here.

Proposed EEOC Guidance on National Origin Discrimination Provides Clues to Agency’s Focus

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a Proposed Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination (“PEG”) and is allowing the public to comment through July 1, 2016. The last time the EEOC issued specific guidelines on National Origin Discrimination was in 2002.

The PEG is intended to communicate the EEOC’s position on national origin discrimination, including how the agency will investigate these types of charges. When it becomes final, the PEG will be included in the EEOC’s Compliance Manual and used by EEOC investigators as a resource in conducting investigations. Although the PEG refers to court rulings in this area, this does not mean the EEOC always will follow the majority position of courts on all issues relating to national origin. Rather, the PEG states that, in some cases, the EEOC has its own view on the correct interpretation of the law and will follow its own views.

Read the full statement from Jackson Lewis PC here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

EEOC To Revise Controversial Proposed Pay Data Collection Rules

In a positive development for employers, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that it would revisit its controversial proposed pay data collection rules, essentially acknowledging that its initial proposal would have been unduly burdensome for businesses.

Fisher Phillips was one of the most vocal critics of the proposed rules, submitting public comments and pointing out the undue burden to be faced by employers, as well as the questionable utility of the data collection and the serious privacy concerns that accompany the gathering and production of this information. The firm is pleased that the agency appears to be prepared to address these concerns.

Read the full statement by Fisher Phillips here.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) holds meeting on the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace

On Monday, June 20, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a meeting at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. to present findings of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Authors of the report, EEOC Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic, underlined their study and recommendations for addressing workplace harassment.

Eighteen months ago the Select Task Force was formed to identify key issues related to harassment in the workplace. The Task Force included a diverse group of legal specialists, social scientists, employees and employers, and others, who provided expertise and listened to witness testimony during a series of public and private hearings held throughout the past year-and-a-half.

According to the report, existing efforts and policies to prevent harassment in the workplace have been largely ineffective. Nearly one-third of the complaints received by the EEOC in 2015 involved workplace harassment. About 75 percent of those who experience harassment never report the misconduct.

In addition to strengthening and reviewing existing programs, the study recommended the implementation of civility and bystander intervention training. Civility training can reduce harassment by promoting work environments where employees are treated with respect and dignity. Bystander intervention initiatives are meant to empower coworkers to speak up when they observe inappropriate or offensive behavior. Additionally suggested is the creation of a nationwide “It’s on Us” initiative, similar to the national campaign to reduce sexual violence on college campuses through witness intervention. Such a program could promote a culture of shared responsibility to stop harassment in the workplace.

The report stressed the importance of leadership in preventing harassment. Management must initiate and be involved in harassment prevention efforts and accountability systems.

At the meeting, Commissioners Lipnic and Feldblum advocated for each of these measures as part of a holistic approach to curb workplace harassment.

Panelists included members of the Select Task Force, Joseph M. Sellers and Rae T. Vann, as well as Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Lilia Cortina and President of Sepler & Associates, Fran Sepler. Chair of the EEOC Jenny R. Yang was also in attendance.

The full report may be accessed on the EEOC website here.

An executive summary of the report may be accessed here.

More information on the meeting as well as full written testimonies of the panelists may be accessed here.

Diversity defines the millennial generation

Racial diversity will be the most defining and impactful characteristic of the millennial generation. Newly released 2015 Census data points to millennials’ role in transitioning America to the “majority minority” nation it is becoming.

Millennials between ages 18 and 34 are now synonymous with America’s young adults, fully occupying labor force and voting ages. They comprise 23 percent of the total population, 30 percent of the voting age population, and 38 percent of the primary working age population. Among racial minorities their numbers are even more imposing. Millennials make up 27 percent of the total minority population, 38 percent of voting age minorities, and a whopping 43 percent of primary working age minorities.

Read the complete Brookings story here.

AAAED Webinar: "The Fisher Decision: What it Means to Educators, Employers and Diversity/AA Professionals"

On June 23, 2016 the United States Supreme Court upheld the consideration of race as one of many factors in the admissions program of the University of Texas at Austin. The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity (AAAED), which filed two amicus curiae briefs in support of the University of Texas' admissions program, hailed the decision. AAAED News Release on Fisher .                                 

