Imagine the situation when two workers who have the same professional qualifications and skills needed for a certain job differ in age, gender, skin color or physical abilities (which do not influence the quality of work performed) and, because of that, do not have equal opportunities to get a well-paid job. If these people manage to get a job, the treatment to them becomes different, or the wage, which one of them gets, is higher than the salary of the other one, “with inexplicable problems”. Such situation is called employment discrimination. The author tries to find out if similar problem really exists in modern society; where did it come from; what social groups of people it concerns; what measures have been taken in order to avoid the offensive treatment of certain people. It is also important to define the seriousness of this problem, and in what way it is better to solve it.
To prove the fact that employment discrimination takes place nowadays as the type of unfair oppression of people because they differ physically, it is important to ascertain where the phenomenon had come from. Epstein states that the cultural and historical reasons for resource labor discrimination, especially what relates to race discrimination, originates in eventful history of the US. Beginning from “slavery in the South”, it continues with “the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation in the military, massive resistance to school desegregation, sit-ins and lunch counters, and struggles for the ballot” (Epstein, 1995). These are the evidences that the history of itself created the widespread inequality of people, and it not only concerns the resource market but also other areas of life. This inequality is strongly patterned in people’s mind because it was also broadly advertised by media and Hollywood. The films shot in the US have been the source of racism from the very moment the kinetoscope was invented by Thomas Edison. Thenceforth, Hollywood as the American film industry was established (Jefferson, 1976). In order to support the idea that labor resources discrimination is the result of historical and cultural life of the nation, the author uses a vivid example of the origin of a common prejudice that Afro-Americans cannot perform jobs, which involve intellectual efforts. This prejudice comes from white producer Roy Cohen who started the tendency to introduce Afro-Americans of such professions as doctors, lawyers etc. as ignorant and incompetent workers (Jefferson, 1976). The case of unfair treatment of Afro-Americans as employees, probably, the most impressive. This kind of employment discrimination is described in the essay below.
Employment Discrimination of Afro-Americans
Researchers scientifically proved that “discrimination reduced the probability of employment for black workers” (e. g. Shulman in 1987), (Baldwin & Johnson, 1996). For instance, the racial mechanism of Afro-American abuse and employment discrimination was initiated and then became strongly rooted in the US with the first film where one of the characters was Afro-American. It was a twelve-minute film “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, based on the plot of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel. The movie was created in 1903 by Edwin S. Porter, who worked for Thomas Edison. The thing is that in those times it was an unspoken rule, which forbade black people to entertain white people. As a result, in the first film with a black character, a white actor using a blackface make-up played this role. That is how the chain reaction of humiliating attitude was caused by this demeaning ethnic substitution, the practice, which had been put by white film producers until the development of sound in 1927. Ironically, the stereotype that music and rhythm were inherited features and all Afro-Americans have them, black actors started to appear in so-called Hollywood musicals (Jefferson, 1976).
Some researchers state that employment discrimination can have a positive effect on the society’s development. In 1971, Becker wrote his work “Economics of Discrimination” in which he made an assumption that “white employers maximize a utility function that includes profits and tastes for discrimination against blacks” (Baldwin & Johnson, 1996). Other researchers, Baldwin and Johnson, use Becker’s economic data and Thurow’s models based on the data to prove that wages offered to Afro-Americans in 1984 were 82 percent of the wages white men could get. According to the researchers, such wage discrimination can stimulate Afro-Americans to invest in education in order to be more competitive on resource market, which will result in reducing the source of labor force but increasing the amount of educated people (Baldwin & Johnson, 1996). The author of the paper thinks that such stimulus as wage discrimination is improper to use in contemporary society even if certain researches show a positive effect of this method.
Even when Afro-Americans started to take the positions, which had been available only to white people, they still were discriminated in other ways. Before the Civil Rights Act was passed, the discrimination practices on the job opportunities for Afro-Americans were documented. “Cordero-Guzman (1990, p. 1) observers that “up until the early 1960s, and particularly in the south, most blacks were systematically denied equal access to opportunities in many instances, individuals with adequate credentials or skills were not, legally, allowed to apply to certain positions in firms”” (Darity & Manson, 1998). Even the informal research of some daily newspapers between 1945 and 1965 shows that employers expressed the preference to hire white applicants in their advertisements (Darity & Manson, 1998). The same researchers worked on the question of women discrimination.
Women Employment Discrimination
Darity and Manson gathered data from help wanted advertisements of daily newspapers like “Chicago Tribune”, “Los Angeles Times” and “New York Times”. The examination demonstrated that while men were offered highly-qualified positions like managers, cooks, accountants, and engineers, women were required to take occupations related to house-keeping; for instance, occasional accountants (for “girls good at figures”), and waitresses (Darity & Manson, 1998). The case before 1981 was that full-time women who worked all year earned 59 percent of the men’s annual earnings. By 1995, this unfair wage gap decreased and women earned 71 percent. This is connected with increasing of job opportunities for women. On the other hand, employers still do not hire willingly women who have little children to take care of, and there is more variety of lower-paid jobs for women than it is for men (Darity & Manson, 1998).
