application itself, as well as any correspondence from your prospective employer. While the interpersonal touch of telephone calls can be preferred, it is always advisable to follow up conversations with emails and written correspondence that reiterate the important parts of any discussions. (IE: “Dear Mary, I enjoyed talking to you today about the position at X Corp. I appreciate your time and understand that you all are looking to make a decision within the next few weeks. I hope to be among the candidates selected for a second interview with the entire panel.”) This not only shows attention to detail, but subtly puts an employer on notice of what was stated in order to guard against any “bait and switch” attempts later on. These things matter because some employers’ accounts of conversations may drastically differ from your own. A common problem is when an employer verbally expresses to applicants that they have a policy of not hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds but when later investigated, the same employer not only denies making the statement but also says that no such policy exists. When it’s in writing, there is much less to debate.
5) Report It!: Because we know that racial discrimination came to a screeching halt in 2008 upon the election of our nation’s first Black president, it is extremely unlikely that you will ever encounter the effects of bias in the workplace (Insert blank stare, HERE). Sarcasm aside, institutional bias is often more systemic and harder to point out. However, the only way that we can even hope to address and combat this issue is through reporting it and not allowing it to go unchecked. If it looks, acts, quacks, and swims like a duck, well…While you may not have all of the information, if you are able to clearly articulate a concrete basis for feeling as though you were wrongfully discriminated against in applying for a job, or while employed on a job, you are encouraged to exercise your right to report it and have your claim investigated by the proper authorities. Sometimes there may be information which supports your claim that you won’t have access to which might surface. There are a host of agencies, both local and national, whose mission is devoted toward ensuring equality of employment opportunities. Most cities and states have a division of civil (and/or human) rights that will investigate your claim free of charge before you feel like you are forced to retain an attorney. There are also government agencies with local branches in different cities like the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as organizations like the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund who can look into unfair employment practices which may be connected to race.
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to prevent discrimination on the job or in a hiring process. The most important thing to remember is that by not taking the power into your own hands, you relegate yourself to simply being a victim and the discrimination continuing with unknown amounts of others. Hopefully, these five steps will better position you or a loved one to know how to handle a situation where you feel like a potential employer is unfairly giving you a raw deal.
Charles F. Coleman Jr. is a former King's County (Brooklyn, NY) prosecutor and a federal trial attorney specializing in civil rights. Follow him on Twitter: @CFColemanJr