On July 12, 2016, the AAAED attorneys who drafted the briefs will hold a webinar to discuss the Court's decision and its implications for educators, employers and AA/Diversity professionals.

The July 12, 2016 Webinar will be presented by:

Matthew Camardella, Esq., Jackson Lewis PC
Marilynn Schuyler, Esq., Schuyler Affirmative Action Practice
Dean Sparlin, Esq., Sparlin Law
Joe Weiner, Esq., Littler Mendelson P.C

Attorneys Camardella, Schuyler and Sparlin serve on the board of AAAED.

Register for the AAAED Webinar here.

Register now for the AAAED Fall Professional Development Programs

Are you a certified affirmative action professional? Do you have your CAAP? Don't you think it's time to stand out among your colleagues as a Certified or Sr. Certified Affirmative Action Professional?

Do you conduct federal EEO Investigations? Need Title IX or Diversity Management Training? Sign up for the upcoming training opportunities offered by AAAED's Professional Development and Training Institute (PDTI):

Register for the Annual Refresher for Federal EEO Counselors and Investigators, September 21, 2016, in Washington, DC here.

Register for the Fall Professional Development and Training Institute, November 14 - 19, 2016, in Philadelphia, PA here.

Sexual harassment training 'not as effective' in stopping behavior at work

Federal labor regulators have concluded that sexual harassment prevention training is often ineffective and sometimes even harmful, in a new report that strengthens growing claims that US universities are failing to combat gender discrimination.

A taskforce of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that workplace initiatives targeting harassment are generally focused on avoiding legal liability instead of stopping misconduct, echoing concerns of faculty at the University of California at Berkeley, which has received international attention for its high-profile scandals.

Read the full Guardian story here.

IFCO Systems Will Pay $202,200 In Landmark Settlement Of One Of EEOC’s First Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuits

Company Fired Worker Who Complained About Sexual Orientation Harassment, Federal Agency Charged

BALTIMORE - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that Pallet Companies, doing business as IFCO Systems, will pay $202,200 and provide significant equitable relief to settle one of EEOC's first lawsuits alleging sex discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Read more here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

EEOC Sues Nevada Health Centers and Ultracare Las Vegas for Sex Discrimination

Qualified Male Ultrasound Technician Discharged Because of Gender, Federal Agency Says

LAS VEGAS - Nevada Health Centers, Inc. and Ultracare Las Vegas violated federal law when they discharged a qualified male ultrasound technician because of his gender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

Read more here.

Guardsmark Settles EEOC Disability & Genetic Information Discrimination Cases For $329,640

Over 1,000 Job Applicants Subjected to Illegal Medical & Family Medical History Inquiries, Federal Agency Charged

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. and HONOLULU, Hawaii - One of the largest security companies in North America, Guardsmark, has agreed to settle disability and genetic information discrimination charges for monetary relief totaling $329,640, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. The settlement of EEOC charges of discrimination impacts over 1,100 job applicants who were required to disclose their disabilities and/or family medical history.

Read more here.

3 Key Takeaways From the Supreme Court’s Decision on Race-Conscious Admissions

To many observers, the Supreme Court’s 4-to-3 decision on Thursday that upheld the use of race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin came as a surprise.

Even inside the court, it seems: “Something strange has happened,” wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito in the first line of his dissent, “since our prior decision in this case.” In 2013 the court ruled that a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, had not applied enough scrutiny to Austin’s admissions program, and ordered it to revisit the case. The appeals court then effectively affirmed its prior decision. That judgment was appealed once again to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in December.

Some Supreme Court cases were expected to deadlock after Justice Antonin Scalia, a vocal critic of affirmative action in admissions, died in February. But his death was not expected to alter the outcome of the Texas case because Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself. During her time as U.S. solicitor general, Justice Kagan had been involved with the Obama administration’s submission of a brief supporting the university. Her recusal left just seven justices to decide the case.

Read the full Chronicle of Higher Education analysis here.

Affirmative action is about the economic bottom line, not just racial diversity

As the president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Michelle Asha Cooper has worked to give low-income, minority and other underrepresented groups a pathway to a college degree. Inclusion is a key part of the nonprofit’s mission, just as it is central to Thursday’s historic Supreme Court ruling to uphold race-conscious college admissions. But the decision is about much more than that, Cooper says.

