Racial discrimination lawsuits against big-name companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch and General Electric have focused national attention on the indignities that minority employees suffer on the job. Not only have such lawsuits pointed out common forms of discrimination that workers of color face, they also serve as cautionary tales to companies that seek to foster diversity and eradicate racism in the workplace.
Although a black man landed the nation’s top job in 2008, many workers of color aren’t so lucky. Because of racial discrimination in the workplace, they earn less pay than their white counterparts, miss out on promotions and even lose their jobs.
General Electric came under fire in 2010 when 60 African American workers filed suit against the company for racial discrimination. The black workers say GE supervisor Lynn Dyer called them racial slurs such as the N-word, “monkey” and “lazy blacks.”
The suit also alleged that Dyer denied bathroom breaks and medical attention to black workers and fired black workers because of their race. In addition, the suit alleged that higher-ups knew about the supervisor’s inappropriate behavior but delayed investigating the matter.
In 2005, GE faced a lawsuit for discriminating against black managers. The suit accused the company of paying black managers less than whites, denying them promotions and using offensive terms to describe blacks. It settled in 2006.
Southern California Edison is no stranger to racial discrimination lawsuits. In 2010, a group of black workers sued the company for discrimination. The workers accused the company of consistently denying them promotions, not paying them fairly, biased job assignments and not upholding two consent decrees stemming from class action discrimination suits filed against Southern California Edison in 1974 and 1994.
The suit also pointed out that the number of black employees at the company had dropped by 40 percent since the last discrimination lawsuit was filed. The 1994 suit