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Race Discrimination is Not a Black and White Issue



“Management should ensure that networking groups are not unlawfully discouraging the retention and promotion of other minority employees.”
This year, a former Asian American employee of McDonald's Corp. will be heading to trial in efforts to prove her charge of race discrimination, in which she alleges that McDonald's terminated her because of her race and for complaining to her managers that she was not being given work comparable to that of her non-Asian American coworkers.

Unlike the majority of charges of race discrimination, however, two of the McDonald's managers accused of discriminatory acts against this particular Asian American employee were minorities themselves – African Americans. These managers were also members of an African American networking group at McDonald's designed to help other African American employees move up the corporate ladder.

Like McDonald's, many other corporations concerned with improving diversity among their employee workforces, have both supported and taken proactive steps to organize minority networking groups. Such groups are not only designed to increase the number of minority employees, but also to encourage the development of a greater number of managerial-level minority employees. Ironically, employers who are in fact seeking diversity by using network groups can still become vulnerable to race or national origin discrimination lawsuits on the basis of failing to hire minorities.

As employers are surely aware, defending discrimination lawsuits can be a time-consuming and costly process. However, this should not deter employers from continuing with their efforts to build diversity. Companies should still support and encourage network groups for all minority groups and take steps to ensure that networking groups encourage the retention and promotion of minority employees. However, management should ensure that such groups are not unlawfully discouraging the retention and promotion of other minority employees. Most importantly, employers should ensure that all managers – regardless of whether they are members of a particular networking group – are making employment-related decisions objectively and without any improper consideration of the race or national origin of an applicant or employee.

  • Krupin O'Brien LLC is a nationally recognized law firm specializing in employment and labor law and exclusively representing employers in the areas of labor relations, employment law, business immigration and related litigation. The firm has a particular expertise in representing restaurants and the hospitality industry, and represents companies and ownership groups of all sizes, both local and nationally. For further information contact Ana Salper, an attorney with Krupin O’Brien LLC, where she represents clients on all forms of litigation, and counsels clients on diverse employment and labor matters. Ms. Salper oversees the firm's New York office and is a member of the New York State Bar. Contact her at: 212-745-1387 or ana@krupinobrien.com.

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