Read the full Washington Post story here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Origins of the Term "Affirmative Action"

For a term as loaded with political meaning as “affirmative action,” it might come as a surprise to learn that its origins on the political landscape still remain somewhat of a mystery. Merriam-Webster places its first known use in 1965, but the historical record shows it being used years before.

Though education is largely the focus of today’s affirmative action debate, the origin of the term is rooted with legalese in employment law, explains Shirley J. Wilcher, the executive director for the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity. To take an "affirmative action" was to literally act affirmatively—not allowing events to run their course but rather having the government (or employers) take an active role in treating employees fairly.

Read the full Smithsonian story here.

Supreme Court Upholds Affirmative Action Program at University of Texas

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin, handing supporters of affirmative action a major victory.

The vote was 4-3. Only seven justices participated in the decision, as Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself for prior work on the case as United States solicitor general and the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat remains vacant.

Read the full New York Times story here.

View the complete text of the Supreme Court decision here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Harvard Set the Model for Affirmative Action in College Admissions

It was nearly 40 years ago when a fractured U.S. Supreme Court was searching for an acceptable and lawful way to take race and ethnicity into account in college admissions. The court majority viewed as unconstitutional a system that would set aside a specific number of seats for one racial group or another. But justices also wanted to enable colleges to take steps they might deem necessary to attain a racially diverse student body.

How to do that? Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. turned to the nation’s oldest college for answers.

Powell, writing the principal opinion in the 1978 landmark case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, cited the “Harvard College program” as an exemplar of race-conscious admissions because it did not use explicit numerical quotas to achieve diversity.

Read the full Washington Post story here.

Jennie-O Turkey Store to Pay $492K in Back Wages to 339 Female Applicants After U.S. Labor Department Investigation Found Hiring Discrimination

WILLMAR, Minn. – Jennie-O Turkey Store Inc. has agreed to hire 53 women and pay $491,861 in back wages to 339 female job applicants denied entry-level jobs at its Willmar turkey-processing facility. The company’s action resolves a U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit alleging the global turkey products producer discriminated in its hiring practices.

Read more here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

OFCCP Updates Sex Discrimination Rule

On June 14, 2016, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced publication of a Final Rule in the Federal Register that sets forth the requirements that covered contractors must meet under the provisions of Executive Order 11246 prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. This Final Rule updates sex discrimination guidelines from 1970 with new regulations that align with current law and address the realities of today’s workplaces. The Final Rule deals with a variety of sex–based barriers to equal employment and fair pay, including compensation discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, failure to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant workers, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.

The Final Rule becomes effective on August 15, 2016.

Read more here.

EEOC Sues Automation Personnel Services, Inc. For Sex Discrimination

Staffing Agency Refused to Hire Qualified Applicant Because of Her Gender, Federal Agency Charges

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Automation Personnel Services, Inc., a Pelham, Ala.-based staffing agency, violated federal law by failing to consider or hire a qualified woman for placement with a fiberglass grating product manufacturer because of her sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on Friday.

Read more here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Task Force Co-Chairs Call On Employers and Others to “Reboot” Harassment Prevention

WASHINGTON - Two Commissioners of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Co-Chairs of a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, called on stakeholders to double down and "reboot" workplace harassment prevention efforts at a meeting of the EEOC in Washington today. Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic highlighted for their fellow Commissioners the key findings and recommendations of a report they developed after 14 months of study of workplace harassment with the Select Task Force.

Convened in 2015, the Select Task Force was comprised of 16 members from around the country, including representatives of academia from various social science disciplines, legal practitioners on both the plaintiff and defense side, employers and employee advocacy groups, and organized labor.

Read more here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Chief Diversity Officer Selected at Northern Arizona University

Carmen Phelps, a director in the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL) at Temple University, has been selected to serve as chief diversity officer at Northern Arizona University. Phelps will begin her new role August 1.

Read the story here.

OCR Letter on Gender Equity in Career/Tech Ed

The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has published a letter to high school and college officials on gender equity in career and technical education programs. The letter states that it is providing guidance on existing law and offers examples of how schools and colleges may need to reconsider policies.

