The Pew Research Center recently released a new survey on feelings of racial equality in the United States. The salient results are Black Americans were nearly twice as likely as Whites to say that the U.S. had a long way to go before reaching racial equality (79% of Blacks believed the US had a long way to go before reaching racial equality compared to 44% of the Whites). When broken down to on the job treatment, 54% of the surveyed Blacks surveyed and 40% of the Hispanics thought the US had a long way to go before ending racial disparity compared to 16% of the Whites surveyed. What this shows me is that if you are not being discriminated against, you may be impervious to the fact that others are being discriminated against. If you have suffered racial discrimination, or any type of discrimination at work you need an employment lawyer experienced in proving to others that discrimination does exist and it happened to you.
Having represented employees in labor disputes for twenty years, I have often wondered why such a high concentration of my clients are Black or Hispanic. Disparaging defense lawyers often accuse plaintiffs as being opportunists. These defense lawyers are ignorant and demonstrate why racial groups who are not being discriminated against believe it is no longer happening.
My experience representing employees has also led me to wonder why I have tried and arbitrated so many cases in which my client is a female Black woman or a female Hispanic. The survey found that 68% of the Blacks interviewed believed Blacks were treated less fairly in court. 40% of the Hispanics surveyed thought they were treated less favorably in court. Only 27% of the Whites surveyed believed this. These appalling statistics may be true. This validates my belief that there are very strong reasons to make sure Blacks and Hispanics get fair justice by good representation and a trial if need be. Any lawyer representing a Black or Hispanic must be prepared to arbitrate or try their client’s employment case if their chances of obtaining a high settlement are jaundiced by a corporate or insurance company decision maker factoring that cases involving Blacks or Hispanics are worth less or are some how more likely to be lost.
I have also suspected, for years, that the judicial system attempts to blast cases involving low wage Black and Hispanic women. Trust that I have spent a very significant amount of my professional career convincing opposing lawyers, judges, arbitrators, and mediators that cases involving low-wage earning Black or Hispanic women are not worth less than a case involving White women, or men. For many years one of the big reasons why I have worked as a lawyer has been to represent low wage earning Black and Hispanic women who are the subject of major abuse at work. Many times, my representation has paid off and the fact finder in the case has understood why this particularly susceptible population stuck with a job where they were being abused, sexually harassed, or why their emotional distress was significant when they were fired for being pregnant.
Employment Discrimination Lawyers representing Blacks or Hispanics must be prepared to demonstrate to the jury how the employee was discriminated against, and how it feels because many non-minorities are under the false assumption that racial discrimination is a thing of the past and just do not get the damage discrimination causes.
While perhaps beyond the scope of this article, but I will mention here anyway, I am seeing a unique racial situation in Los Angeles County, Bakersfield, Southern California, and California in general. Whites are largely becoming a minority. The Hispanic population is becoming a majority. However, there are many companies owned by persons who were not born in the U.S. and may employ unrepresentative numbers of employees from their minority background. In recent times, I have been involved in increasing numbers of reversed discrimination cases. In one case an Indian man was discriminated against by Latinos. In a case I am presently handling in Bakersfield, numerous Blacks received poor treatment from a Latino manager. I have had cases where Koreans mistreated Hispanics. I have had cases where Central Americans were discriminated against by Mexicans and South Americans. The Pew study reports that Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites report that they all feel they get along with each other. It is disappointing and down right disgusting that the same cannot be said of how minorities feel they are treated at work, in court, in getting healthcare, and dealing with the police.
Having practiced discrimination law for twenty years, and getting into the field almost thirty years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, I have often wondered if my practice field would be relevant for the duration of my career. Unfortunately, the Pew study suggests that we have at least another fifty years of employment discrimination, based upon race, in this country.
Karl Gerber, Representing Employees in California and nationwide