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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Labor Dept. Enforcing Civil Rights at Torrid Pace

You probably haven’t heard about the recent record-breaking civil rights enforcement by the Department of Labor.

It’s great news for all Americans.

The department is charged with ensuring that employers doing business with the government do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, disability or veterans’ status and that they operate equal employment opportunity workplaces.

In fiscal year 2007, we collected a record amount of money for victims of employment discrimination, breaking the records we set in 2005 and again in 2006. The 2007 number was $51.7 million recovered for 22,251 American workers (that number also a record) who had been subjected to unlawful employment discrimination.

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This success is the result of a new focus on systemic discrimination , those cases involving a significant number of workers or applicants subjected to unlawful discrimination.

During the past seven years, under Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, we have shifted our focus and our resources to target employers using discrimination as their “standard operating procedure.”

Our concentration on the worst offenders gives the greatest protection to the largest number of workers. Of the record recovery in 2007, 98 percent was collected in cases of systemic discrimination.

Get Back Pay

When we find discrimination, the victims will typically get back pay , wages a person would have earned absent discrimination.

These cases also typically result in job offers to victims who were not hired, but were better qualified than other applicants who were.

When we uncover compensation discrimination, we ensure that the employer adjusts the salaries of its workers to eliminate unlawful disparities.

We often obtain recoveries for workers and applicants for employment who did not even know they had been discriminated against.

When you apply for a job and are rejected, you rarely know why , or who got the job.

It falls to us to undertake regular investigations of corporate hiring practices to ensure that discrimination has not occurred.

And where it has, we do our best to make things right.

Civil rights organizations have long called on the government to place its enforcement emphasis on systemic discrimination. We have heeded that call , with great results.

Charles E. James Sr. is deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in Washington, D.C.


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