Read more here.

See the U.S. Education Department’s letter here.

NACAC Report Underscores Importance of Predictive Validity Studies

A new NACAC report sheds light on the important role predictive validity research can play in informing admission practices.

Survey data from more than 400 US colleges show that although the majority of institutions require students to submit ACT or SAT scores, only half track how well standardized tests predict student success on their campuses.

Read more here.

See the study from the National Association for College Admission Counseling here.

EEOC Issues New Resource Documents for White House United State of Women Summit

Documents Address Equal Pay and Pregnancy Discrimination

WASHINGTON, DC-Today, leaders from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will participate in the White House United State of Women Summit. The Summit gathers experts, advocates, and grassroots and business leaders who work in both domestic and international arenas to highlight key issues affecting women and girls and best practices to carry on into the future. The Summit's plenary and breakout sessions will address topics including economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership and civic engagement. The Summit will be livestreamed at

Read more here.

Harassment, Race and Sex Bias Major EEOC Concerns in 2016

June 13 — Nearly a third of the charges the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sees involve harassment, with top bases being race, sex and disability, Chair Jenny Yang said at the halfway mark of 2016 enforcement efforts.
The agency meets June 20 to release a report from a 16-member workforce harassment task force led by Commissioners Chai Feldblum (D) and Victoria Lipnic (R), Yang said at a conference for affirmative action, equal opportunity, diversity and human resources professionals in both private and public sectors.

Read the story here.

Will Supreme Court end affirmative action in college admissions?

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected soon to issue a ruling on affirmative action in college admissions, in a case called Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Plaintiff Abigail Fisher, a white woman denied admission to UT, is challenging the constitutionality of UT’s consideration of race and ethnicity as a factor in assembling an undergraduate class. A ruling could come as early as Thursday morning.

Read the story here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Keynote for the 42nd National Conference & Annual Meeting - Rachel A. Dolezal

June 8th 2016
Washington D.C.

Keynote for the 42nd National Conference & Annual Meeting
 American Association of Access, Equity, & Diversity 
 Rachel A. Dolezal

Race shapes who we are. Or do we shape what race is? The fundamental divide -between those who see race as a social or political reality and those who view race as a biological truth- couldn't have been more noticeable than when my name made headlines around the world last June. Debates about race, culture and identity exploded everywhere.

The conversations –especially online- were messy, with misunderstandings of words like transracial, passing, and blackface. Jokes, memes and cartoons poked fun at my skin color, hairstyle and appearance. Articles called me a fraud, a race-faker, a liar and worse. I was called “cracker” and the “N-word” simultaneously in some posts, where others strung racial slurs together with prefixes like trans to describe what they imagined me to be. Some of the debate seemed self-reflective, as if people were talking out loud about their own identity structures and definitions of race and culture more than actually referencing anything having to do with me.

Two days after the controversy over whether I am black or white erupted, I broke through the gridlock of media surrounding our house and drove my oldest son to the airport. He was headed here, to Washington DC, to do a previously-scheduled internship with the American Association for Access, Equity & Diversity. As a mom, I had mixed feelings about him leaving. I was glad that he could escape the local scene of media frenzy but also worried that his last name might make him a target for unwanted questions or scrutiny. I couldn't be happier with the ways in which the Association surrounded him with personal support, an accommodating environment, and professional experience. Thank you, to Shirley Wilcher, to Carmen Suarez -and all those who have shown my family the kinder side of humanity and demonstrated the real heart behind the work of access, equity and diversity.

So, I am here now -a year later- to share with you some of my thoughts about race, culture and identity. Is race a social construct or a fate we are born into? If race isn't biological, then why is racism so real? The heated exchanges last year revealed how varied the social definitions, experiences and conclusions about race really are.

Perhaps the only kind of race that is universally defined is the one my 14 year old son ran this spring as a first-time track star. Not unlike a foot race, in the racialized world there are clear winners and losers. We have to look no further to understand why than that race was designed by racism -the idea of white supremacy. Putting so-called "white" races at the top, all so-called non-white groups were ranked according to certain assumed connections between visible features and behavior. So powerful was the idea that race is biological and therefore this destiny we are born into, that the worldview of race was used to form a human value scale. And it was this worldview that was institutionalized in the Constitution’s 3/5ths clause, the US Census, and Supreme Court rulings like Dred Scott v. Sandford. This belief in differential value of human beings according to racial categories was used to justify enslaving African people and influenced the goals of eugenics movements like the American Breeder’s Association.

