- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing a Tampa-based janitorial service for refusing to hire a class of African Americans solely because of their race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At Diversified Maintenance Systems, LLC, District managers instructed area managers not to hire African-American applicants unless special permission was granted. Area managers also were instructed to deter black applicants by repeatedly emphasizing to them that the company performed criminal background checks, EEOC has alleged.
- The employer also subjected an African American supervisor to racist slurs, other discriminatory behavior and, when he complained, retaliation. He was forced to work 18-hour days, denied the necessary tools to do his job, was assigned to clean a large retailer's floor on his hands and knees, and eventually fired during a hospitalization.
- The agency's suit seeks to require compensatory and punitive damages for the employees.
The allegations against Diversified Maintenance Systems are not uncommon. The question is: Where was HR during these alleged patterns of overt discrimination and why was there no intervention or investigation before the EEOC got involved? A similar question was asked of Uber following allegations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. If EEOC's charges are true, Diversified maintained a culture of discrimination and HR failed in its responsibility to follow up on complaints.
Diversified's hiring practices were of particular concern in this case, one of the areas in which racial discrimination can be easily identified. New data from the Federal Reserve shows that when the economy takes a downturn, African American women and men lose their jobs in greater numbers than other groups, regardless of education and other factors. Racial discrimination due to institutional racism is one reason why "ban the box" laws have taken off in a number of states, as well.
Having a nondiscrimination policy isn't enough. Employers must create fair, respectful and inclusive cultures. HR leaders must review recruitment and hiring practices and audit departments to ensure that racial discrimination is neither overt nor festering in their organizations.