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US House committee gets an earful on race issues in CFPB

A lawyer who works for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says that racial harassment and other forms of racial discrimination are rampant within the federal agency. She made her statements while testifying before the House Financial Services Subcommittee. The hearing was scheduled in response to an agency survey that showed that workers at the agency know that white employees are rated higher than minorities in the agency in the system the agency uses to determine employee benefits, including rate of pay and opportunity for bonuses.

The lawyer told the subcommittee that the issues go much further than those involving pay. Workers are often denied promotions or opportunities to move into more favorable positions within the agency. She says that a division that is staffed primarily with African-American workers is commonly referred to with such derogatory names as “the plantation” or “the cesspool,” according to Politico.

Workers in the division have little opportunity to move to other divisions, according to the woman testifying before the representatives. Moreover, she says that a culture of fear and intimidation is fostered within the agency. Workers subjected to racial oppression in the workplace are too intimidated to speak out about the workplace discrimination. She says that employees also fear that they will suffer from retaliation for raising complaints about the hostile culture at the agency.

Workplace discrimination laws prohibit harassing workers based upon their race or national origin. Harassment is a form of discrimination. Similarly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from making work-related decisions based upon a person’s race or national origin. Work-related decisions, beginning with hiring decisions and continuing through deciding how much to pay worker, promotional opportunities and decisions regarding potential terminations (and more) are all within the scope of anti-discrimination laws.

Few workers have the opportunity to testify in a congressional hearing related to race-based workplace discrimination issues. However, federal law and laws in New York provide workers with important rights when it comes to discriminatory practices. An employment law attorney can assess a particular situation and help a worker who has suffered discrimination in understanding what options are available under the law.

Source: Politico, “Employee alleges workplace of discrimination, retaliation at CFPB,” MJ Lee, April 2, 2014

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