Perhaps in an effort to forget this painful history, or to make the majority feel more comfortable, we don't often speak of the extent of tortures that were endured under this regime of racial power and privilege. Our K-12 curriculum keeps it absent from history textbooks and it remains conveniently erased from our minds unless we seek out books or tune into the new Roots or Underground series.

Whenever discussing where we are and where we want to go with regard to race & identity, I think it serves us to remember what has happened historically and how it connects with our present-day conferences and conversations. African people were boiled in oil, quartered alive, eaten by birds, castrated & raped. And race as a worldview wasn’t just a Black and white issue. It justified genocide against Native people, the Japanese internment camps, and continues to fuel resistance to bilingual education and immigration reform. Although most of these atrocities are part of history, the system of classification that was used to justify these oppression stuck. In the most basic aspects of life, from going to school, going to the doctor, applying for a job, qualifying for a mortgage loan, and even registering a newborn baby's name, we are faced with it. And we are forced to participate in it.

"Check all that apply" some forms say, or others say "Check only one box." Are you Black, white or other? Are you white-Hispanic or non-white Hispanic? What race are you? Choose only one. "Under penalty of law, I agree that I have answered all questions truthfully and to the best of my ability." And yet, we aren’t even given a basic education as to what the differences between race, ethnicity and culture are before we are confronted with these forms. So, what is the truth here, since definitions of race and the number of categorical options vary from one institution to the next, state to state, nation to nation and even decade to decade? Is our race what we look like, what we were categorized as at birth, what we identify as or what someone else says we are? Perhaps there is no universal "understanding" of race –or even a fixed list of options to select- because, after all, we are one human race.

It would be nice if it was just that simple. It is but it’s not. Because, while the biological sciences have agreed that the singular human race doesn't genetically even meet the zoological requirements for separate racial categorization, socially & politically, race seems almost irreversibly embedded. Egregious race-based injustices continue to occur like police brutality, health disparities, disproportionality in arrests & incarceration, inequitable housing & education, not to mention daily microaggressions that some scholars say have an even more damaging cumulative psychological effect than more obvious acts of racism.

For all my professional career, I have worked to advance the causes of human rights, to create a greater degree of racial and social justice, to change the world into something better for my Black sons. But, after losing all my jobs last year and not being able to find access back into what I saw as the "real work" of activism, it left me wondering about another approach. After fighting for civil rights for two decades and seeing marginal amounts of progress that then take committed ongoing efforts to maintain, maybe this is an opportunity to not just treat the symptoms of racism, but to strike a blow to the very system of classification that has institutionalized experiences like racial profiling.

While racism can't be scrubbed from the hearts and minds of the masses instantly, ideas and behaviors can change -and changes in ideas and behavior often need to be encouraged by new laws & policies. I have been wondering what our society would look like if the racial classification system is dismantled? Who would it benefit? We know that the civil rights era brought much-needed access to facilities: laws and policies from that era granted the right to entry. But equitable treatment once inside those doors was not sustained. And when it came to broadening diversity, we have progressed to a degree, but diversity hasn't reach beyond tokenism in some institutions, and in most areas of real power and privilege, there remains a gap. So, what would it take to shift us into a higher gear, to get us over that mountaintop that MLK canonized, to create a Post-Racial world?

We all have a part to play, and there is plenty of room for many different styles and strategies to unify toward the same objective of achieving total freedom, justice & equality for all people. And while some say even seeing race as a social construct is an act of white privilege, anyone can acknowledge the non-biological nature of race without taking acts of racism lightly. In fact, it is because race is a social and political reality but NOT a biological one, that we must undo the inequities that have persisted from such a ranking structure while ALSO challenging the system of classification itself. How can we achieve new results with old thinking? How can we realize justice if we are clinging to the categories that justified slavery and standards like the one-drop-rule that defined Jim Crow?

