The Wall Street Journal reports that two recent employer settlements with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) underscore a new trend in race discrimination: African-Americans who feel they're being passed over for Hispanics.
Last fall, EEOC reached a $110,000 settlement with Farmer John Meats (Los Angeles) after seven black applicants were rejected for production jobs there. The EEOC found that the meat-packing company had been almost exclusively hiring Hispanics.
More recently, EEOC settled with Zenith National Insurance Corp. (Woodland Hills,CA) , a workers-compensation specialist, for $180,000. In that case, 10 blacks had applied for a mailroom job, but a Latino with no mailroom experience was hired for the position. A number of the black applicants had relevant experience.
Hispanics have become the second-largest population in the U.S. , ahead of African-Americans and behind Caucasians. These cases, the Journal reports, "highlight mounting tension" between African-Americans and Hispanics as they compete for job opportunities. "There used to be a reluctance to bring cases against other minorities," said EEOC attorney Anna Park (who oversaw both the Farmer John and Zenith cases). "It's no longer a white-black paradigm. This is a new trend."
The Journal explains that workers from all backgrounds use networks within their ethnic groups to find employment, and that Hispanic workers often bring in other family members or neighbors to join them on a job. This can be helpful to employers in blue collar industries--such as construction--who can use their workers to recruit others.
The Farmer John case shows that such practices can open employers to lawsuits, however, if applicants from other races are being shut out as a result. EEOC said Farmer John had an all-Hispanic hiring staff and recruited new hires by word of mouth.
Some civil rights and community groups say that employer stereotypes are partially to blame for the trend, the Journal reports. For example, John Trasvina, vice-president for law and policy at the Mexican-American Defense League says some employers believe Latinos can be exploited because they assume many Latinos are immigrants who will accept lower wages and aren't as aware of their rights as blacks. "Employers sometimes pit one group of employers against the other," Trasvina says.