The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Commission Meeting on Race and Color Discrimination of April 19, 2006, Washington D.C.

Statement of Dianna Johnston

Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, and Commissioners. I am pleased to be here today to be part of this significant undertaking, which begins with issuance of a Compliance Manual section on Race and Color discrimination. That document originated in the Office of Legal Counsel and is the primary focus of our remarks today. However, the Commission today does more than issue an important document. It is also embarking on a new investigator training program for all Commission investigative and legal staff. The training marries the new Manual section on Race and Color discrimination to the program to combat systemic discrimination that you approved two weeks ago.

Inasmuch as the Commission was established over 41 years ago, some constituents will ask, why now?

As you know, the impetus for the formation of the EEOC was the struggle that grew in the 1950's and 60's to confront the immorality and injustice of racial inequality. The Commission’s role was to channel the energy of that historic moment and the concomitant consensus for change into enforcement strategies to eradicate employment discrimination and promote equal employment opportunity. And, it has played that role; by promoting voluntary compliance, litigating when persuasion did not work, and helping shape a body of law that has changed the face of employment discrimination in this country.

But much has changed in the past 40 years. Clearly, race is not the only barrier to equal opportunity; the Commission also works to combat employment discrimination based on sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability. On the plus side, employment opportunities for racial minorities have expanded and racial discrimination of the sort confronted in the 60's has diminished.

Yet there is more to do and that is why we are here today.

In 2001, the Office of Legal Counsel began working to address this policy gap by beginning to draft a Compliance Manual section on Race and Color Discrimination. Mr. Anderson will discuss the process that went into developing the section and will briefly discuss its content. I just want to note the considerable care that has gone into it.

[Corbett turns it back to me to say the following]

As I noted at the outset, the Commission is undertaking a Commission-wide training program to assure that Commission staff fully appreciates and implements the guidance set forth in this manual section. This training is important because the face of race discrimination has changed. First, it is about more than black and white. Second, and of particular relevance to the training, race discrimination has largely gone underground.

Thus, the training is intended to help investigators figure out when it is appropriate to dig more deeply and how to do so when circumstances warrant. It encourages them to look beyond an employer’s plausible position statement and helps them determine when additional investigation is appropriate. It also helps investigators determine when – and how – to check for patterns that might indicate discrimination.

In short, in issuing this document, implementing a training program, and integrating it with the goal of combating systemic discrimination, the Commission embarks on a significant new enforcement effort. I could not be more pleased to be a part of it.

This page was last modified on June 12, 2006.

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