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What Is Systemic Discrimination?

What the heck is Systemic Discrimination, you might ask?

During President Obama’s last press conference on January 18, 2017, he vowed to speak out as private citizen if he saw “systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion”. To the average lay person, he/she may still be scratching his/her head wondering, what the heck is “systemic discrimination”.

The first time I heard the words “systemic discrimination” was at a meeting that I had attended at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC. A group of mainly African American attorneys that had worked for the agency had a meeting with then Solicitor of Labor, Thomas S. Williamson, Jr., to discuss perceived discrimination at the agency. During that meeting, I had mentioned to Mr. Williams that when it was time for me to be considered for a promotion to the GS 14 pay grade, I was not considered for the promotion. Subsequently, I had discovered that one of my colleagues who happened to be a Caucasian male and was hired after I had been hired, was promoted to the GS 14 position. Mr. Williams then asked if I believed I had been subjected to “systemic discrimination”. At the time, I was a wage-hour employment lawyer so I had no idea what the term “system discrimination” meant.

According to the EEOC, “systemic discrimination” involves a pattern or practice, policy, or class case where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic area. Recently, the Secret Service agency agreed to pay a $24-million-dollar settlement to settle a long standing race discrimination lawsuit that had been brought by African American Secret Service Agents that had been systemically denied opportunities for promotions, raises, etc.

Subsequently, after my experience of not being promoted to the GS 14 pay grade, I left the agency about a few months later to strike out on my own and start my own business so that in the future, I would not have to depend on someone else to give me a hard earned promotion or pay raise in order to fulfill my true economic potential or increase my standard of living. Although this was my way of dealing with what appeared to be discrimination, I realize we all have to deal with life’s adversities, including discrimination…. systemic or otherwise, in our own ways.

As an employer/employee, are you thinking about whether “systemic discrimination” may exist in your workplace or are you thinking about starting your own EEO business? If so, call the EEO professionals at PREEMPT today. You’ll be glad you did! Remember our motto, “Empowerment through Equal Opportunity!

2 replies
  1. JW
    JW says:

    I find this piece most interesting because I, too, suffered discrimination along with other African American employees during my career in the Federal Government. To me, systemic discrimination is closely aligned with systemic racism. It is so prevalent that people become blind to it. What I mean is that is occurs so frequently and is so much a part of the way things are done that people do not see it. I believe this to be true about systemic racism in our society and the reason that so many people claim that it does not exist.

    Reply

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