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PRESS RELEASE
2-28-07

EEOC TAKES NEW APPROACH TO FIGHTING RACISM AND COLORISM IN THE 21st CENTURY WORKPLACE

E-RACE Initiative to Highlight New and Emerging Discrimination Issues Nationwide

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today launched a national initiative to bring a fresh, 21st century approach to combating racism, which remains the most frequent claim filed with the agency. EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp unveiled the initiative, E-RACE (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), during a public meeting at agency headquarters that featured panels of experts and victims.

E-RACE is an outreach, education, and enforcement campaign to advance the statutory right to a workplace free of race and color discrimination. Under E-RACE, the EEOC will identify specific issues, criteria and barriers that contribute to race and color discrimination; explore strategies to improve the administrative processing and litigation of race and color cases; and enhance public awareness of race and color discrimination in employment.

“By rolling out the E-RACE Initiative, the Commission is taking a new approach to eradicating racism and colorism in the workplace,” Chair Earp said. “New times demand new strategies to stay ahead of the curve. These old evils are still around in new forms and we intend to act vigorously to eradicate them.”

The EEOC will combine the objectives of E-RACE with existing Commission initiatives. For example, the agency will integrate the goals of the Systemic Initiative by addressing race and color issues with class and systemic implications; incorporate the principles of the Youth@Work Initiative by combating disparate treatment of youth based on race and color; and complement the outreach and enforcement efforts of the LEAD Initiative by challenging exclusionary employment policies that target certain disabilities and may adversely impact people of color. The Commission will also strengthen partnerships with employee advocates, state and local human rights commissions, human resource professionals, and employer groups to address race and color discrimination in the workplace.

Participants at today’s Commission meeting presented a broad range of perspectives on race and color discrimination, including the impact of recent demographic shifts, advances in technology, and changes in corporate America. In addition to EEOC regional attorneys and victims from recent cases, the Commission heard from private attorneys, business consultants, and members of academia.

In Fiscal Year 2006, the EEOC received 27,238 charges alleging race-based discrimination, accounting for 36 percent of the agency’s private sector caseload. Historically, race-based charges have been the most frequent type of filing with EEOC offices nationwide. The EEOC has also observed a substantial increase over the past 15 years in discrimination charge filings based on color, which have risen from 374 in FY 1992 to 1,241 in FY 2006. Additionally, recent studies show that some employers make selection decisions based on names, arrest and conviction records, employment and personality tests and credit scores -- all of which may disparately impact people of color.

Beejey Enriquez, a Filipino discrimination victim from a recent case litigated by the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office, recounted how he was targeted for dismissal by his employer due to his race and ethnicity – despite his qualifications and special recognition by his company. “Now I was just a checkbox to eliminate,” he said. “I was almost embarrassed to be who I was. I don’t want anyone else to be ashamed of who they are, or who their parents and grandparents are.”

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William Tamayo said, “The E-RACE Initiative urges us to understand and address the multifaceted and complex nature of racism in the 21st century so that discrimination doesn’t rob our nation of the contributions that a diverse population can make.”

Further information related to the E-RACE Initiative, including the agency’s updated Compliance Manual Section on Race and Color Discrimination, is available on the EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/e-race/index.html. Additional information about the Commission can be found online at www.eeoc.gov.