The author of the paper thinks that the discrimination concerning women has broken all bounds. Women have been not only seen and treated as separate social group, which is at a disadvantage comparing to men, but, what is more, were divided into different unequal subgroups. The subgroups are women with children and women without them. While married men (the probability of whom to have children is more likely comparing with the unmarried ones) receive premium wages, employers pay less to women with children than they pay to women without children. This phenomenon is called “family gap”. “Waldfogel shows that among workers 24 to 45 years of age, women without children receive wage rates that are 81.3 percent of men's pay, while women with children receive wage rates that are only 73.4 percent of men's pay.” (Darity & Manson, 1998). To the author’s point of view, “family gap” can result in future decrease of reproduction rates in high-income countries because more women prefer career than motherhood. That will lead to ageing of population, decreasing the number of working age. However, maybe, one of the positive effects can be a reduction of a number of age discrimination cases.
Age and Disability Employment Discrimination
As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates, age discrimination cases are especially common in the US. The thing is that a number of older workers, who do not want to retire, have been increasing recently. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recently found that 27% of respondents aged 55–64 are postponing plans to retire (Bjelland at al., 2010). That resulted in growing of discrimination cases. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of workers 55 years and older is expected to increase by 47% during the period from 2006 to 2016 (Bjelland at al., 2010). They also project that in 2016, older people will amount to 22.7 % of the total workforce. Researches show that aged workers are more likely to have accidents and injuries in the workplace, especially if their work is related with physical efforts (Bjelland at al., 2010). This is also a reason for age employment discrimination.
Other common negative beliefs about older workers are only unjustified prejudices. The most widespread stereotypes are “that they do not perform as well, are less trainable, more resistant to change, less economically beneficial, more costly, and a poorer return on investment as compared with younger workers.” (Bjelland at al., 2010). Research demonstrates that the stereotypes, like, for instance, poor performance and shorter tenure does not work anymore. With age, a person becomes more skillful and performance improves (Bjelland at al., 2010). The author of the essay assumes that older workers are more likely to remain at the same job in the same company since they do not like to change things they are accustomed to comparing with younger workers.
If to consider age employment discrimination, there have been fewer studies of discrimination based on people’s physical disability. However, Stone-Romero, Stone, and Lukaszewski showed in their researches that employers also have some prejudiced attitude to people with special needs as they “are less skilled, require more supervision, increase health care costs, and have low levels of emotional adjustment.” (Bjelland at al., 2010). When taking the rate of complaints, as it is shown in the research of Bjelland and others, the situation is on the contrary. The scientists studied data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Integrated Mission System (IMS) between 1993 and 2007. The research demonstrated that the rate of complaints concerning employment disability discrimination is higher than it is of age discrimination. There was 81.6 ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) claims per 10,000 people in the protected class (people who are disabled) compared with 4.3 ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967) claims per 10,000 people in the protected class (Bjelland at al., 2010).
Examples of Employment Discrimination Court Cases
As one can judge from the paper, employment discrimination is not empty words but a proved fact. Recently, EEOC “enforced employment anti-discrimination laws in the private and public sectors.” (Smith, 2012). There would not be reaction like that without precedents. The author of the paper states that the best evidences to support this claim, and, finally, to draw a line in the research, will be the examples of cases related to different employment discrimination types. For instance, in 1989, Harris Trust and Savings Bank were charged of women employment discrimination. They were hiring women only for clerical positions, while men got better jobs, higher salary and better training. The company had to reward 14 million to the women. One more case was described in San Francisco Examiner in April 16, 1996. Brand Services subsidiary of Waste Management, Inc. was charged of firing an employee because of race. The claimant won the process and got 7.6 million dollars in reward (Darity & Mason, 1998). Another case, which happened in 2008 related to age discrimination employment. Ms. Parks, who worked in a hospital for 30 years, and her younger colleague made a medical mistake. Ms. Parks was fired, while the younger employee was not. The hospital had to pay 900,000 to the claimant (Capuder, 2011). These are only few cases related to different types of employment discrimination, but they apparently illustrate that the problem is real.
Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom in a prominent Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that “what may look like persistent employment discrimination is better described as employers rewarding workers with relatively strong cognitive skills.” (Darity & Mason, 1998). Of course, not every single case of the employment harassment is definitely truthful. However, the research shows that the problem really exists and even the laws, which were passed, like Civil Rights Act of 1964, ADEA, ADA, and others cannot guarantee a worker the full safeguard from race, gender, age, pregnancy, and disability discrimination. To reduce such practices, the author can offer to continue scientific researches based on recent cases’ statistics. What is more, it is a good idea to give older workers and workers with special needs more training, which will allow them to improve their working habits and provide them with up-to-date knowledge and skills. Employers can offer flexible schedules to women with children, or allow people to work from home if possible. On the whole, it would be better for companies to adopt new management styles to focus on needs of elderly and disabled people; to respect women’s rights and racially diverse people, as well as to create the equal work opportunities for them and allow using their intellect, ideas and willpower to open up a field for their abilities.