When I first started representing workers of color who were fired and demoted because of the color of their skin; when I first started representing women employees who were fondled, molested and harassed by men at work; and, when I first started representing long -term workers who were fired once they reached their fifties and sixties, I was fairly confident that I was going to spend about ten years in discrimination law, and then move on to something else. Surely ten years was long enough for social change, especially when the businesses would be reprimanding, demoting and firing the bad actors. Surely, with an economic incentive, businesses who lead the fight against unlawful discrimination.
Unfortunately, my predictions proved false. I was naive. Racism, sexism and ageism are deeply ingrained in our culture and, although, an economic incentive helps reduce bias, I overlook a more compelling reason for the perpetuation of stereotype and bias - people who lack self-esteem and who will not willingly risk their own sense of power. Racists and sexists are oftentimes scared bullies who fear relinquishing turf. Racists, sexists and ageists by and large lack logical arguments and logic. They act from fear. Their scared. "That "n" should not have the same job and same pay as a hard-working white." "Those Hispanics shouldn't steal our jobs". "I won't take orders from no woman so I am going to intimidate and embarrass her." Some scared people have a hard time relinquishing status and control. If they do not have power and status over their perceived "inferiors," where does that leave them?
That's not to say that racism and sexism today is reminiscent of the 1950's or as depicted in shows like "Mad Men,". it's not. We have an African-American president and we may have a female president in my lifetime. Prejudices against the LGBT community are disappearing. I predict that this maligned group will be next to gain nation-wide statutory protection against job discrimination. People are feeling increasingly courageous enough to blow the whistle on corporate wrongdoing. We are on the right road!!! But I have plenty of cases with photos of genitalia sent to employees, workers called the "n" word, and workers who are fired right before they reach retirement age. We still have a war on discrimination out there. I am so thankful for the brave soldiers, the workers brave enough to be plaintiffs, who have the guts to keep fighting!
Here's to you, the courageous clients who just can't take it anymore and want to insure we treated everyone equally regardless of the color of our skin, our gender or our age. These are some of the the people who make America great, the people willing to challenge the status quo. There's more than one way to fight a war.