In the ever-so-complicated work of undoing a several centuries-old idea like race, confusion is a messy part of the process. Some people will point to phenotypes and genotypes and continental ancestral groups as “evidence” of the biology of race, but none of those aspects of our DNA are the same as race. In fact, if we were to call ancestral groups our “race,” we would then need to mandate DNA tests and allow as many as 5000 boxes to be options to check on forms. It seems that, as soon as science underscores common homosapien ancestry in the continent of Africa, and dispels the idea that there are biologically distinct races, society goes right back to reorganizing in terms of separateness. suggests that if we test our DNA, we can know whether we should be wearing lederhosen or kilts, and that we can even find out “what we are” and that our test results can change our identity. This further blurs race, ethnicity, culture and identity into some sort of singular concept. If our identity indeed is in our DNA, but race and culture aren’t in our DNA, then how do we make sense of these conflicting messages? Who are you? What are you?

And how do we throw out race as an idea while preserving culture? We have realized the richness of diversity and the empowerment of cultural expression, so how would we dismantle racism and race classification without losing the healing power of group bonding, pride and celebration of similarities in lifestyle, food, music and philosophy?

Cultural identity is indeed a healthy source of meaning, motivation and belonging. And, while culture is real, it is not biological. Geography and circumstance often place us from birth in one culture or another, and sometimes the cultural traditions of our childhood are meaningful, while other times we are nurtured more by the cultural landscape where we are as adults. Some religions have judged certain cultural traditions as moral or immoral, good or bad, and sometimes the hierarchies of the race worldview get copied and pasted to cultures associated with racial groups, but ultimately culture is amoral, morally neutral, and cultures are recognized as equal in value. Culture isn't institutionalized like race with categories and boxes to check on legal forms. Culture is celebratory. We don't have racial festivals, we have cultural festivals. While race comes with all the heavy baggage of historical oppression, culture is a place for common ground and empowerment.

So how then does identity find its place between race and culture? Somewhere along our human development, we realize there is a balance of independence and interdependence as we consider our identity structure. Even on our best days of asserting personal agency, we have to acknowledge that life isn’t always forged on our own terms; it is also a group project. Descarte’s claimed “I think, therefore I am,” 343 years ago. Charles Cooley suggested in 1992 that others are the mirror in which we see ourselves. Maybe it’s both; we identify ourselves and we are identified by others. Some of us may have even walked into this dinner and scoped out the room to take a sort of visual “inventory” in terms of whether our group is present or absent, and in what proportion to other groups.

If there is agreement between our own identity and how others see us, this sense of agreement will be experienced in social interactions. So that, if a person identifying as Black is seen as Black by others, or a person identifying as a woman is seen as a woman, or a person identifying as gay is seen as gay, then the individual is living with the expectation and experience of behaviors directed toward them being typically directed toward the group they identify with. If, however, society rejects the individual's identity and doesn’t see them for how they identify, but associates them visibly with another group, there is added dissonance and challenge in navigating public life.

Along with being categorized by others comes the problem of ranking, judging the value of someone’s assumed group, collapsing the history, status and destiny of that group with regard to whether the individual is seen and treated as majority/minority, privileged/disadvantaged, law abiding/law breaking, rich/poor, leaders/followers, valuable/disposable. Is it the categorization, the ranking, or both problematic if we want to realize a world where all people are treated with equal respect and dignity?

If you have ever struggled with your identity along the spectrum of race, culture, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, or age, or if you have ever appeared to fit into a box that you didn't identify with, then you know the difference between being the parts of yourself that are acknowledged and accepted by others versus living and being the parts of yourself that are rejected or not seen by others. Or, if you have discovered along life’s journey that you identify as a category other than what was listed at your birth, you may be more empathetic to people with a plural type of identity structure. But, because identities that cross traditional boundary lines of race are rare, society as a whole has not developed the widest span of empathy and access for those who identify as such. It is, in fact, tricky still for some individuals to live and explain themselves in ways that make sense to those whose identity falls more neatly within boxes on forms. Some might argue that, with pay equity still not being fully realized for women, and disparities in safety and justice still existing for non-white populations, we can’t focus on access for smaller groups with trans or plural identities. But, we have learned from history that equity for some isn’t equity at all.

So, what will a truly equitable society look like? Will we continue to add more boxes on forms to widen categories of "race," continuing to hope that people respect these categories as equal, or will we scrap the whole worldview of race and ban the race box on forms? Do we need to develop a more lengthy vocabulary for specific racial, ethnic and cultural identities or will we opt to simplify racial identity as members of one common human race? How do we acknowledge the construct of race while not promoting the type of colorblindness that signifies white privilege?

I believe we are at a turning point in history. We can retreat and reinforce the old habits, confusions and oppressions over race, culture and identity, or we can evolve and grow into a society that recognizes all forms of diversity and has truly equal and equitable access, opportunity and life chances for all people.

Let us not retreat due to what seems like an ever-increasing complexity, but instead may we boldly face this frontier with all the courage and optimism required to end racism and rid the world of the negative energies of oppression, suppression, repression and depression. Since humans created and defined the very inhumane structure of race, for the purposes of greed and in order to leverage power of one group over another, we as humans can recreate and redefine, so that our children and grandchildren will be able to live and love in a world where neither how they were born, nor how they look, nor how they identify is justified by society as a reason to shame, blame or disallow them equal access and opportunity in life. As Minister Shabazz said, “Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

- Rachel A. Dolezal

Monday, June 13, 2016

EEOC to Hold Public Meeting on Proposed Reboot of Harassment Prevention Efforts

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will hold a meeting on Monday, June 20, 2016, at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern Time), at EEOC headquarters, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C., to receive the report of Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic, Co-Chairs of the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.

Read more here

Court Grants Judgment In Favor Of EEOC in Disability and Genetic Discrimination Case

Grisham Farm's Mandatory Health History Form Violated Federal Laws, Court Rules

ST. LOUIS -- A federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on June 8, 2016 that a Mountain Grove, Mo., farm violated two federal laws by requiring all job applicants to fill out a health history before they would be considered for a job, the federal agency announced today.

Read more here.

Black Lives Matter Focuses on Long-term Sustainability

Black Lives Matter activists and education leaders convened to discuss future challenges to the BLM movement at a panel at the annual American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity (AAAED) National Conference in Vienna, Virginia, on Friday morning. Panelists considered challenges and opportunities for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) as it continues to evolve.

Read more here.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Kroger to Pay $33,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Grocery Giant Fired Cashier at Howell Store Because of Back Impairment, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT -The Kroger Company of Michigan will pay $33,000 and provide other relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Read more here.

Boyce Martin Jr., giant of bench, has died

Boyce F. Martin Jr., an unapologetic liberal judge who in 34 years on the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals wrote more than 1,500 opinions, including one permitting affirmative action as well as the nation's first appellate decision affirming what is known as Obamacare, died Wednesday. He was 80 and had been in failing health.

Read more about Martin's life and work here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Michelle Eisele Appointed Regional Attorney of EEOC's Indianapolis District Office

WASHINGTON - Michelle Eisele, a 29-year attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has been appointed regional attorney of the agency's Indianapolis District, which includes offices in Indianapolis, Detroit, Louisville and Cincinnati, the federal agency announced today.

Learn more about Michelle Eisele here.

First Call Ambulance Service to Pay $55,000 to Settle EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Medical Transport Company Refused Accommodation to Pregnant Employee, Federal Agency Charged
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - First Call Ambulance Service, LLC, a Nashville-based company that provides non-emergency medical transport and ambulance services throughout Tennessee, Ohio and Virginia, will pay $55,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Read the story here.

OFCCP Sues Pilgrim’s Pride for Discrimination

Action alleges world’s second largest chicken producer violated federal hiring laws
DALLAS – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has filed a lawsuit alleging that Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has systematically discriminated against female, African American and white jobseekers at its Mount Pleasant processing facility.

Read more here.

Are campus police departments diverse?

A spate of high-profile shootings by police nationwide has prompted calls for greater diversity among municipal law enforcement agencies. But less attention has been focused on college police departments, where most officers are armed and have powers that are similar to state and city forces.
A Globe review found that many colleges and universities in the area have police departments that largely reflect the campuses they serve — with a few notable exceptions.
Read the story here.